Category Archive: Sign of Jonah

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Do you believe in miracles? YES!

~ Broadcaster Al Michaels

01-15-10 @ Adam Kazmierski, courtesy of iStockphoto

In the entire history of modern sports, no team dominated like the Soviet hockey teams from 1950 – 1990. They were invincible.

The experts proclaimed that it would take a miracle for any team to beat them at the 1980 Olympics. The big red machine was a well-financed conglomeration of professionals pitted against amateurs. Grown men in their prime against collegians. It was the hockey equivalent of Goliath vs. David.

What resulted was the win known as The Miracle on Ice.

  • It’s called the greatest win in 20th century sports.

Everyone roots for the underdog to upset the daunting champion. And the Americans did just that. Coach Herb Brooks took this ragtag group to the pinnacle of their sport.

  • Coach Brooks did so by demonstrating their common goal.

At first, rivalry abounded among players from the different schools. Pride, grudges, and self-will kept them from achieving their true desires. They had to overcome the distractions that plague Olympic athletes.

  • Each had to realize his destiny.

Coach Brooks used only three short sentences to motivate his team just before the game against the Soviets:

You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.

The players responded with passion, and they played the game of their lifetime. They overcame a fierce barrage from the powerful Soviets after they had gone up 4 – 3. They were as relentless as the Soviets were ruthless.

As the last seconds counted down, the announcer uttered his infamous words about believing in miracles.

  • The world couldn’t believe it.

The Soviet news agencies closed. They didn’t carry the story. The rest of the world was in shock.

But the Americans weren’t finished. They had to beat Finland also to win the gold medal.

  • The world needed another miracle to believe.

At one point, the Finns were beating the Americans in that next game. At an intermission, Coach Brooks again spoke: if you lose this game, you’ll take it to your graves.

His team responded with a win, sealing their legacy by winning the gold medal.

  • After a miracle, people look to a higher power.

The jubilant team celebrated by singing God Bless America. Most likely, they did so more out of their patriotism than their belief in God. They had pulled off what Sports Illustrated deemed as one of the greatest feats in the last century.

  • So, what’s the take-home message here?

As unexpected as what they did was, it wasn’t something supernatural. What they accomplished really wasn’t a miracle. If you want to believe in miracles, consider this:

Mankind had no hope of winning against our enemies: Death, Hell, and the Grave. They were invincible. So, God sent in a one-man team: Jesus. It was what He was born for. He was conceived in a virgin. Delivered in poverty. Raised in obscurity. Opposed by His enemies’ furious attacks. Killed. He took His game to the grave…

But He rose on the third day as one Victorious over foes no one thought capable of defeat.

Just like the 1980 hockey team, Jesus faced those who can’t believe what He did. Their disbelief doesn’t negate the greatest miracle of all-time though.

Do I believe in miracles? Yes!

Do you believe in miracles?

Shadows of Breath

A human being is only breath and shadow.

~ Sophocles

Photo by muratseyit, courtesy of iStockphoto (Fluid appears as white densities in lungs.)

My father was never one to rest for long periods. If he was still, he was either in Bible study or very exhausted. One of the most frustrated times I remember he had was when pulmonary edema debilitated him.

  • Pulmonary edema is the malady of having fluid in the lungs.

When fluid fills these air sacs, people struggle to breathe. My father suffered this from cardiomyopathy, a swollen and malfunctioning heart. His cardiac function before he died was only at twenty percent of its capacity. And his respirations demonstrated it.

  • This condition causes its victims to be short of breath.

Walking across the room made him have difficulty breathing. Any movement winded him – just as it does all others who endure it.

  • Lack of oxygen fatigues the body.

Again, Daddy couldn’t do very much without having to take a breather. No one can if they can’t catch their breath.

  • Lack of oxygen causes muscles to cramp.

Every athlete knows this agony. More and more suffer these sustained contractions at the end of games because of the fatigue that comes with exertion. My father suffered them as well from the reduced oxygen in his blood stream.

  • The lack of oxygen contributes to acidotic blood.

The body’s design calls for a certain maintenance pH. When the human body retains carbon dioxide, it lowers the pH. The resultant acidosis makes the muscles cramp more, adding to the person’s anguish.

  • People hyperventilate, trying to get more oxygen.

