The story of Noah has many themes. God’s judgment and sovereignty. God’s promise not to destroy the world again, the rainbow being our sign.
The fact that nothing changed is another theme. Mankind’s cursed sinfulness had festered to the point that God needed to destroy everyone, hit the proverbial reset button. Yet, at the end of it all, Ham is once again cursed, and Man through him (Genesis 9:24-25). The cycle of sin continued.
Despite this reset of the sinful cycle, God said he would never destroy the world by flood again. Unless we are to believe that the sweet aroma of Noah’s offering was enough, maybe there was something more to God’s reason for the promise. Maybe he made this promise because ultimately, it didn’t work.
Since he could not save the world, he saved one man, one man who found his favor. Maybe this strategy of saving the world through saving one man was the problem. That one man reset the same cycle. If so, God would be foolish to try the same thing again, to destroy the world again.
Perhaps this is why we find in Jesus, the exact opposite strategy to Noah.
For the reasons that follow, there is a compelling comparison between Noah and Jesus. It is ironic that so many scholars and theologians suggest the true comparison is between Jesus and the Ark. Perhaps this comparison is appealing because it is a more direct correlation to our doctrinal beliefs.
However, I’m not as sold on that comparison as I am on the Noah-Jesus contrast. First, to make this comparison, we must establish the parallel.
Obviously there are similarities. To consider these similarities, we must first set aside the circular argument of Jesus being God. Jesus was also Man, so let us consider this side of his ousia. Let’s proceed forward with this thought: “Jesus being God allows him to be the chosen Man.” He was chosen because He was God.
A Favored Man
Jesus was also fully Man during his time on Earth. He was a fully chosen Man.
An Obedient Man
Another similarity is that among all men, Noah was completely obedient. During the entire 100 years of flood preparations, Noah did not speak a word but only did the actions that God commanded (Genesis 6:9-7:5). Although Christ did speak quite a bit (the red letter bibles attest to this), he completely acknowledged that it was God who was speaking and doing through Him (John 7:16, John 14:10). In this sense, Christ too had no actions or words of his own.
Whatever God said, Noah did. Whatever commands, as crazy as they may seem, Noah did. There are no words or deeds that are Noah’s. We see that the same is true for Jesus.
Having established the similarities between the two men, we can now turn to the contrast. The method by which God worked through these men are as different as night and day.
One Saved – One Sacrificed
When God looked down on the Earth (Genesis 6:1-8) and decided to save his creation, he determined that the best approach for saving Man was to save the one person who could have been saved. Then, through that one person, start over. Thus, God chose Noah because Noah found favor with God (Genesis 6:8).
Out of all men, Noah became this vehicle by which humanity would be reset. Humanity, and by stewardship association creation, would be restored through the saving of one man. However, fast forward to the end of the narrative (Genesis 9:25), we see how the one man could not be the means by which all humanity could be saved. The curse continued through Ham. God had to find another solution.
In Jesus, once again, we find God trying to save humanity and creation. Jesus becomes the vehicle through which God acts to bring about salvation. However, the method is the opposite.
In the case of Noah, the method was to save one man in order for all creation to be saved. In the case of Jesus, God sacrifices one man for the salvation of all.
The Noah attempt was based on the salvation of one man. The Jesus attempt was based on the sacrifice of one man.
One God Remembered – One God Forgot
In the flood narrative, at the crux of the narrative, God remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1). In the midst of the destructive act, God turned to the savior he had chosen. In the crucifixion, at the culmination of his death, Christ was abandoned by God. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:45-46) These were the words uttered by Christ during his final moments. And at that moment, God chose to remain silent, to leave him to the suffering that was due to the world and unfairly placed upon Him.
At the moment of punishment, Noah was remembered. At the moment of punishment, Jesus was forgotten. God turned towards Noah. God turned away from Jesus.
Punishment Deserved – Punishment Undeserved
In the case of Noah, God held each man judged for their own sin. All men had to die for their sin. Noah, it was made clear, was judged blameless (Genesis 6:9). Jesus, on the other hand, also blameless (2 Corinthians 5:21), was sentenced to bear the punishment for the sin of all other men.
In both cases, all men were judged. In the case of Jesus, the sentence was commuted to one man.
In the flood narrative, everyone got what they deserved. Through the crucifixion, nobody got what they deserved.
The Altar Built – The Altar Destroyed
After the flood, Noah constructs an altar and provides a thanksgiving offering. God’s presence comes and basks in the aroma and the holiness of the altar (Genesis 8:20-21). In the case of Jesus, the altar is torn down, the Holy of Holies is exposed (Matthew 27:50-51). God chooses not to dwell there, symbolized by the tearing of the veil.
In the first salvation story, the altar is built. In the second, the altar is torn down.
Curse Established – Blessing Established
Finally, in Noah’s case, we see that Noah sins (or at least is frowned upon) and the curse upon man is begun anew (Genesis 9:29). After the resurrection, Jesus launches a blessing upon Man, the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16).
While we all continue to carry that original curse of Noah, we also carry forward the blessing of Christ as we proclaim the good news.
Promise for Creation – Promise for Man
The first promise was that God would never again destroy Creation despite Man (Genesis 8:21-22). This promise was for creation. It was a promise made to one man, Noah.
Through Jesus, God also made a promise. Jesus would come again (John 16:16-19). He was the promise, not a symbol like the rainbow.
In the case of Noah, the one man is not permanent, so a symbol was required. Jesus is permanent. He becomes the promise to the world.
The promise through Jesus was not a promise to destroy. In fact, the promise has to nothing to do with what will be destroyed and what won’t. It is a promise that “you” will be saved (John 14:1-3).
Through Noah, Man received a promise that destruction would be avoided. Through Jesus, Man receives a promise that salvation will be given.
The promise to Noah was the Earth. The promise through Jesus is Heaven.
As you can see, the Noah-Jesus contrast is as appropriate as the Adam-Jesus parallel. Is this coincidence? Or is this divinely inspired Scripture?