Water from the Rock and Christ’s side
The leftmost pair of panels in the bottom row – Panels 9 and 10 – show Moses striking the rock to release water to quench the thirst of the children of Israel during the Exodus and a soldier piercing Jesus’ side with a spear, to show he is, indeed dead, causing water and blood to flow out.
In the Old Testament, Exodus 17: 3-7 tells how, during their wanderings after escaping Egypt, the Israelites complained to Moses they and their livestock were dying of thirst.
God told Moses to strike a rock with his staff and, when he did, water flowed out of it, allowing the Israelites to drink their fill.
Meanwhile, the Gospel of John 19: 31-37, in the New Testament tells how, after Jesus Christ had died on the cross, a soldier “pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.”
Blood and water provide a direct link to two Sacraments – the Eucharist and Baptism.
St Paul will provide a further link explored in these panels in his First Letter to the Corinthians when he writes in verse 4: “And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.”
Jonah prefigures Christ’s Resurrection
Arguably one of the most evocative and powerful pairings can be found in the third and fourth panels of the bottom row.
The leftmost panel (Panel 11 in our diagram) is taken from the Book of Jonah – one of the Old Testament prophets.
God told Jonah to go to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh (close to Mosul in modern-day Iraq) to warn the citizens of impending destruction because of their wickedness.
Jonah tried to escape his God-given mission by sea.
When God buffeted Jonah’s ship with a storm, the prophet told his shipmates to throw him overboard as a sacrifice to calm God’s anger.
Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a ‘great fish’ – commonly interpreted to be a whale or sea monster – and, after three days in the creature’s stomach, was spat out onto dry land to finish his mission.
The typological interpretation of the story of Jonah is that it is a ‘model’ for – or pre-figures – Christ’s burial and his resurrection – the image we see in the right hand panel, Panel 12.
The belly of the fish represents Christ’s tomb and Jonah’s deliverance after three days represents Christ’s resurrection from the dead after three days.
The analogy is given further weight by three passages from two of the New Testament Gospels. (Luke 11: 29-32, Matthew 12:38-42 and Matthew 16:1-4).
Luke quotes Christ telling the crowds: “Just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man [a reference to himself] will be to this generation.”
Meanwhile, Matthew quotes Christ telling the Scribes and Pharisees: ”Just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.”
The Gospel returns to the same theme in Matthew 16:1-4, quoting Christ as telling the Pharisees and Sadducees:
“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”