This only compounds the problem. People suffering from panic attacks hyperventilate. Nausea ensues from changes in the blood pressure. Paresthesias follow. That’s why people get numbness, tingling, or pain in their faces and limbs when they panic.

Some will faint from their anxiety because the body is trying to stop the de-oxygenation process.

  • In recent posts, we’ve discussed a Nazi torture called aufbinden.[1] [2]

The victims of this torture experienced similar woes. When they fainted, they died if not revived by their tormentors.

  • And those crucified did even more so.

If suffocating from the process of crucifixion wasn’t enough, they had to endure severe cramping as well. But this added to their misery. As horrible as these things were though, pulmonary edema only compounded their agony.

  • The crucified endured the effects of pulmonary edema on top of everything else.

Part of the futile cycle that resulted in the suspended victims is that their heart muscles spasmed out of control just like all the other muscle groups did.

  • The crucified had severe chest pain.

If you consider all of the agonies we’ve discussed in recent blogs, this is yet another woe we must add to those tortures. The heart begins to convulse due to the tetany, the lack of oxygen, the blood loss, the pain, and the heavy burden of trying to keep its master alive.

  • The heart begins to fatigue as well.

As the heart fatigues, the blood vessels become congested. The reduced cardiac output dams up the vessels, and they begin to leak fluids into the cavities resulting in edema in the extremities, pericardium (heart sac), and lungs.

  • This edema in the body – especially the heart and lungs – only worsens the agony.

It makes the person feel more short of breath because water fills the lungs rather than oxygen. The person begins drowning in his own bodily fluids.

  • This condition fulfills yet another sign of Jonah.[3] [4]

Jonah nearly drowned in his own sin.[5] Jesus, in His own fluids produced by our sin.


[3] Luke 11:29-32; Jonah 1 – 4.

Crucifixion Science

He will not allow me to catch my breath, but fills me with bitterness.

~ Job 9:18, NKJV

Photo by Clayton Hansen, courtesy of iStockphoto


Since Constantine abolished crucifixion in the fourth century, modern scientists could only speculate on what occurred to those crucified. While most didn’t want to ponder such anguish, some medical investigators did.

  • Dr. Le Bec’s theories

In the 1920s, Dr. Le Bec focused on the effects of impaling a human body. He theorized the raised positions of the arms at crucifixion immobilized the respiratory muscles – rendering expiration more difficult.

Thus, Le Bec proposed the crucified suffered progressive suffocation. He suggested that this deoxygenated state initiated even more extreme muscle cramping, resulting in a condition known as tetany.[1] [2] (Tetany is the malady where multiple muscle systems in the body contract simultaneously.)

Over the next few decades, others expounded on Le Bec’s theories.

  • Dr. Hynek’s observations

Doctor Hynek witnessed a related form of torture (aufbinden) while he was in the German army in World War I. During this military castigation, the officer hung the soldier by two hands from a post so that his toes barely touched the ground. His suspended hands supported the whole weight of his body.

After a period of time in aufbinden, the muscles of the arms and hands began to twinge. These tremors gave way to violent spasms – spreading even to other muscles in the body. Eventually, these convulsions involved muscle groups over the entire body as tetany set in.[3]

  • Dr. Barbet’s studies

Doctor Pierre Barbet wrote more extensively about this condition in relation to crucifixion. He felt that the impaled persons suffered from tetany when they were crucified.[4]

Tetany generated a constant, unbearable agony because the violent cramping persisted in sustained contractions over the entire body. At its worst, the muscles remained rigid until death.

Crucifixion’s anguish was excruciating in every way. As the cramps moved to involve the muscles of respiration, the progressive suffocation set in.

The end result of tetany is asphyxiation.

Thus, the crucified struggled to breathe until they finally succumbed to an agonizing death. They could inhale, but they couldn’t exhale. The deoxygenation of the blood caused the muscles to cramp even more severely.

What resulted was a vicious, futile cycle culminating in a torturous death. No one hung still while being crucified, until death alleviated the excruciating agony. That’s what Jesus suffered on His cross.

Just like Jonah experienced, the Savior fulfilled this sign of Jonah.[5] [6]

[1] A. Le Bec, “Le Supplice de la Croix,” L’Evangile dans la vie (April 1925): 12 -18, referenced in Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary: the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon, translated by The Earl of Wicklow (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books, 1953), 80-81.

