As the story of Jonah continues, we see that the prayers that are being offered from the ship to the various gods of the crew are not working, not even Jonah's prayer, and the crew begins to seek the cause of the storm. Who among them is responsible for the anger of the gods? And what do they need to do about it?
At this point, Jonah steps up and confesses his guilt among them. He tells them that he boarded the ship as a way to get away from what God was calling him to do and that this entire storm is his fault. He tells them that the only way to calm the seas is to throw him into them, although we should also note that he stops just short of jumping for himself.
The crew doesn't really want to throw a man into the sea, however. How could they? It sets a bad precedent for sailors to not bring a full ship to port, and an even worse precedent if they solve their storm problems by throwing men overboard. After all, they are the best sailors in all the world. If they have to resort to something outside of their skill set, what kind of sailors are they, anyway? And this Jonah fellow would most certainly die, which would make them essentially murderers, wouldn't it? Which would cause their gods, not to mention Jonah's Lord, to be angry with them.
No, there are far too many negatives to what this Jonah is proposing; the crew can't just throw him overboard, not even on a chance that it may calm the storm. So they continue to throw ballast over into the sea, emptying the boat of everything that they can in order to make it more manageable, but nothing is working. Nothing is helping.
Jonah is insistent. Throw. me. over.
It's noble, Jonah sacrificing himself for the rest of the sailors. It really shows something about the prophet, doesn't it? It does, but what if it's not as noble as it seems? There are other reasons that Jonah might sacrifice himself to the seas than simply to save the crew of his wayfaring ship.
The first one that comes to mind is: he still didn't want to go to Nineveh.
Because that would seem like "Plan A," wouldn't it? Jonah could have told the sailors to let him off at the next port so that he could obey the Lord and do what he was asked to do in the first place. He could have asked them to turn the ship around. He could have asked them to sail toward Nineveh, getting him to the closest port, whatever that might have been. He could have repented, told the Lord that he would go, and have gone. It would have thrown the sailors off course for a bit, but surely that's a small price to pay for his life.
Except, of course, that that's still not the life that Jonah wants to live. He doesn't want to go to Nineveh. Period. Plain and simple. He'd rather be thrown into a raging sea and drown than go to the sinful city to which God had sent him. Maybe it even came up. Maybe the sailors offered to take him to port or even toward Nineveh, and he refused. No, no. Just throw me into the waters.
For real, dudes.
All of a sudden, maybe our Jonah is not so noble after all, making a sacrifice of himself. Maybe...maybe he's a coward. Or a rebel.
Or maybe.... (another possibility tomorrow).