Jonah didn’t like the people who lived up north. They were outsiders — they didn’t share his beliefs, they were brutally violent, and his religion had taught him to despise them. He believed they should be wiped out and he wanted to see it (from a distance).
Fast forward 750 years and Jesus, the anticipated Messiah has come. The people wrongly expect Messiah is going to annihilate all their enemies, after all, God is pretty ticked off at them… There is an underlying fear and suspicion of anyone who isn’t a Jew.
Jesus hangs out with sinners. He doesn’t obliterate the outsiders but instead says God’s kingdom is open to them (Matthew 5:3-12). Wow, this infuriated the religious folks. Imagine the most popular teachers of the day telling horror stories of the half-breed Samaritans and unclean Gentiles, answering questions on the radio (well, maybe not the radio), aligning with political factions (Zealots) and figures (Herod and Pilate) to further their agenda.
The Zealots were a Jewish political group who believed force was the way to establish God’s kingdom. Jesus picked one of them to be in His small group!! Talk about stirring the pot.
Jesus reminds everyone that God so loved “the WORLD” not just their corner of it. The Messiah has come to break down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles. God has sent His one and only Son, the perfect Jew, to fulfill every requirement of the Law, and by His death to tear the Temple veil in two — opening access to all. The Gentiles, who were not even allowed beyond certain boundaries, were given full rights and blessings through Jesus the Christ. Talk about GOOD NEWS!
But what happens when people hate you and would like to see you dead? What happens (shock) when your enemy; acts like your enemy? What happens when God shows mercy to your enemy and calls you to the same? Oooooh, scary.
My first tendency is to run like Jonah did, from perceived enemies and from God’s heart. My second tendency is to complain like Jonah did. Somewhere way down the list I hear my Mom’s words “You will never be free unless you forgive and show God’s love where it is hardest…”
God is patient. He waits until I make my way down the list.
I knew You were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! Jonah 4:2 Message Version