AUDEE VILLARAZA: Welcome to the Feast, everybody! Today we are starting a brand new Feast talk series titled Depths of Mercy.
Today, we’re going on a five-week journey and study the life of this Old Testament character Jonah, who ran away from God’s calling.
Talk 1, titled The Prophet Who Won’t Preach, will blow you away.
I wonder if there are prophets right now who feel like, “I’m not equipped to serve God. I’m not equipped to go on a mission.”
That’s what we’re going to talk about today. And so, if you’re ready, let’s join our hearts right now as we signify the great symbol of love.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Spirit. Everybody, stretch your arms out, and say this with me:
Today, I receive all of God’s love for me.
Today, I open myself to the unbounded, limitless, overflowing abundance of God’s universe.
Today, I open myself to God’s Word so I become more like Jesus every day. Today, I proclaim that I’m God’s beloved, I’m God’s servant,
I’m God’s powerful champion
And because I’m blessed, I’m blessing the world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
The Book of Jonah
BO SANCHEZ: Welcome to our brand new series,
Depths of Mercy. We’re going to unpack the book of Jonah.
We have two lofty goals today.
The first one is to be able to read the book of Jonah.
And the second: in learning to read the book of Jonah you will learn to read the Bible— the way Jesus read His Bible.
Now, I want you to know that it’s very difficult to do that. I’ve been reading the Bible ever since I was 12 years old. And it changed my life. But you know, over the past 40 plus years now, of the things I’ve learned, foremost is: How can I read the Bible the way Jesus read the Bible?
And we’re going to learn that through Jonah.
Jonah is one of the most sophisticated, complex, intricately crafted writings in the entire Scripture— jam-packed in a typical one and a half pages That’s how short the Book is. Typically, in your Bible, it occupies about one page and a half and it was written by a brilliant Jewish writer 2,400 years ago.
Now, let’s admit this: If, the moment you hear Jonah, the first thing that comes to mind is whale. Even if whale is not in the Bible. Whale was a mistake made 400 years ago by the translator of the King James version— putting the word whale in the Gospel where Jonah was mentioned. But no.
My dear friends, let’s admit it: the way many people look at it, the Book of Jonah is a children’s story. It’s a tale with a nice ending.
But this is not only a problem for Jonah. It’s a problem for the entire Bible.
Many people still look at this Book as a collection of bedtime stories with good moral lessons. I know that’s redundant. But that’s how we say it, right?
The moral of the story is to be a good boy, be a good girl. That is what the Book is all about.
But what we are going to learn is: No. The Book is so much deeper, so much more beautiful. And so, here’s my prayer for today, and for the entire five weeks that we’re going to cover and unpack Jonah: that you will fall in love with Scripture all over again. And I pray that your heart will be open. Let’s pray for that. Can you put your hand over your chest. I’m going to hold the Bible right here, put it on my chest and let’s say this prayer together:
Jesus, in the next five weeks, help me to fall in love with the Word. Help me to learn how to read this Book, the way You read it. In Jesus’ Name.Amen.
Jonah, A Children’s Story
I’m going to read to you now— I have here three children’s Bibles and they’ve got great illustrations and I’m going to use this one: The Young Reader’s Bible — 70 easy-to-read stories. I read these stories to my kids as bedtime stories. I’m going to read to you now the story of Jonah according to a children’s story Bible.
A Gulp and a Great City
“Go to the great city of Nineveh,” God said to Jonah. “Tell the people to change their wicked ways.”
Jonah did not want to preach to the people of Nineveh. He ran to the seas and got on a boat. God sent a storm on the sea. The sailors thought the boat would break.
“I am running away from God who made the heavens and the sea, and the land,” Jonah told the sailors. “Throw me into the sea and the storm will stop.”
God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah.
Inside the fish, Jonah prayed. After three days, God told the fish to spit Jonah out onto the land.
“Go into Nineveh,” God told Jonah. This time, Jonah obeyed.
“Stop doing evil or God will destroy your city,” Jonah told the people.
