Jonah has shown us a contrast between Jonah's disobedience and the obedience of the rest of the cast of characters. It has shown us a contrast between Jonah's self-centeredness and God's compassion. Finally, we are going to see a contrast between Jonah and a New Jonah -- the Lord Jesus Christ.
What winds up as a contrast actually begins with several points of comparison. Jonah and Jesus are both prophets sent on a mission by God. Jonah and Jesus are both found sleeping in the bottom of a boat during a storm and are used to calm the waters. Jonah spends three days in the belly of a fish and Jesus three days in a grave. It is this last parallel that Jesus picks up on in the gospels.
“A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now One greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:39-41).
I think what Jesus is saying is something like this: Before Jonah's preaching came the miraculous sign of "resurrection" after three days in a fishy "grave." That sign was part of what gave his message power, which led to the Ninevite's repentance. Though the text is silent on the details, we could perhaps picture Jonah still reeking with the acids of the fish's stomach arriving at the gates of Nineveh, with word of his remarkable deliverance proceeding him. Now the Ninevites are really listening up!
In the same way, Jesus will pass through death into resurrected life, and he will proclaim a message of repentance and faith in the gospel. "Listen to me," says Jesus, "or your judgment will be compounded because you ignored such a clear sign of my authority and of the power of God to judge and to redeem."
Over every Old Testament type, the Lord Jesus is better, greater, and higher. He is the New Adam, succeeding where the first man failed. He is the New Israel, fulfilling all of God's purposes for His people. He is the New Moses with a better law, the New Aaron with a greater priesthood, the new David with a better kingship, the New Solomon with a superior wisdom. And he is the New Prophet, the Greater Jonah, who fully obeys, fully reflects God's heart, and offers a fuller deliverance. Unlike Jonah, who deserved to be thrown into the waters of God's fury, the Lord Jesus knew no sin. He voluntarily gave up His life in order to save the many, and His message, "Father forgive them," is one of infinitely more sincere and potent love.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
So finally, Jonah leads us to worship Jesus Christ. Jesus' followers recognize that He now stands in the place of the sending God, so that part of our fitting worship is to follow Him wherever He sends, and wherever He has already gone.