Taking it In
It’s probably safe to assume that Jonah’s fellow sailors are not Israelites. They may have been from Tarshish and were perhaps on their way home. Whatever the case, it’s clear that they have more insight than Jonah does. Jonah has gone nowhere but “down” since the story began. He’s gone down to Joffa, down to the boat, down into its bowels, and into a “deep sleep.” Pretty clever writing there! The sailors become fearful, perhaps even in a state of awe as the storm continues to ravage. In the same way Yahweh “hurled” the wind on the sea, the sailors started to “hurl” the cargo overboard. This might be a way to align them closer with Yahweh at the moment despite the fact they don’t know that Yahweh is behind this entire ordeal and they are not Israelites. Jonah is apparently oblivious to this whole thing. We mentioned the sea and the Gospels in v. 4, but one cannot help but think of Mark 4:35-41 here even though it is in an opposite way. Jonah “went down” and “lie down” which are often words used for people dying (Psalm 88:4-5), but a “deep sleep” points to laziness, vulnerability, or even a trance (see Genesis 2:21, 15:12, and Proverbs 19:15). Jonah’s sloth-likeness contrasts with the urgency of the sailors just like the disciples and Jesus in Mark. But again, the roles are reversed. Jonah is asked to pray but we don’t get to see if he actually does. It could very well be he doesn’t do so, because he doesn’t want the prayer to be answered!
Working it Out
There are a lot of ways we can work this one out but perhaps most appropriate for our time comes in the image of sleeping deeply while the storms rages outside and the waves bellow against the ship. Much of our world is in a state of chaos. Sure, every generation has their problems and the world rages every age in some form or another. But ours seems particularly chaotic in the past few years up to today. Our future is bleak and uncertain. And where is the church? Are we sleeping beneath the boat trying to run away or ignore our calling until the storm passes? Or, are we on the deck with the rest of the world, trying our best to lighten the load, and working side by side with others, especially those who do not share our same background, faith, values, etc., and praying, beckoning God on behalf of them and ourselves. We are reminded further of Mark’s Gospel in 14:32-42 amidst the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is about to be arrested. The disciples, in true Jonah fashion, keep falling asleep and don’t want to acknowledge the time at hand. Jesus urges them to “stay alert and pray so that you won’t give into temptation. The spirit (pneuma, a Greek similarity to ruah!) is willing but the flesh is weak” (14:38). May we all be humble, but also bold and alert to what God is up to in the world so we don’t fall asleep and miss the moment, much less run away from it when it matters most.