In Jonah 1:17, we read, “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” Then in Matthew 12:40 we read, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus was speaking with some Pharisees and teachers of the law who wanted proof that he was the Messiah. Jesus answered that “a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” In other words, Jesus was not going to perform another miracle there for these Pharisees, or give any sort of miraculous sign just for show. What he did was give an indication of what was going to happen to him, which was that he was going to die and be buried in a tomb for parts of three days.
Jonah’s connection to Calvary was that his time in the belly of the fish was a picture of what was to come at the end of Jesus’ life. Jesus used this as an illustration to show the Pharisees that he was indeed the Messiah, that he would die, be buried in a tomb, and rise on the third day. Jonah in the fish represents Jesus in the grave. Jonah being spat out onto dry land after his time in the fish represents Jesus’ resurrection. Just as Jonah came out of the belly of the fish and was saved from death, so Jesus came out of the belly of the earth and was saved from death forevermore. Romans 6:9 reads, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” How wonderful it is that Jesus died and was raised for us all, so that we also might live again! As stated in 1 Corinthians 6:14, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”