What is the Sign of the Prophet Jonah?

And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. (Luke 11:29 KJV)

In response to the Scribes and Pharisees’ request for a sign, Jesus replied that the sign of the prophet Jonah was the only sign He would show them.

To fully understand what Jesus meant by this sign, we must consider the meaning of the term “sign”, the background of this statement, the events of Jonah’s life, and the life of Jesus.

A sign is a supernatural event with some special meaning; it is an occurrence that signifies something, such as a divine warning. The religious leaders requested Jesus to provide a sign from God to verify He was sent from God or that He was Who He said He was.

Jesus began by explaining that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites (Luke 11:30). In this instance, it was Jonah himself who was the sign, not just the events of his life, and Jesus explained what the sign was: “Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly” (Matthew 12:40 KJV). God used this amazing event to send a powerful message to both Jonah and the Ninevites—Jonah was sent from God, and the warning to the Ninevites was quite serious.

Just like Jonah, Jesus will be in the depths of the earth for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). Jesus’ message was straightforward: His death for three days and resurrection from the dead was God’s answer to the religious questions and skepticism of the religious leaders. God gave them a sign, but not the type they had asked for—perhaps they wanted to see Jesus call fire from heaven like Elijah did to impress their stony hearts (Luke 23:8).

So God gave the religious leaders a sign, though not the one they were expecting; He gave them the sign of the prophet Jonah, now fulfilled in Jesus.


How does Jonah’s being in the fish’s belly and Jesus’ death and resurrection relate?

Apply the Word

God has given the entire world a sign that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 1:4)—the sign of Jonah, the prophet. Jesus’ fulfillment is a sign that He is the Son of God and a warning to the world of the consequences of not responding, but also a reminder of God’s grace if we accept Him. So our generation should learn from the commendable response of the Ninevites to Jonah’s message.


Ask the Spirit to open the eyes of the lost to see Jesus’ resurrection for what it is: a sign that He is the Son of God and Savior of the World.

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