One of my top films of all time is The Matrix, which contains many memorable scenes (e.g., Neo dodging bullets in slow motion) that are now part of pop culture.
My favourite scene has got to be the iconic “Red Pill, Blue Pill” conversation, where Morpheus offers Neo a choice: take the blue pill and stay asleep in the Matrix, blissfully unaware of reality; or take the red pill to see the way the world really is.
In today’s passage, it appears as if Jonah had decided to go with the blue pill, as we find him asleep below deck on a boat heading in the opposite direction of where God told him to go (v. 5). It must’ve occurred to Jonah that running from God would have consequences, and yet he probably felt that it was easier to go to sleep and temporarily escape whatever comes next.
As Jonah sleeps, reality hits in the form of a ferocious storm, which tosses their ship about violently, putting all the mariners’ lives in grave danger. The mariners cry out to their own gods, while the captain goes below deck and, seeing Jonah, forces him out of his deep sleep and demands that he too should pray to his God (vv. 4-6).
Soon enough, Jonah is unveiled as the reason for the storm. But despite Jonah advising them to throw him into the sea, the sailors try everything they can to row to dry land and keep everyone alive (v. 13). It’s particularly striking when we realise what these sailors did to try and spare Jonah’s life, while Jonah did everything to avoid doing what God asked, which could save thousands of lives.
The series of events in this passage presents us with two challenges:
First, with the world today besieged by so many storms—wars, economic hardships, political crises, mental illness, emotional trauma, and spiritual emptiness—how often are we, followers of Jesus, found asleep like Jonah, oblivious to the cries of others?
Do we too take the “blue pill” and choose comfort and familiarity rather than open our eyes to reality and do our part to meet people’s needs?
Second, we see the irony here as the pagan mariners, who likely prayed to a pantheon of Mediterranean gods, looked like they knew the Hebrew God better than Jonah did, because of how they responded with reverent fear. They recognised the truth that Jonah had ignored—that the God of the Hebrews is so great and powerful that no one could run and hide from Him (vv. 9-10).
In the climax of The Matrix, Morpheus says this to Neo: “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
The same goes for us as followers of God. Are we in danger of being like Jonah, having a head knowledge about God, but lacking the right fear and respect for God that we see from the mariners (vv. 14-16)? We may understand that regardless of race, gender, or economic status, we are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), and yet we still see others based on these external identifiers and not as Jesus would. We might know Romans 3:23 by heart, but self-righteousness remains ingrained in us.
Hopefully, we don’t have to be thrown off a ship and into a raging ocean to begin to wake up and start walking the path. We have a choice to make every day: wake up, take in God’s word, speak with Him, so we can walk the path He has set before us.
My prayer for us is that we will take “the red pill” and let God open our eyes to the needs around us and compel us to help those in the middle of a storm.
— Caleb Young, New Zealand
Questions for reflection
Return to YMI Reading Jonah Homepage