[2] A. Le Bec, “The Death of the Cross, a Physiological Study of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ,  (October 1925): 126-132, referenced in Frederick T. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus: a Forensic Inquiry (New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 2005), 9, 102, 103, 131.

[3] R. W. Hynek, The True Likeness, 2nd Edition (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1951), referenced in Barbet, 81-82.

[4] Barbet, 54, 80-82, 208.

Jesus’ Last Words

Doro … I can’t breathe!

~ The last words of Enrico Caruso

Silhouette by Jon Schulte, courtesy of iStockphoto

Enrico Caruso (1873 – 1921) was the most famous tenor of his day. The Italian was the first singer to sell one million recordings. His operatic voice wooed the masses until he couldn’t sing any more.

During a 1920 performance of Samson and Delilah, a falling prop hit him in his side. Posthumous assessment theorized it caused a renal hematoma, which then later abscessed. The infection produced fluid on his lungs. The resultant empyema and pleurisy limited his performances.

His condition progressed despite surgeries and multiple medical therapies. Consultations with many different physicians proved futile. He died from complications related to his illness.

In the end, he had difficulty breathing. Much less was he able to sing. His last words to his wife Dorothy demonstrated the agony he suffered.

  • Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ last words weren’t longer?

Scripture records only seven short statements from the cross. Jesus had hundreds of thousands of people to whom He could’ve laid out a great message, but He didn’t.


Scripture gives us some clues in the Old Testament.

  • First, there was the sign of Jonah.

It’s obvious Jonah faced near-drowning. A recent blog discussed this facet of Jonah’s anguish. Even inside that fish, Jonah found respiration labored and torturous. The deep’s pressure constricted his chest. The small chamber provided limited breathing space. And its air was vile, acidic, and nauseating.

Jonah conserved every breath. His words were few. Just like anyone would be when they’re struggling for oxygen.

But Jonah’s suffering wasn’t even the first foreshadowing. We’d have to go further back in time.

  • Noah’s day gave us a glimpse.

After all, those unwilling to seek God’s provision in the ark drowned in their sin. The deluge silenced their last words – desperate and vile as they were.

  • Moses provided another clue in his chronicles.

God saved His chosen people through the treacherous waters of the Red Sea. The Lord drowned the charioteers of the hard-hearted pharaoh. God’s grace passed over the Hebrews, but not the Egyptian army. The latter had rejected the covering of the lamb’s blood. And they died in their sin, probably uttering blasphemous words against God.

  • God’s judgment silences the ungodly.

We see this pattern in mankind’s history above. Yet, not all suffering comes from sin. There are times when the just endure affliction … when trials attempt to suffocate their lives.

  • Job anguished for righteousness’s sake.

This patriarch was a forerunner of the Messiah, the Righteous One who agonized that we might become His righteousness. Now, listen to Job’s anguish and think on the Savior’s Passion:

For He crushes me with a tempest…

He will not allow me to catch my breath,

But fills me with bitterness.

~ Job 9:17, 18, NKJV

  • David prophesied of the Messiah’s agony to come.

Adrian Rogers calls Psalm 22, the Old Testament Calvary.[1] Many passages from this lament foretold of Christ’s suffering. Even one of Jesus’ short wails came from this very Scripture:

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

~ Mark 15:34, NKJV

There are so many such associations with the crucifixion that later posts will have to address them. But there is one striking, though hidden, truth.

  • David wrote this psalm in incomplete Hebrew sentences…

As if in a hurry.

As if having trouble getting his message out.

As if he were pointing us to what would happen on the cross of Christ.

  • Our Savior suffered progressive asphyxiation as He agonized at Calvary.

His lungs starved for air. His limbs cramped from the lack of oxygen.

If we understand the physiology of crucifixion, we’d glean a better understanding of what took place that day.

The Savior didn’t preach one last sermon … because He couldn’t. His sacrifice was the only sermon we need to hear.

[1] Adrian Rogers, The Passion of Christ and the Purpose of Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 82.

Drowning in Sin

… the pain is a deep dark sea in which I would drown …

~ Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

photo by Piranka, courtesy of iStockphoto

Water scared me. It didn’t have to be deep or dark. A shallow creek. Even a tub. Any body of water instilled a painful fear that gripped me.

When I was three years old, an older boy had held me underwater. Although I was young, it has remained as one of my earliest memories.

The bully laughed as he watched me flail for air. I still remember seeing his devilish grin through those sloshing waves above me. I’m not sure what would’ve happened if an adult hadn’t rescued me from his clutches when she did.

