7But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
The similarities in Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) to the story of Jonah are striking. In both stories, rebellious men run from the presence of their father, both get in serious trouble, both come to a point of facing their rebellion, and both repent—or seem to. We don’t know the outcome of the prodigal son after the celebratory dinner, a dinner that the older—“good”—son refused to attend, nor do we know the rest of the story about Jonah.
In the final chapter, we begin to see that Jonah represents both the prodigal and the “good” son rolled into one. He represents humankind. Our sinful, rebellious natures lead us into trouble eventually, but our “righteous” behaviors negatively affect our relationship with God and other people. Our “righteousness” can cause great harm when we view ourselves as special to God.
Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son is the third in a series of stories of celebration over the recovery of lost things: sheep, coins, and people. Heaven rejoices when Ninevites, both historical and present day, repent and turn to God (see Luke 15:7, 10, 32). Twice in the story, Jonah would rather die than identify or hang out with the lost. He makes declarations about God, but those in danger—the seamen and the Ninevites—actually pray to God. Like Jonah, we can claim rights as God’s chosen, or we can recognize that we’re all in the same boat and rely on God’s mercy.