Chapter Five

Man Against Messiah - The Sanhedrin Plot Against Jesus

The Sign of Jonah

The Pharisees followed Jesus during his ministry. Most likely they were sent by or were part of the Sanhedrin. This makes sense because his popularity and notoriety began to expand throughout Jerusalem and beyond. We know from reading the scriptures that they constantly tried to trap him with doctrine or tradition. Of course, they always failed.  One such situation as written in the Book of Matthew, Chapter twelve, occurred shortly after Jesus healed a man who was both blind and mute and possessed by an evil spirit. One would suppose that such miraculous events of healing would not come from an ordinary man. Jesus’s followers recognized his amazing and divine gifts to heal, but the Sanhedrin, caught up in their political and religious desire to be the supreme authority in such manners could not have anyone saying or doing things that would in any way diminish their power or jurisdiction over the people.  Those who witnessed this miracle were astonished because they knew Jesus as the son of David, the carpenter’s son. They did not know him as the Messiah. But the Pharisees were quick to judge Jesus as written, starting with verse 24, 

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, this fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.

25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?

27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.

28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.”


His stern rebuke of the Pharisees was met with their demand that he proves his divine sonship by showing them a sign. To the reader we may ask, what more sign does one need than to see a man healed of blindness, deafness and an evil spirit? However, the Pharisees once again hoping to catch Jesus in a trap persisted with their insistence for a sign. Starting with verse 38,

 “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” 

Jesus answered their question by giving them a sign, the sign of Jonah. Surely, he wouldn’t quote this biblical story to learned men if the thought they would not have context to the event of Jonah. He first calls them part of a wicked and adulterous generation for even asking for a sign. The Pharisees knew the story of Jonah and how God sent him to the land of Nineveh to call the people to repentance to avoid God from destroying the city. His answer was not just a metaphor, it was a parallelism he was using to show them that Jerusalem was now ripe for destruction, just as was Nineveh, and God was again sending a prophet to call the people to repentance or he would destroy it. But he adds, “behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” He is telling the Pharisees you know the story of Jonah and what would have happened to the people of Nineveh if they had not repented, but this time, God is referring to Jerusalem, and he didn’t just send a prophet to call them to repentance, he sent someone greater.  The only person greater than a Jewish prophet would be the God of the Old Testament. Jesus doesn’t just tell them the story of Jonah and the whale, he tells them that YAHWEH (Jehovah of the Old Testament) was standing before them and making the same declaration of judgement upon them as God had made to Jonah for the people of Nineveh. Such a declaration would have been considered blasphemes. Surely, this was one more note taken down by Pharisees to report to the Sanhedrin.

Now let us look at the story of Jonah, and why Jesus would use this story in place of a sign to prove his divine nature. What is the “sign of Jonah?” Although bible scholars will say that it was a metaphor for his forthcoming crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, it was much more. Jonah, unlike Jesus was a reluctant prophet.  When God spoke to him and told him to go to the land of Nineveh and call the people to repentance, he instead thought he could run and hide from the Lord and he headed for the city of Tarshish by boat. The Lord caused a great storm to come upon the sea. The crew began to toss as many items overboard as possible to keep the vessel from capsizing in the turbulent waters. When they had tossed out all of their cargo, but the boat was still struggling to stay afloat Jonah confessed to them that he was the cause of the storm and that if they would throw him into the sea the storm would cease.  After much coaxing he convinced the God-fearing men to toss him into the ocean at which point a large fish swallowed him, as described in the Old Testament Book of Jonah. The metaphor was that Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish and was then vomited up on to the shore where he carried out his mission of preaching to the people of Nineveh. Again, many have tried to explain how a man could survive for three days in the belly of a fish.  Most believe the fish was a large whale and that somehow Jonah was able to survive the three days in its stomach by staying afloat. Such a feat would surely be miraculous to say the least, since the stomach of a whale, like all animals has digestive acids to break down and digest its food, and the body of Jonah would be no different than anything else swallowed by a whale.  If this is so, then how could Jonah have stayed alive for three days? Perhaps, the metaphor of Jonah and the whale was closer to the death and resurrection of Jesus than just being in the belly of a whale for three days. Is it possible that Jonah was actually dead, as was the body of Jesus as it lay in the tomb for three days? Would this not be a miraculous event of a body coming back to life after three days, instead of simply a lucky and death-defying man who spent three days in the belly of a whale? If Jonah was actually dead during the three days wouldn’t that be a better metaphor to compare the death and resurrection of Jesus? Remember the verse, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  The answer is simple, Yes, Jonah was dead during the three days his body was in the belly of the whale, just as the body of Jesus was dead for three days and three nights as it lay in the tomb.  Here is why we know this.  The author of the book of Jonah never claims that Jonah was alive for the three days in the belly of the whale, in fact, it says “Jonah died and went to the realm of the dead” Let’s go back to the book of Jonah and read the account starting in Chapter One with verse 17,

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

Chapter Two, verse 1. 

“Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly,

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.

10 ¶ And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”


In verse two Jonah says he cried out of “the belly of hell”. The Hebrew word for hell is Sheol and in verse six, “bottoms of the mountains”, the Hebrew word used for mountains prior to the King James translation was “pit.” Both Sheol and Pit are common Old Testament terms for the realm of the dead. (Psalms 139:7-8 and Job17:13-16; 33:22-30). And in verse 7 “when Jonah said, “my soul fainted within me,” this is the same as saying he died. This is literally his dying prayer.  This also makes the story more believable, especially to the modern-day reader or the skeptic who looks for ways to disprove the event as nothing more than a fairy tale. Finally, when the fish vomits Jonah onto the land, it is vomiting his dead body, and not tossing an unharmed man onto the shore. One last thought to prove this claim is the first word the Lord speaks to Jonah as his body lay on the shore, “Arise!” This is the same word Jesus used when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead.  (Mark 5:41). The “sign of Jonah” would surely be the greatest of all of the miracles of Jesus. His crucifixion and resurrection from the dead would fulfil prophesy of the long-awaited Messiah, and his claim to be the Son of Man, the Holy One of Israel, the Son of the living God. The Sanhedrin were not interested in the truth, they were not interested in the fulfilment of prophesy, even though they went through the motions of teaching it from the sacred records of their forefathers for millennia. Their primary concern was self-centered, it was to protect their own livelihood at all costs. And they would do whatever they believed was necessary to accomplish that goal, they would ignore every miracle Jesus performed, ignore every doctrine founded on scripture he taught, ignore the testimonies of the believers, and do everything within their power to stop the Messiah even if it meant killing him, the very Son of God.



This is an original work of the author, plus an edited version of the book JESUS BEFORE THE SANHEDRIM by Augustin LeMann written in French and translated to English in 1886 by Julius Magath, A.M., professor in Emery College, Oxford, Georgia. The book Jesus Before The Sanhedrim and artwork used in this book is now in the public domain and free of copyright. Cover design and the cover art work is the copyright and work of the author. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2018 Phillip C. Wright
Cover Photo © 2018 Phillip C. Wright.  All Rights Reserved. Pictures and photographs are either public domain or used with permission.
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphics, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
ISBN-13: 978-1978486713
P&Q Publishing and the P&Q logo are trademarks belonging to P&Q Publishing