Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jonah and the Anagnorisis

I like stories that contain plot twists and/or twist endings. It usually involves some aspect of the story that remains unknown to the viewer and possibly some of the characters, then it is revealed towards the end. Throughout the story, the storyteller will often give some clues that might lead to the real ending, while others might lead one to false conclusions.
My favorite part in this scenario is that feeling you get after the reveal. All of a sudden, your brain starts to connect the dots. Aristotle called this moment the “anagnorisis.” Often movie-makers will review the story after the reveal, although my brain has usually done that already. Along with the anagnorisis, often comes the hindsight bias. This is when you think, of course, I knew that all along.
In Matthew 12, a little bit of a plot twist occurs. Jesus tells the religious people who are interrogating him that they will see the sign of Jonah. Remember Jonah? He is the guy we sang songs about in Bible school: “Who did, who did, who did swallow Jon, Jon, Jon, who did swallow Jonah up?” It always seemed to me like the book of Jonah was a fairly random story that was haphazardly squeezed into the confusing netherworlds of the Old Testament. But now amidst all of his important rhetoric, Jesus references that random story about a man being swallowed by a fish. 
Now comes the point of anagnorisis. Jesus draws a parallel between the events he is about to experience and what happened to Jonah. Now the story of Jonah is not so random, it becomes a foretelling the most important event in history. 
I think it is easy for us to get caught in the seemingly random and meaningless nature of our day-to-day experiences. Often nothing seems connected to a brilliantly orchestrated story. Let this passage be a reminder, God is a master storyteller. I believe we all have an anagnorisis waiting for us.

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