I wouldn’t go near a pool for two years due to that traumatic experience. Any collection of water flooded my mind with terror. I feared drowning.

And I had a good reason for my phobia.

Jonah shared it as well. His rebellious pride held him under. He’d determined that he’d rather die than to submit to God’s will. He almost succeeded.

But God’s grace saved him.

Listen to his experience:

For You cast me into the deep,

Into the heart of the seas,

And the floods surrounded me;

All Your billows and Your waves passed over me …

The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;

The deep closed around me …

I went down to the moorings of the mountains;

The earth with its bars closed behind me forever …

~ Jonah 2:3, 5, 6, NKJV

  • Jonah left no doubt as to his fate.

He was at the bottom of the raging sea – even at the base of the mountains. The dark waters closed over him.

  • The prophet knew his life was over.

As if for emphasis, Jonah twice commented that the sea encompassed his entire being – even to his soul (Hebrew: nephesh). Nephesh was a comprehensive term that included the physical and the emotional being, meaning that everything in his life suffered at that moment. (If you read other posts in this section, you’ll see just how extensive his affliction was.)

  • Jonah proclaimed he was about to take his last breath.

The literal meaning of nephesh is a breathing creature. Repeatedly, the prophet decried how the deep surrounded him, passed over him, closed behind him forever. His soul fainted (‘ataph) within him, indicating his circumstances had overtaken him.

Oxygen deprivation brought him to the point of unconsciousness … and sure death.

  • But God extended His grace to Jonah.

It’s interesting that God provided a means of salvation before he repented. Jonah didn’t confess his sin, nor did he have a change of heart until after the fish had swallowed him. It was from his misery in the fish’s belly that Jonah cried out for forgiveness. Not until then did he desire reconciliation with the Lord.

  • Before Jonah called, God answered.

The fish had saved Jonah’s life. The Lord preserved the wayward prophet before he repented … just as the Savior died for our sins before we ever lived.

  • Now, in that provision, we recognize that the prophet still suffered.

When someone holds his breath at great depths, some water seeps in through his mouth and his nose. If he’s not able to breathe, he’ll drown.

Once he can inspire, these fluids produce gagging coughs, forcing the drowning man to vomit up the water and whatever has gotten into the back of his throat. No doubt Jonah had such emesis.

  • What else happens to a human who holds his breath for as long as he can?

When he finally opens his mouth, he gasps for air. Jonah would’ve done the same.

  • What happens when the air we breathe in is filled with toxic fumes?

The acids from the fish’s digestive system burned his airways. These caustic chemicals irritated his nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs, having a corrosive effect. Such damage produces pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), which only compounds the difficulty breathing.

Add to this dilemma the high pressures of the deep. Such stress made breathing difficult.

  • Thus, Jonah still suffered the consequences of his sin.

Even though God saved the wayward prophet, He didn’t remove all of his sin’s consequences. Jonah most likely suffered from pulmonary edema for days to come.

These effects made it difficult for him to breathe, much less speak. And yet God used his damaged voice to preach His message to those whom He intended it.

Goin’ Down, Down, Down

Goin’ down, goin’ down, goin’ down

~ Mary J. Blige, “I’m Goin’ Down”

Photo by Rene Mansi, courtesy of iStockphoto

In the Hitchcock thriller Vertigo, Scotty (played by Jimmy Stewart) suffers from acrophobia – or, a fear of heights.[1] Scotty can’t overcome the terror that haunts him – even in life-or-death scenes. Spinning stairs spiraling upward paralyze him, and this horror weighs heavily upon him throughout the movie’s plot.

An equally devastating disorder is bathophobia, or the fear of depths. If Jonah had suffered from this malady, it might have saved him from much grief.[2]

  • The root of poor judgment is self-deception.[3]

The Lord had chosen Jonah to go to Israel’s enemy with a warning of doom. Jonah refused to go. He could’ve stayed where he was, ignoring God’s directive. He could’ve argued for someone else to go. Instead, he sought to escape God’s will completely by going as far away as he could from God’s call.

Self-deception blinded him from his inability to escape God’s reach, or His chastening.

  • The result of poor judgment is self-destruction.[4]

This decision led to a downhill spiral – one that took Jonah to the point of self-destruction.

  • Disobedience to God’s will always takes us down.

