Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!
Jonah was sent by God to warn the Ninevites that they would be judged. The citizens of Nineveh repented and fasted and God turned from his wrath and did not destroy them. We may ask, if God wanted to destroy Nineveh, why bother to warn them about it? Clearly, God wanted to save them by getting them to see their errors and change their ways. God wants everyone to repent from their sinful ways and be saved. But the sign that God gave to the Ninevites, the sign that Jonah became, was that of a man who died in the belly of the whale and after three days, was restored to them to go about warning them to repent or face wrath.
In Jesus’ time, John the Baptist, came to preach repentance to the Jews and announce the coming of the Savior. The Savior would die and after three days, rise from the dead, defeating the power of death and sin. It would be greater than the sign of Jonah because death would be defeated for all forever. However, it would only be for those who will listen, who will turn from sin and selfishness, and live a life that glorifies God.
In the letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes that he has been set apart to preach the gospel and that we are also called, “to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name…”
We have died with Christ and our lives are meant to be set apart for holiness to help draw others to the new way of life in Christ so that the final victory may be His. We too are the sign of Jonah.