The people and the king listened to Jonah and obeyed God. And God saved their city.
The End. Nice story, right? Happy ending.
And they lived happily ever after.
The Problem with Jonah
There’s only one problem with this story.
If you read the book of Jonah, you’ll see it actually misses out— skips— Chapter 4. The whole Chapter is gone. Not found here.
And then I looked at the other Bibles, and it’s not there, either.
I’ll tell you why: A children’s story, by nature, will edit out the weird parts of the Bible.
I’ve got news for you: 75 percent of this Book are weird parts. And so, when you put this into children’s stories, you don’t get the complexity. You don’t get the nuances. You don’t get the core message. A lot of people think that the book of Jonah is simply a story of a reluctant prophet who does not want to obey God, runs away, God chases after him, and he finally obeys God. The End. No, it’s not that simple.
So, you ask: “Bro. Bo, what’s the core message of the book of Jonah?
You’ll find out. We’ve got five weeks to unpack it.
You know, may I say this? I’m not bashing children’s Bibles. I use them. When my children were still kids, I would read to them stories from a children’s Bible. But you see, children’s Bibles, and the stories therein, serve a purpose.
And the purpose is what? To be able — well, it’s there: children’s Bible. It’s a Bible for children.
I’ve got news for you: This is an adult book. And you’ve got to approach it as such. So, here’s the thing: The problem is that even when people start reading the actual Bible, they still have a perception that this is still something with moral lessons, you know: “I just have to look at it, it’s a simple children’s book.”
No, it’s not. It has a lot of weird parts and you need to go through them —and when you’re able to read the Bible the way Jesus read His Bible —Boom!
You’re going to realize, “Oh, my gosh, it’s really the Word of God.” So, are these children’s Bibles wrong? No.
Here’s what’s wrong: People don’t graduate from the caricatured understanding of the Bible.
And so, I want you to poke someone really hard on the arm and say to that person just one word: Graduate.
A Little Fight
So, let me tell you a story:
Last week, my wife Marowe and I had a little fight.
We rarely fight. Rarely. Over the past 24 years of our marriage. But last week, we did. And let me give you a little background.
Wednesday, she had an overnight thing in Tagaytay with the core leaders of our Catholic Filipino Academy. You know, she has a presence there and she supports it. And so, she went there with a group of wonderful, wonderful women friends.
Usually, I wake up at about 5:30 a.m. But the day she was not home, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep, could not, and during that entire time, tossing and turning in bed, I would reach out to that spot, her space on our bed, and she was not there. Instead of feeling her, I felt the emptiness.
And so, the bed was empty, and I realized my heart was empty. I missed my wife.
You see, she is my anchor. She is the person that calms me. She is the person that gives me my stability. And so, I posted about it. I said, “I miss my wife.”
That day, in the evening, she arrived. The next morning, I woke up at about 5:30.
Now, every 5:30, I wake up to bike. Every day— just bike. My exercise.
I bike to a coffee shop, I read, spend some time with the Lord. After an hour, I bike back home.
That day, when I woke up at 5:30, my wife was hugging me in bed,
And she said, “Huwag ka nang mag-bike. Dito ka na long. Don’t go biking. Just stay here.”
She missed me also.
And I said in my mind, “Okay, I’ll just stay for 10 minutes— and after that I’ll stand up. But after 10 minutes, when I was about to stand up, she said, “Dito ka na lang. Huwag ka nang mag-bike.”
And then my logical brain started, and I said, “You know, this is the only day I can bike this week. I won’t be able to bike tomorrow because I have a talk early in the morning. And then the next day, I have a seminar also early in the morning.
And then after that, we have The Feast. I’ll miss three days of not biking.” And that’s when she released me, turned to the other side, and kept quiet.
Three Secrets to a Wonderful Marriage
I want you to know that when such little fight happens… I’m 24 years a married man. I mean, hello, I know the language, right? I know what that meant. So, I stayed put.
I would not dare leave the bed.
After a few minutes, she asked me, “O, bakit nandyan ka pa?”
Husbands, who are younger than me, please listen to an expert.
