Window Reflections: Jonah and the Great Fish

Written by Dave Rempel

Sixteen stained glass windows adorn the sides of the worship space at Ascension. Inspiration for the windows was taken from the fact that in Europe long ago, the faithful would learn the Bible from stories depicted in windows. It was intended that Ascension’s windows could be similarly educational. What follows is a meditation on one of the 16 windows. Look for additional reflections in future editions of the Bulletin or on this Parish Blog.

Jonah and the Great Fish

“But the Lord sent a large fish that swallowed Jonah; and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 2:1)

The story of Jonah (told in the book of Jonah, only 48 verses long) suggests the familiar themes of sacrifice, salvation, and resurrection. For instance, sailors sacrificed Jonah to the sea (and were thus saved) when God threatened their ship because of Jonah’s refusal to obey. After Jonah preached in Nineveh, the people repented, and God saved them in His mercy. God then chastened Jonah for being unhappy that God spared those non-Jews.

This window shows Jonah after being “vomited” upon dry land by the great fish that God sent to swallow him up, and Jonah’s three days in the belly of that fish foretell Jesus’s death and resurrection. Indeed, in the gospel of Matthew, in response to the scribes’ and Pharisees’ demand for a sign, Jesus stated that He would spend three days and nights in the earth, just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for that period.  (The book of Jonah speaks of a great fish; the Greek word used in Matthew is sometimes translated as “whale”). 

This depiction of Jonah, looking back at his former prison, invites me to contemplate God’s mercy to all his people, manifested in Christ’s sacrifice, as well as God’s call to do His bidding and to share in that mercy in my regard for others.