In his sermon series on the life of Jonah, Dr. David Jeremiah made an astute observation: when we run from God, we are on a path that takes us down, down, down.[5]

When Jonah tried to escape from God’s will, he went down from the mountain country to Joppa. He traveled down to the harbor to find a boat. He hid down in the ship. When it became apparent there was no other recourse, the sailors threw him down from the vessel. He sank down into the sea. The fish gobbled him down into its belly. The beast dove down to the depths of the abyss.[6]

  • Unrepentant sin catapults us down, down, down.

Sometimes, the descent is subtle; at other times, it’s so violent that it makes us breathless. On occasion, we dive into those depths; at other times, we’re sucked in by an invisible undertow that’s too powerful to overcome.

  • If we’re not careful, we may reach a point of no return.

The downward spiral will overwhelm us beyond our desires or our capacities to recover. Far too many are lost because they’ve taken that hell-bound whorl to their own destruction.

  • At some time or another, we’ve all suffered the detrimental effects of our sin.

Scripture warns us of this truth.

  • While there’s something wrong in going down due to sin, a worse iniquity is staying there.

Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.

~ Muhammad Ali

Whereas Mr. Ali speaks of boxing, God’s will is holiness. Scripture exhorts us not to revel in sin. He’s given us a way to return to His calling upon our lives.

  • What we have to remember is how to return.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

~ 1 John 1:9, HCSB

When Jonah’s misery made him listen to God’s loving voice, he repented. It was only then that he experienced the grace the Lord had extended to him throughout his rebellious trek.

  • Our only hope of rescue from sin’s downward spiral is God’s gracious salvation offered through His Son.

God sometimes has to allow the pain of the great depths to get our focus on His will. Without that proper attention to His commands, we continue to fall away from Him. When we find ourselves in such places, God’s mercy shines in the darkness for those who seek Him with a repentant heart.

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.

~ Joseph Campbell

We should never sin just to experience grace. But when we violate God’s will, we must remember to whom we need to call to get a breath of fresh air.

Jonah did. And God brought him up from the abyss to use him in a mighty way.

[1] Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Hollywood: Paramount Pictures, 1958).

[2] Jonah 1:1 – 2:10.

[3] Boyd Bailey, “Self Destruction,”, 05/10/2012.

[4] Ibid.

[5] David Jeremiah, Running from God, in The Runaway Prophet: the Book of Jonah, CD (San Diego: Turning Point Ministries, 2005).

[6] Jonah 1 – 2.

A Splintering Headache

Image by Jana Blaskova, courtesy of iStockphoto

The whole head is injured…

~ Isaiah 1:5, NIV

To the sailors aboard the Tarshish-bound vessel, Jonah was a headache. Inside the large sea creature, the wayward prophet suffered one. Jonah’s skull pounded as if being crushed. The depths to which his rebellion had flung him would have done that to any human being.

In great torment, Jonah cried out to God in his distress.[1] And in this he foreshadowed another sign of Jonah that the Messiah would fulfill.[2]

We have spent the last two blog posts discussing Jonah’s anguish and what type of crown Jesus most likely wore.[3] [4] The obvious question to ask: why is it important?

Follow along as we ponder Christ’s Passion.

  • The thorns used for the crown were not the garden-variety of briars on rose bushes.

Although such pricks are painful, they weren’t the sorts of thorns the Romans had laying around in Palestine.

Most believe the thorns were from the Zizyphus spina christa. This creeper was common to the Judean landscape, and the people of that day used them as kindling for fires. Thus, the Romans would have buckets of these in the area of Jesus’ trial and abuse. They didn’t have to look around for something to shape into a crown. The material was available.

  • These thorns bear long spikes that are like wooden ice-picks.

Their sharp points are like long needles, capable of penetrating deeply into human flesh. They would be far more menacing than most splinters we’ve suffered.

  • A full-headed crown of thorns would have covered the entire scalp, ears, and forehead.

Due to the extensive vascularity of the face and skull, profuse bleeding would pour from the punctured flesh.

  • Experts have projected as many as seventy such wounds resulted.

Imagine the agony of seventy darts being rammed into the head. Then remember that they struck the Savior with a rod, nailing those prongs further into His skull. And most likely they bound them in place with plaited vines, such as sea rushes.

  • It was agony upon agony. But it was a far greater woe than we realize.