I started saying, “I’m sorry…”
After about 20 minutes of the cold shoulder, and all of that, she finally forgave me.
I want you to know there are three reasons my marriage is wonderful:
First, if she wants to fight me,
I allow her to fight me. But I do not fight her. That’s been my rule for the past 24 years.
So, I let her fight me. That’s fine. Because I’m the guy, I’m the leader.
That’s what the leader does. He sacrifices.
Second, I know how to say “Sorry.” I’ve perfected the way of saying “Sorry.”
You don’t say, “Sorry, kasi naman ikaw, e.’
You know, you don’t do that. Neither do you say, “Kasi ganoon, kasi ganito.” Walang kasi— no excuse.
When I say “Sorry,” I say “I’m sorry.” Period. I’ve invented 36,000 ways of saying “Sorry” — in the right way: “I’m sorry I made a mistake.” “I’m sorry, I was insensitive.” “I’m sorry… Just, you know…”
There’s a third secret to my wonderful marriage— and this is the reason I bring up the story of Jonah.
The reason my wife and I have an amazing relationship, amazing marriage, every time we have an encounter like that, every time we have a conflict,
I always set aside my perspective— and try to take on her perspective.
Put it this way: It was so easy… You know, she turned her back and faced the other way, you know it was so easy to say, “Sobra ka naman— you’re too much — I am going biking. Don’t you care for my health? Hello?”
It would have been so easy to present my perspective and say, “Babalik naman ako, ha. Hindi naman ako magbi-bike hanggang Baguio—
I’ll be back. I am not biking up to Baguio. Before you know it, I’ll be here. Anyway, you are just sleeping.”
I could have insisted on my perspective. But then what?
I realized, wait a minute— I set aside my pre-judgment, my biases, my emphasis, my priorities.
What is her perspective?
She misses me. She was out overnight. She misses me. And I can’t blame her. I am irresistible. :)
That’s what you need to do with this Book. Set aside and leave at the door your preconceptions, your biases — everything you thought about this Book.
You know, just say, “I am going to be humble in front of the Word and I’m going to let the sacred text speak to me as is. I’m going to get the perspective of the writer of the Book of Jonah. Who is this guy? Why is he so brilliant? Get his perspective. Get his background. And what is God’s perspective — for your life. You’re going to have an amazing five weeks.
We always give honor where honor is due. Everybody sing with me:
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I’ll read to you pieces of Scripture, but I just want to pray with you. Key Message Bow, feel the Presence and immense Love of God, flowing here, flowing where you are.
Jesus, we thank you for this moment, that you are here, and that you are speaking. We need your Word. More than anything else in this world, we need that Word. Because Your Word is what will change us, that will touch us, and move us into action.. So, speak. Because Your child is listening.
Thank You, Jesus. In Your Name we pray. Amen.
Holy Spirit, use our time right now. Speak to us.
Here’s the message that we want to give to you today:
God is more loving than you think He is.
Jonah The Prophet
One thing you got to know about Jonah is that he is a prophet.
You know, when you hear the word prophet, what’s the first thing that comes to mind: they know how to predict the future, right? But prophets don’t necessarily know how to predict the future.
You know what prophets are? You know, like Ezequiel, Jeremiah, Hosea— they didn’t necessarily predict the future. Like Isaiah— he’s talking about the future coming of this Messiah.
But you know what they were doing?
They were preparing and helping people understand current situation based from the perspective of God. And so, when God asked Jonah, the son of Amittai, to get up and go to the city of Nineveh, He wanted
Jonah to preach what was happening during that time— in the perspective of God.
Let’s read Verse 1:
How does Jonah respond?
Actually, Jonah doesn’t even respond. That’s the worst part.
He’s like that your friend of yours who likes to seen-zone your messages.
Do you have people like that in your life? Don’t you just hate it whenever you send a message and then they read it, and then they don’t reply? You know, what I don’t like is that there are people that we message, and then they read it, and then it takes them hours to reply, and then sometimes, it even takes them days, and sometimes, it even takes a week. And by the time that they reply, it’s only one letter: K.
