Read Jonah 1
Focus on verse 7
A fish story is what we sometimes call a story in which we suspect the facts may have been altered or exaggerated to some extent. The quintessential example being the person who comes home from a fishing trip, and in the retelling of his experience the fish he claims to have caught grows a few inches each time the story is told.
In today’s reading, we find the story of Jonah, who according to the text was swallowed alive by a large fish somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea and deposited alive by that same fish on or near the shores of the city of Nineveh. Many serious scholars and scientists have debated whether or not such a thing could be possible. It certainly seems to be an incredulous account, which many find difficult to accept as historically possible. Others, present rather convincing rationale to support their belief that it is historically accurate and scientifically plausible.
Whether you are inclined to believe it or not, the point of the book of Jonah is not so much about whether it may or may not be scientifically or even miraculously possible for a human to survive in the stomach of a fish for three days. The point of the story is the mercy and grace of God toward all humanity. The people of Nineveh were a particularly wicked bunch of folks, who responded with genuine repentance when they heard Jonah’s preaching. Jonah, on the other hand, was an arrogant, rebellious Jewish prophet who apparently would have been much happier to see the city of Nineveh destroyed in a hail of fire and brimstone than to see them repent and be saved.
My point in today’s post is that main point of the story never was about the fish. So don’t let the “did he or didn’t he” get swallowed by a fish cause you to miss the point, because the point is all about God’s mercy toward us, and it would be a shame to miss that.