A forensic pathologist theorized Jesus suffered trigeminal neuralgia.[5] This condition is more excruciating than any other type of headache. Most experts consider it to be one of the most painful illnesses a human can suffer.

  • The trigeminal nerve is a main nerve trunk that traverses on each side of a person’s head.

A full-headed crown would cover the areas where these nerves lie. The multiple stab wounds from such a thorny diadem could pierce these nerves in many places, inducing severe pain along the affected pathways.

  • The trigeminal nerve carries pain fibers to the scalp, the forehead, the eyes, the ears, the face, the jaw, the nose, and the mouth.

Now consider the malady one has to endure if all of these areas are in extreme pain – at the same time. Our Savior had to endure such torture.

  • What would result would be more excruciating than any migraine.

It’d be more pressure than any sinus headache. More piercing than any earache. More pounding than any other in the eyes. More throbbing than any toothache. More spasms in locked jaws than temporal-mandibular joint pain (or, TMJ).

Combine every type of headache, and that’s what you get. An unbearable anguish most never could imagine.

Light would only exacerbate the misery. Wind and temperature change would make being outside devastating. The nostrils would drain. The eyes would water. The mouth would drool. The ears might bleed from the strain.

  • Even worse, it wouldn’t end until He died.

Now, consider what Isaiah foretold about Christ’s suffering to come: the whole head is injured.[6] A full-headed crown causing a trigeminal headache would fulfill Isaiah’s picture of what sin had done to those who suffer its penalty.

This was another sign of Jonah that the people of Jesus’ day probably didn’t understand. But it’s one that modern medicine, oceanography, and forensic pathology enable us to see. It should be another sign to our generation of how deeply He suffered to pay for the sin that weighed us down.

We were the cause of His headache. If we reject His sacrifice for us, we contribute to His heartache as well…


[1] Jonah 2:1-9.

[2] Luke 11:29-32.

[3] J. Shan Young, “Pressure Headache,”, 05/03/2012.

[4] J. Shan Young, “The Lord of the Ring?”, 05/05/2012.

[5] Frederick T. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry (New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 2005), 33-34.

[6] Isaiah 1:5, NIV.

Pressure Headache

Every head has its own headache.                 

~ Arab proverb

"Octopus under Old Town Pier, Bonaire," photo by Robert Dalton, courtesy of iStockphoto

I could almost touch the octopus lying still among the red and orange coral below me. My wife and I had encountered many beautiful treasures snorkeling in that isolated cay.

And what wonders they were. A sea turtle mozied across the sand, disappearing into the foam of the methodic waves. Conch shells as big as basketballs were scattered throughout the shallow bowl. Starfish and Triton’s trumpets just as impressive accompanied them. Exotic fish swam through the rainbow coral and large lavender sea fans as we approached the rocky shelf off shore. Everything radiated with a fluorescent sparkle under the sun’s penetrating rays. We spent hours awed by these beauties.

But the octopus was by far the most thrilling of all these spectacles. I’d never seen one so intimately before.

The crystal blue waters of the Caribbean made the creature seem close enough to touch. I dove toward the coral to snap a picture. In my haste, I went too deep, and the pressure of the rapid dive created sharp, shooting pains in my temples, eyes, ears, and teeth. The octopus was far deeper than I realized; his proximity, only a false illusion created by the water’s transparency.

I had to surface. The rapid ascent exacerbated the headache.

When I reached the surface, the glaring sun appeared even brighter because of the migraine. The light blinded me. The rushing waves, which seemed peaceful before, now pounded violently. Each deafening surge of water seemed to induce nausea.

With each stroke I made toward shore, my head throbbed more severely. An excruciating, unrelenting headache ensued. It lasted for hours even after my reprieve from the deep dive. My sea exploration ended because I had ventured into a crushing depth – one magnitude too fast and too far.

  • I suffered a diver’s migraine – not uncommon for underwater explorers.

It felt like that octopus had all eight tentacles wrapped tightly around my skull. I thought my brain would explode at any moment.

Jules Verne probably didn’t understand this malady when he wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.[1] Pete Martin must have when he entitled a short story, “Twenty Thousand Headaches under the Sea.”[2]

The extreme pressures of the ocean’s depths induce headaches in many who venture there. It’s like a vice-grip squeezing the skull that seems to be expanding.

  • Jonah had a rapid descent into the ocean’s depths.