If somebody messages you like that, this is your script: You tell them, “Brother— or Sister—this is not Wheel of Fortune. You do not need money to buy a vowel to put it there. Just put O-K. Okay?
What Jonah Does
So, Jonah did not respond to God— just like that friend who seen-zones us. Instead, what does Jonah do? He speaks with his feet.
He walks in the opposite direction. Let’s read:
Jonah Goes in the Opposite Direction
Let me show you a very graphic illustration of what Jonah did— so you can see the gravity of his action. Look at the map (below).
This is a map of where Jonah lived.
It was a place called Gath-hepher.
And if you can see that, as the Bible says, instead of going up to Nineveh, he went in the opposite direction— down in the city of Joppa.
And you know, I can certainly imagine the symbolism of this.
Sometimes, in life, the reason you and I struggle is instead of going up, we go down. Instead of lifting yourself up, you bring yourself down. And you know, I can certainly imagine the symbolism of this. Sometimes, in life, the reason you and I struggle is instead of going up,
Sometimes, yes, I understand that there are people who will bring you down to your dysfunction, but you know what happens? You know what you need to do? You need to lift up to your positive disposition. Don’t let people drag you down into their dysfunction.
Nineveh Is the Israelites’ Mortal Enemy
Yes, instead of going up, Jonah went down. Let’s look at this other map.
If you can see here, Jonah lives in a place called Gath-hepher. And Nineveh, which is just right there — up— is only 550 miles away from Gath-hepher.
On the other hand, Tarshish, where he would run to, is 2,500 miles away.
So, imagine: If Jonah lived, for instance, in Makati, and God told him to go to Bulacan— you know what Jonah did ? He bought a ticket to Jolo. That’s how crazy it was. He wanted to go away.
Not only did Jonah go in the opposite direction… You know what he did? He went to the farthest destination possible. He wanted to run away from God.
Why is that? I think for us to be able to understand why Jonah did what he did, we need to first determine what is Nineveh in the first place.
Quick history lesson:
Nineveh happened to be the biggest city during that time. It was the capital of Assyria. And Assyria was the baddest superpower during Ancient Israel. The Assyrians were really cruel. Whenever they would invade a city, you know what they would do? They would skin their enemies alive. They would impale each body. You know what impale means? You barbecue the body. You insert a stick up the body, and then they would hang the decapitated, decaying body on the wall. Why? So that they could discourage other invaders from attacking them, from fighting against them.
Why Does Jonah Run Away?
And so, no wonder… I mean, imagine God saying, “I want you to go to your worst and cruelest, and baddest enemy. And then
I want you to convince them to repent.”
So, you’re like, “Ah, Lord? Is there another job opening somewhere?”
I mean, that’s the worst job offer ever.
So, no wonder Jonah ran away.
But why did Jonah really run away?
Was it because he felt that it was inconvenient?
You know, he’s like, “I’m comfortable here already, Lord. Just send me to a place that I know already.”
Sometimes, I feel like that’s how we are when it comes to the Lord: “Lord, send me on a mission. I’m ready. I’m hungry to serve. I’m ready to go out. Send me out Lord. But if it’s okay, Lord, could it be just like, 10 minutes from my home? So that every time I need to take a shower, the bathroom is just nearby. And if it is possible, Lord, can it be that I don’t talk to a lot of people?
Because I don’t like a lot of people. You know, I like people who are in my home.” Sometimes, we’re like that.
A calling is neither convenient, nor comfortable. So, if you want to live in a life of calling, you got to step out.
But is that the reason Jonah ran away— because it was inconvenient? Not really. Could it be possible that Jonah ran away because he was afraid?
I mean, we’ve heard a lot of sermons about Jonah. And usually, whenever they talk about Jonah: “Ah, Jonah ran away because he was afraid.”
But you’re going to find out when we go fast forward into this— that it wasn’t actually fear that made Jonah running away. And let me just say this, before I read that verse to you, that sometimes, the reason people run away is not that they are scared.
