Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jonah 1:11-12 Pick me up and throw me in

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 11, 2018

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” 12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “so that it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Now Jonah had taken responsibility for his sin. He knew that he couldn’t run from God—his attempt was ended by this storm. The sailors had lost their cargo and all their profit from this voyage. They might possibly—just possibly—escape with their lives. Each sailor by himself might ship before the mast of some other rig, but the captain? He was ruined. His losses might mean the loss of his fortune, his home, or even his freedom. Jonah’s sin had affected their lives dramatically, and he wasn’t going to compound that with their deaths.

Each of these sailors was a sinful man; each with his own pagan idolatry and blasphemies on his lips. Each of them had private sins which they hardly even knew were sins. One might have been a thief, another an adulterer, still another a murderer or a cutthroat, another might have been a swindler or a liar or a cheat. Another might have had some other Fifth Commandment sin in his heart like drunkenness or gluttony. But Jonah prepared to sacrifice his body to give them the opportunity to repent of their sins before God. He did not want to die, but he would bear the consequence of his rebellion knowing that he had a Savior. His soul was prepared for the waves even though his body was trembling with fear.

Luther reminds us in his second commentary on Jonah that we must not look ahead to the end of chapter two or the rest of the book at this point. Jonah didn’t know he would somehow be rescued, or else this act on his part would seem “like a leap across a shallow stream, with safe and solid banks on both sides.” No, Jonah was really facing death here in his heart, and not a peaceful death at home with his wife and family surrounding him as he lay in his bed with the sun shining and the birds singing and the sweet breath of life in his lips. He was all alone, with no one to comfort him, with nothing solid at all. He would be thrown into the sea—the deep Mediterranean, no mere pond or stream—where his feet would never again stand on anything solid at all. He would swallow one mouthful of seawater after another until his stomach would wretch. Then with nothing but seawater in his throat, there would be a terrible burning in the lungs, a roaring in his ears, and then he would see and hear and breathe no more.

Life is precious, a gift of God and something to be treasured and enjoyed and used for the glory of God. Most people never fully reflect on the joy and glory of life, but no one is to blame for this, because as Solomon says, “God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:20). And God sends us help and comfort, as the believing man wrote: “He who acquires a wife gets his best possession, a helper fit for him and a pillar of support” (Ecclesiasticus 36:24). Once a man has his bride, he occupies himself with two services: How he may please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1), and how he may please his wife (1 Corinthians 7:33), and in both cases, it is because he wants to show his love and thanks, not to earn anything either from his Lord or from his wife.

Knowing that he was leaving all of this, both his life with its joys and his wife with the joys of married companionship and their family, Jonah chose to give it all up for the sake of these pagan men who knew neither Abraham or Israel or the right way to pray to the Lord. Out of compassion for them and with no other way to end their suffering he offered himself. So here is a little picture of Christ. It isn’t a very good sketch of Christ, but it serves. There is a flaw in the comparison: Jesus had no sin on his conscience, and Jonah had a whopper. But Jonah offered his life to spare the lives of these men, and that is also what the Son of God did—and so in this moment, on this heaving deck with the howl of the roaring wind and the scream of the rigging in our ears and the spray of the waves battering us and soaking us to the skin, you and I can each become one with these sailors. We were the hopeless ones, going down with our sins on our heads (as Hamlet said about his father’s unrepentant death, “Horrible, O horrible! Most horrible!”).

But we have a greater comfort than anyone could even hope for. We have the promise of eternal life and the full pardon of all of our sins, because Jesus Christ offered his life to atone for our sins, to spare us from the horrors of hell, and to give to us everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.



Browse Devotion Archive