I suspect that pressure surge produced a severe, unrelenting headache in the headstrong prophet. And He endured it for three days most likely.

  • The sea beast’s air cavity would’ve been like a pressure chamber.

Every sound magnified. Jonah’s screams echoed. The gurgling of the fish’s digestion became more pronounced. Each rumble thundered. Each dive worsened the anguish.

  • The acidic fumes of the fish’s digestive system burned the eyes, ears, throat, and nasal passages.

The caustic damage caused swelling of the eyes, ears, throat, and sinuses. This edema only exacerbated the agony caused by the intense pressures of the deep.

  • His eyes felt as if they would bulge out of socket.

The eardrums felt as if they’d burst. The sinuses filled with fluid, causing a constant runny nose. The throat felt as if it was closing up. And this went on for the three days he was in the fish. It probably persisted long after his rescue as well – just like my headache did.

It’s no wonder that Jonah was cognizant of the seaweeds wrapped around his head.[3] (We discussed in another post.)[4] It also foreshadowed what Christ endured in His Passion – but that’s another post.

[1] Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1946).

[2] Pete Martin, “Twenty Thousand Headaches under the Sea,” Saturday Evening Post, 6/16/1945, 217 (51): 9-79.

[3] Jonah 2:5.

[4] “The Crown of Sorrows,”, posted 04/28/2012.

The Crown of Sorrows

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

~ William Shakespeare

photo by Luis Pedrosa, courtesy of iStockphoto

Trouble from all sides brought despair to King Henry IV. His nobles rebelled. His friends abandoned his cause. One son was a conniving deceiver; another, a partying low-life. His own guilt burdened him further.

His worries aged him. Sleep evaded him, which produced more desperation.

The weary king disdained the vilest of his realm, who though committing heinous deeds could doze in their loathsome beds without remorse. He envied the wet sea-boy nodding off while perched in a crow’s nest amid storm-tossed waves and fierce winds.[1]

  • Why couldn’t his weary soul find such peace?

His crown sealed his fate.

Jonah understood Henry’s dilemma. Though not a king, he found himself tossed into a furious tumult of his own rebellion. Cast overboard. Abandoned to a raging sea. Willing to die. Forsaken even by death.

  • The prophet’s suffering brought him to the desperation of his hopelessness.

And in his misery, he recognized that he wore an uneasy crown … of seaweeds.

  • Even in this minor detail, we see a foreshadowing of Christ’s Passion.

Notice that the prophet bemoaned that the weeds were wrapped around his head – and only his head.[2] This was yet another sign of Jonah.

  • The Romans sought to torture their condemned prisoners by any means possible.

Various methods of torment were available to them, and they used them without impunity.

  • One particular game they played was basalinda (Latin, for king).

In this sadistic persecution, the soldiers chose a poor soul to be their idiot king. They mocked him in every way, including a fake coronation. The soldiers used baskets, vines, and thorns as the crown, depending on what they desired. In Jesus’ case, they employed the latter.

The abusers then weaved the crown in a way that covered the entire head of the victim. The Romans pressed the thorns into place, and they beat the prey with his make-believe scepter (usually a stick, a rod, or a reed). They committed these atrocities many times and in many ways.

  • To mock Jesus in this way was natural for the Romans.

Philo recorded a contemporary incident where they held a mock coronation service of a village idiot to embarrass Herod.[3] When the populace hailed Jesus as the King of the Jews, it sealed His fate with the mercenaries into whose vile hands He had been cast.

Scripture declares that they weaved a thorny crown for Jesus’ head. God’s Word informs us that they struck His head with a rod, beating those spikes into Christ’s scalp.

  • But what they may have done next is surprising…

The Cathedral of Notre Dame houses a relic known as “The Crown of Thorns.” The history of this icon is suspect before AD 1238. We know King Baldwin II gave the artifact to King Louis in that year. The French Monarch built a cathedral to enshrine it. While it’s improbable this was Christ’s crown, the historical object does share some insight into what might have happened to our Savior.

“The Crown of Thorns” is a woven mesh of sea rushes. The Romans often secured the thorny crowns in place by entwining them with plaited sea vines after they had hammered them into their victims’ skulls.

Scripture is quiet on whether this practice occurred with Christ or not. But it does offer an intriguing insight into this potentially being yet another aspect of Jesus fulfilling the sign of Jonah. It most certainly would have made that crown lie uneasy. And that torment would continue until He finally died.

