Jonah chapter 3 ends with Jonah preaching and the entire city of Nineveh repenting. I am here to tell you that if I as a pastor ever preached a sermon and every single person who heard it actually repented - I would consider that a pretty good day at the office. In fact, I would probably spike my Bible on the stage, do a little dance, and wait for the Elders to come and pick me up on their shoulders and carry me out to the parking lot to the cheers of the staff.
Not, Jonah! Chapter 4 tells us that he responded by getting angry at God. Jonah didn't want the people of Nineveh spared. He did not want them forgiven. He wanted them zapped. He basically gives his best "I told yo so" to God and goes out and sits, watching the city, waiting to see what God would do. Jonah becomes the pouting prophet trying to guilt God into doing things his way.
Instead, God teaches Jonah a lesson we all need to learn. He causes a plant to grow up overnight and give Jonah shade. Jonah is very happy about the plant and the personal comfort it brings to him. But the next night God causes a worm to eat the plant and destroy it. He then turns up the heat on Jonah (literally) through a scorching east wind, which again makes the prophet angry.
God then basically says this (my paraphrase) - "Look, Jonah. You have compassion over a stupid plant that you did not plant or cause to grow! Should I not have compassion on the 120,000 people in Nineveh that I created and who are spiritually helpless?"
The truth is that we all fall victim to the "Jonah Syndrome"! We all have a plant in our life, something that is non-eternal, that we are more passionate about than people who don't know Jesus. The truth is that for many followers of Jesus, our plant has something to do with our own personal preferences. We are often more concerned and more passionate about everything at church being done the way we like it then we are about lost people coming to know Jesus.
"Dear God, please send some worms to come and destroy our plants so that we can learn that to have Your heart we must have compassion for lost people and a passion to reach them for You. After all, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost."
Send in the worms!