A Whale of a Tale: The Story of Jonah


When you were a kid, you probably played the game telephone. It goes like this...one person sends a message at the beginning of a line, and everyone whispers it to the person next to them. By the time it makes it to the end of the line, what was said in the beginning is totally different from what the last person says aloud! Usually, this has funny consequences.

Sometimes, reading scripture feels like a game of telephone. It's like the story started out one way, and by the time it was passed down through the generations, it has some new additions or maybe some things are left out. Most stories weren’t written down until generations after their occurrence. This can make the stories hard to legitimize due to lack of details or historical facts. But whether or not the stories held in scripture are completely historical, they still hold great meaning and help us to further understand God.

Every summer, we take sometime to look at a complete story and all that it has to offer and teach us. This year, we're looking at the incredible and grand story of Jonah. Most of us grew up hearing the story of Jonah as the man who was swallowed by a whale. From art to felt boards, the story is told with a whale, but scripture doesn’t give us that detail. In fact, many of the things we think we know about Jonah are just things we have heard like the telephone game. This week, we'll begin looking at this story seeing it for what it really is...a parable. We know it's a parable because of its exaggerated nature. Both in the Hebrew scriptures and in the New Testament, when a story is exaggerated, listeners learned to hear it as a parable with deep meaning. Just because not all of the parts of the story are factual doesn’t make the entire story untrue. When someone exaggerates the size of a fish they caught, we don’t assume they never caught a fish...just that part of the story isn’t quite factual. In the same way, there are pieces of the Jonah story that even if you don’t buy the whole fish part, you can garner helpful truth and a hopeful story of God’s surprising inclusive nature. 

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