[1] William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 2, Act III, Scene 1, 15-31, in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Vol. 1, edited by W. G. Clark and W. Aldis Wright (New York: Nelson Doubleday, nda).

[2] Jonah 2:5, NKJV.

[3] Philo, In Flaccum VI, 36-40, in The Works of Philo, translated by C. D. Yonge (Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 728.

Black Friday

Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon the all the land until the ninth hour.

~ Matthew 27:45, NASB

Gustave Dore, photo by Ivan Burmistrov,Courtesy of iStockphoto

Annual mayhem ensued in 1960’s Philadelphia. It seemed everyone descended upon the city to celebrate Thanksgiving. Eager football fans swarmed to the downtown hotels while they awaited the annual Army – Navy football classic on Saturday.

Sandwiched between the Thursday feast and the Saturday game was a day filled with hundreds of thousands of people shopping for Christmas bargains. So many thronged to these sales that the streets became impassable. The honking horns, traffic jams, and impatient masses created nightmares for everyone there. Those who served in this chaos dubbed it Black Friday, which is what we know it as today.

  • The blackest Friday on record occurred two millennia before.

It was the day Christ died. And it wreaked utter havoc on the millions gathered to see it.

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  • Daytime darkness caused by eclipses weren’t unknown to earlier generations.

Historians recorded eclipses on the days Romulus and Julius Caesar died.

  • The Bible gives recurrent warnings of such judgments.

That’s why the Hebrews saw these omens as signs of God’s wrath.

Isaiah prophesied:

The sun will be darkened in its going forth …

I will punish the world for its evil…

~ Isaiah 13:10, 11, NKJV

Nahum proclaimed:

A jealous and avenging God is the LORD;

The LORD is avenging and wrathful.

The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries,

And He reserves wrath for His enemies…

And He will pursue His enemies into darkness.

~ Nahum 1:2, 8, NASB

Jeremiah declared:

I looked to the heavens,

And their light was gone…

All the birds of the sky had fled…

Because of the LORD

And His burning anger.

~ Jeremiah 4:23, 25, 26, HCSB

Joel warned:

The sun will be turned to darkness

And the moon to blood

Before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the LORD comes.

~ Joel 2:31, HCSB

Jeremiah lamented:

“You have forsaken Me,” declares the LORD…

“So I will stretch My had against you and destroy you…

I will bring against them …

A destroyer at noonday

I will suddenly bring down on her

Anguish and dismay…

Her breathing is labored.

Her sun has set while it was yet day…”

~ Jeremiah 15:6, 8, 9, NASB

  • The Hebrew terms for darkness (chosek, araphel) mean far more than just absence of light.

They describe misery, wickedness, destruction, sorrow, and death. This blackness was like a thick cloud of suffocating gloom that descended upon those experiencing it. A heavy evil seemed to compress them on all sides like an ebony veil of metal balls and chains.

  • That’s why Sheol was a place of blackness.

That’s why hell is a Stygian abyss though it burns with fire.[1] There’s no light at the end of the tunnel – no relief from sin’s heavy burden.

  • That’s what Jonah suffered in the belly of the fish.

He lamented his affliction in the darkness of the abyss. That’s why he called it Sheol.[2]

  • That’s what the people at Calvary witnessed when Jesus bore our burden.

The eerie blackness weighed on them. Moaning. Wailing. Screaming. There was no suffering in silence. In that ebony blanket, it was as though hell’s chaos had broken loose on earth.

  • T. W. Hunt commented that it was though God could no longer gaze at His Son when He bore our sin.[3]

And He made it so that others couldn’t either.

  • The darkness lasted from noon to 3 PM.[4]

As the blackness broke, Jesus was near His bitter end. His body marred beyond human recognition. Covered in blood. Gasping for breath. Suffocating from His own fluids. He finally let out a cry … and died.

  • This was Black Friday.

It was the day we now call Good Friday. And, for the Christian, every day that follows is one of thanksgiving when we come to realize it for what it is.

Have you ever thanked the Lord when you’ve faced such dark days?

[1] Matthew 22:13; 25:30.

[2] Jonah 2:2.

[3] T. W. Hunt, “The Mind of Christ: The Crucifixion,” (Nashville: Lifeway, 1994).

[4] Matthew 27:45.

*(Small web movie produced by Andy Stubbert, courtesy of iStockphoto)