“Then God saw their actions – that they had turned from their evil ways – so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.” Jonah 3:10 (HCSB)
Jonah, being a prophet, was very aware of God’s message to Nineveh. He knew that Assyria’s army had been defeated, and he was aware that from their humbled state, Nineveh would quite possibly repent and admit that YHWH was the only true God.
Before we cast stones at Jonah, let’s put ourselves in his shoes. Imagine a street gang terrorizing your neighborhood. Suppose that the gang members had even harassed people close to you, perhaps killing a member of your family.
After all that, how would you respond if God told you to share the gospel with them? What if God told you He was hoping the gang members would repent so He could show His grace to them, allowing them to escape the justice they deserved? Would you answer God’s call or let Him roll to spiritual “voice mail”?
This was Jonah’s dilemma. It was also the apostle Peter’s.
After watching the Sanhedrin unjustly accuse and beat Jesus and seeing Romans flog and crucify Him, Peter was probably ready to check out of being a disciple. He went back to his old job, fishing. I’m confident the last thing he wanted was for grace to be shown to a Roman!
But one morning, Jesus appeared to Peter, along with Thomas, Nathaniel, James, and John, as they were fishing. Later, on the shore, Jesus began a dialogue with Peter. Three times, He addressed Peter as “Son of Jonah.” (John 21:15)
Jesus called Peter “Son of Jonah,” partly because He would eventually send Peter to evangelize a Roman, and Peter would encounter all manner of Gentiles. It was the equivalent of Jonah’s calling to share God’s Word with evil Nineveh.
Peter’s first recorded Gentile convert was a Roman centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius believed because Peter heeded God’s call to share the gospel with a Roman. Where was Peter when God called Him? He was in Joppa, the same city where Jonah had boarded the boat to flee from God’s calling.
“Simon, son of Jonah.” There is grace in that term because God chose to remember Jonah’s repentance instead of his rebellion. Similarly, Jesus chose to focus on Peter’s faithful future rather than his history of faithless denials.
There is no one so bad that they cannot receive God’s grace and no one so good that they don’t need it. It is not up to us to decide who may follow Jesus. We are simply called to faithfully and freely share the gospel with everyone. Who knows? Your next best friend could be a former enemy you lead to Jesus today!
Elevating your Faith with daily Bible reading and devotionals written by Steve Wiggins.
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