What is a typology?
Here is how I explain it: a model and a building.
This is a model of a pyramid. It’s not nearly as glorious or beautiful but it does give a preview and understanding of what a pyramid is supposed to look like. Even if you had never seen a photograph of a pyramid you would know that the final product is going to look something like this.
Jesus is our perfect prophet, priest, and king. When you see the examples of the Old Testament “heroes of the Bible” you get an idea of what Jesus is supposed to be like. In other words the prophets, priests, and kings are the crummy model and Jesus is the glorious pyramid.
My favorite typology is Jonah because in many ways he is the crummiest model of Christ we have and yet he points to the most glorious aspects of Christ.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
If you haven't read the book of Jonah I highly recommend it; but just in case you haven't I will give a very brief overview (if you have read Jonah you may skip my overview).
The story of Jonah
God is angry at this warlike city called Nineveh for their sins of cruelty, violence and greed. So God tells Jonah to deliver his message to Ninevah that he is about to destroy them. Jonah decides to do the opposite and hops aboard a ship going to the opposite side of the world.
A few days into the voyage a terrible storm comes upon the ship and the sailors fear for their lives. “What god have we angered”? ask the sailors. Jonah comes forward and reveals that he is the culprit so the sailors finally throw Jonah out of the boat and the storm quickly subsides. While the sailors are thanking their lucky stars a huge fish comes and swallows Jonah where he lives for three days. After three days the fish spits Jonah up on the shores of Ninevah.
At this point Jonah gets with the program and tells God’s message: “In forty days Ninevah will be overthrown”. The people of Ninevah repent and fast while Jonah goes to a mountain where he can watch Ninevah’s destruction. Instead, God forgives Ninevah and Jonah is upset (he hated Ninevah). God responds that he cares about these people and even the animals and that He is glad they repented.
How does Jesus relate to Jonah?
Jonah gave presented God’s message without compassion and unwillingly. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. In other words Jonah was a prophet but he was a bad prophet. Jesus is the perfect prophet.
Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days because he would not obey God. After repenting of his disobedience God releases him from the belly of the fish. Jesus points to Jonah to show us that His obedience will lead Him to dying and resurrecting (the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth). Jonah was in the fish because he didn't want to save the Ninevites but Jesus took on death itself because He wanted to save us from our sins.
Jonah did not speak this message with compassion or even an ounce of care (he hoped no one would heed it) yet the Ninevites repented. Jesus is pointing out that we have someone far more caring and wonderful than Jonah and if we don't listen Ninevah will testify against us on judgment day.
Conclusion: Heed Jesus because he is the great prophet who cares enough about you to die for your sins. If you don't listen the Ninevites who had crummy Jonah will condemn us all because they repented. Jesus is a perfect Jonah; while Jonah is just…. A Jonah.