There are many reasons people run away. But let me just preach the truth to you: That when you run away from God’s calling in your life, when you get into a race between you and God, guess what? Who gets tired first? Not God. You get tired. God will continue to chase after you. Even if you run away from the Lord— because He is God— not just of second chances, but a God of many chances.
That’s what He did for Jonah.
A Second Chance for Jonah
In the next few weeks, here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to find out the story: that Jonah runs away, and then he boards a boat, heads to Tarshish, because he wants to run away from the Lord. And then when he gets into the boat, for some reason, they encounter a storm. And so, when the people who are in that same boat with him find out that it is because of Jonah who is running away from God’s calling— you know what they do? They throw him overboard — with Jonah’s permission, by the way.
And then we’re going to find out in the story how Jonah is swallowed by this giant fish— most probably the Leviathan whale that we read in the book of Genesis? And then we’ll find out that God gives Jonah a second chance to go back to Nineveh. And Jonah obeys.
Because we have a God of many chances. And I’m believing that.
Then, we find out that Jonah preaches this five-word sermon— I don’t even know how he does that— and to everybody’s surprise, everybody listens to Jonah — the king, the servants, the people, the animals, including the cows. You’re going to find that out in the next few weeks.
But right now, let me read to you what happens next.
This is going all the way to Verse 10:
What Is Jonah Doing Here?
Jonah is actually quoting a very famous passage from the book of Exodus.
Let me read it to you:
So now, we’re getting a full view of why Jonah runs away. It isn’t because he is afraid. It is because he is angry. Why is Jonah angry?
I want you to imagine this: Let’s say that you are a Jew, and you’re living in Germany. And then all of a sudden the Nazis start to collect you and your relatives one by one, and they bring you all to a concentration camp. And they torture you. You say goodbye to your parents, to your spouse, to your children —and then you never see them again.
Imagine that you are one of the survivors of the Holocaust. A year later after that whole incident of torture and suffering that you witnessed— everyone in your nation was obliterated— all of a sudden, you are now at peace.
And then God says to you, “I want you to go back to Germany and I want you to tell the Nazis to repent.”
Would you do it?
Honestly, remember these are the people who obliterated your family. The reason you are now alone in life. You know, the first reaction I would give, I mean, just to be honest with you: “Of course not!”
I would be angry.
I would be devastated. I mean, why in the world am I going to forgive these people?
Yes, we’re called to forgive people but the very first reaction, I’m telling you, that might be my first reaction— that I might not say “Yes” to that— and God bless you, if you say “Yes” to that.
But human emotions would get the best of us. You know, that’s how I was thinking about this. Imagine Jonah: his whole race, his whole nation had been obliterated by the Assyrians and then God says to him, “I want you now to preach to them to repent.”
Aren’t we like Jonah sometimes? I mean, let’s be honest right now.
When you’ve got an enemy, somebody who hurt you, somebody who hurt your family. Somebody who might have molested you when you were young.
Somebody who might have stolen something from you— your hard-earned money. Somebody who might have maltreated you, and abused you verbally, physically.
The last thing we would want is for God to forgive them. Am I correct? So, when God asks us, “Talk to them, bring them to My church,” we’re like, “No, Lord. They don’t deserve Your mercy. What they deserve is Your fury.”
This is real talk right now. And I’m just being honest with you the reason Jonah felt like that: he was upset— because he knew the moment the Assyrians and the Ninevites repented, he knew that God is merciful and that God would be quick to forgive them. And so, he didn’t want that. The last thing he wanted was for God to forgive them.
This is the message of the story of Jonah: the message that there is a God who is merciful. That we’ve got a God who doesn’t just give us a second chance— but many chances. We worship a God who will lavish you with His mercy. And so that’s the invitation for us today, my friends. We are invited to experience this lavish indescribable, incredible mercy of God.
How Jesus Read Jonah
This is is the story of Jonah— a man who was not a coward but a man who was angry.
And I wonder how many of you are experiencing the same thing right now — that you’re angry over some things that have happened in your life. And you’re angry because of someone who said they would love you. But they didn’t. Somebody who said they would respect you, but did not. I wonder if you can resonate and relate with Jonah right now.
