ESV - 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
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Jesus referred to the sign of the prophet Jonah, as well as explaining what He was referring to, in Matthew 12:40 (the verse immediately prior to the verse cited in the question). In Jonah 1 in the Old Testament, God had commanded Jonah to go and preach against the wickedness of the large city of Nineveh, and to warn the Ninevites of the city's coming destruction by God in thirty days if they did not repent. However, Jonah did not want to go, and tried to flee from God's presence by boarding a seagoing vessel. God then sent a great storm that threatened to sink the ship that Jonah was on. Jonah told the crew of the ship that he was the one responsible for God sending the storm, and that, if they threw him overboard, the storm would stop. The crew threw him overboard and the storm stopped, but God provided a great fish that swallowed Jonah to save him from drowning. Jonah 1:31 then says that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, after which Jonah prayed to God, and God made the fish vomit Jonah out alive on dry land (Jonah 2). By referring to the sign of Jonah, Jesus was saying that, just as Jonah had re-appeared after three days in the belly of the fish, He Himself would be resurrected bodily to live eternally three days after His own crucifixion and entombment (which Jesus referred to as His body being "in the heart of the earth"). This would be proof of His identity as the Son of God and as the Savior by whom the world could be saved through faith in Him.
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