Jonah 2:6, “I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever, yet you brought up my life from the pit…”
In Matthew 12:40, Jesus teaches us to read His own death and resurrection in light of Jonah’s descent into the abyss of the fish’s belly and his ascent again to the land of the living. Jonah did not die and rise again, but his ordeal is—Jesus tells us—an image of what Jesus will accomplish in Himself when he descends to the lower regions of the earth (Sheol) upon His death and rises again in victory (Ephesians 4:9).
What I want to focus on this morning, though, is that word “forever.”….Jonah, speaking poetically, says that the bars of Sheol closed upon him *forever*…..and yet, the very next verse tells us he was raised up from the pit. Of course, in Jonah’s case, his descent is like a death, and so it is as if he went into the land of Sheol whose bars close forever and from whom none can escape….but Jesus experienced the reality to which these words point.
Christ was beyond salvation in the grave….He descended to the place where the gates are forever shut….to the place where all who enter abandon hope…..He had been crushed under the waves and breakers of divine wrath (Jonah 2:3, Psalm 42:7) and was swallowed by the mouth of the grave; the bars shut over Him forever……
And yet, He escapes; He is raised up….beyond all hope, beyond all expectation, beyond all possible desire—He is raised up again from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus from the void of death teaches a profound truth about the essential nature of God: He is the God who does what cannot be done; who calls nothing something, who calls “No Mercy,” “Mercy”, who makes the weak strong, who brings water from the stone, who gives life in the barren womb, and who—the controlling image—who brings the dead to life. He does the impossible in accordance with His character, which is to say, He does the impossibly good….which is to say, He is fundamentally eucatastrophic.
The God of the risen Jesus is the God of the Eucatastrophe. He is the God who ordains and achieves good beyond all expectation, joy beyond all hope, beauty beyond all imagining….the God who, in love and as mercy, enters and embraces the depths of horror, invading the depths of horror with Himself, weaving the depths of horror into the experience of His own life of indomitable love and peace and gladness, and so transfigures darkness into a servant of light, sorrow into the handmaid of joy, death into the seed of life, suffering into the crown of glory.