God calls you to receive His mercy— and then dispense mercy to others.
Jonah is an Old Testament character. But it’s not the last time that we hear about Jonah. Because there’s a time in the New Testament when we hear about Jonah —in the book of Matthew.
Matthew tells us the story when Jesus is telling the Pharisees when they asked for a proof or a miracle, or a sign that He is the Messiah. You know what Jesus says?
What Is Jesus Trying To Say Here?
Jesus is saying He’s the anti-Jonah.
Think about it: Jonah disobeyed God— ran away from God. But Jesus, He obeyed the Lord— completely and absolutely.
Jonah was swallowed up by a big fish. And he was there in the belly of the fish for three days.
Just like Jonah, Jesus was also swallowed up— into the belly of the earth. And He stayed there for three days. But He did not stay buried.
He rose from the grave after three days— to save you and me.
When Jesus came,
He wasn’t like Jonah who was selfish. You know, Jonah wanted to run away from the Lord because he wanted God to forgive only the people whom he loved— the people he felt deserved the mercy of God.
But when Jesus came, He made an announcement: “My grace is not reserved for the few. But it’s available, especially to those who need it the most— people who have been broken by this world, people who have been maltreated by this world. They are who deserve My mercy.”
So, the question that remains right now for you to ask yourself: Are you Jonah—or are you Jesus?
Are you just like Jonah? You’ve got your enemies. You’ve got the people that you don’t like. You don’t want God to forgive them. You don’t pray for them. Because you want them to suffer just like you suffered.
Or are you like Jesus who would say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Election Season: Win or Lose
I want you to know this truth, my friend. And I need to preach this loud and clear to you because in a few days you are going to elect an official.
This has been the ugliest election season. Don’t you agree?
We haven’t had an election season this ugly. I mean, people fighting with one another, people disconnecting from families, people cancelling each other. This is the ugliest season that we’ve ever had.
But I need to tell you this now: That once this election is done, whether your candidates win or lose, whoever gets seated on that place,
I want you to know this— I do hope you take home this message: That mercy needs to begin. Because mercy is not just about forgiving people. Mercy is also about not quitting on people.
Mercy is also about praying for people. Mercy is also about being with people you don’t like. That’s the message of the book of Jonah. That we would come as God’s people to look at others that we don’t like very much and say,
“God, I may not like them right now, but I’m praying for them. I’m praying that You convict them, Lord. I’m praying that they would realize the truth of the matter. And I pray that they receive Your mercy as well because I know that You love them.”
This is Jonah, my dear friends. Jonah who ran away— but we all know now we don’t have to be like Jonah. We need to be like Jesus who says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And though sometimes they exactly know what they do, Father, forgive them.”
Let’s be like Jesus who would give that mercy because hey, guess what: you and I are also sinners. Sometimes, we condemn other people, not knowing that we got our sins as well. So, let’s be the first today to receive the mercy of Jesus, to receive the palpable mercy of God. And as God fills us up with His mercy, let’s be the representation of mercy, the messenger of mercy out there because God knows people need it. People desperately need it.
Receive His Mercy
The election is just one day.
But the relationship— that goes on a lifetime. Let’s stop cancelling people. Let’s stop quitting on people.
Let’s stop hurting people because at the end of the day, we’re all the same.
We’re all in the same boat— just like Jonah.
And so, may I invite you to just simply open your arms— if you need the love of God right now. Don’t be shy, don’t be embarrassed. Everybody here needs the grace of God.
Father, we stand before Your Presence right now— desperate, longing, and seeking Your mercy.
We are all sinners and we’re broken. We’re all incomplete. We have fallen short of your grace and right now, Lord, we just receive this. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for forgiving us when we know not what we do —but also when we do know what we do.. We come to Your throne right now, Jesus, with confidence, knowing that You will not turn us away.
Receive the love of God right now, my friends.
Receive His mercy and receive His forgiveness. And then worship Him. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.