One day when Jesus and his disciples were making their way from Galilee to Jerusalem, they came through Samaria. The disciples went into one village to prepare for Jesus to come to that village and the people of that village did not want him. Luke 9:54 says that when James and John saw this they asked Jesus, “do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”
If you look at human relationships, that is actually a pretty common response to trouble. George Bush is thinking about attacking Iraq because Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with the United Nations. When terrorists attacked the US, the world agreed that we needed a “war on terrorism.” In hockey, some teams have players who are hired specifically because they like to fight and they are there to make sure that no one hurts their good players. Violence, retaliation and revenge seem to be natural human responses to wrongs done. Yet when James and John suggested this, the Bible says that “Jesus turned and rebuked them.”
We have been studying Isaiah the last few weeks and we would miss a significant part of Isaiah’s writing if we did not recognize the many messianic passages in the book. It is important to realize that all the Messianic passages have a historical reference. The prophecy is often made with a specific historical situation and person in mind but then also points forward to the coming Messiah. Isaiah is quoted 48 times in the New Testament and 18 of those times refer specifically to the Messiah. I am not sure of the exact numbers, but I suspect that Isaiah would be among the most quoted OT books in the NT. As we examine the Messianic passages in Isaiah, it is amazing to see how specifically these messianic prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus.
As I studied the messianic passages this time, I was particularly struck with the many times it speaks about the kind of Messiah He would be. The nature, work and style of the Messiah would be a radical departure from the way things had always been. As we examine these passages this morning, I would invite you to give glory to Jesus. As we examine what kind of a Messiah He was, we will also be invited to follow Him. Ephesians 4:15 talks about how we need to grow up into Christ. As we see what Jesus was like, we will have the opportunity to examine the words about the Messiah and examine our own lives to see if we are becoming like Him.
The Old Testament is a book of blood. Killing, aggression and death are all around. It begins with the murder of Abel by Cain and continues right through. All the firstborn in Egypt died in order that Pharaoh’s hand would be forced so that he would let Israel go. Israel killed many people in their conquest of the land, beginning with the destruction of the entire population of Jericho.
When they disobeyed God, the nations around Israel harassed them and killed many. As they were faithful to God, he helped them many times to defeat these enemies. We think of the trail of bodies as Gideon slaughtered the Midianites and when David killed Goliath, which led to the slaughter of many Philistines.
Eventually, as Israel continued in disobedience, blood flowed as the Assyrians came and besieged Samaria and scattered all the people of Israel and then years later when Nebuchadnezzar came and destroyed Jerusalem and many people of Judah died.
The shedding of blood was natural for evil people.
However, even the relationship of the people of Israel to God was based on the shedding of much blood. It is hard for us to imagine the number of animals which were killed daily, some of them to be used for food, but many of them killed and destroyed completely, just so that sins could be forgiven.
As I say, blood and aggression and violence were the order of the day when Isaiah lived. All of these things were true as history and as living reality when Isaiah wrote what God gave him to write.
But, as Isaiah writes about the Messiah, we see a completely new thing, a completely different way.
Please turn to Isaiah 42:1-4 where it speaks of “my servant” which is the most common name used for the Messiah. In contrast to the aggressive ways of the world and the blood of the Old Testament, the method of the Messiah would be one of gentleness. I am particularly interested in the images used here. The origin of them is a mystery, but there is little doubt that we can understand their message. Isaiah 42:1 speaks about the fact that “the servant” will bring justice. But these images help us understand what method he would use. A bruised reed is a plant that is ready to be pulled up, there is no hope for it, but Jesus does not break it. A smoldering wick is ready to go out. It smokes and stinks and the best thing to do is to snuff it, but Jesus does not snuff it, he sees hope in the little glowing that is there.
In the Old Testament world, a new religion was always announced by a conqueror. As a great general would conquer a people, he would bring a new god to them and force them to adopt that new god. The method of Messiah would be completely different.
This passage is quoted about Jesus in Matthew 12:18-21. The gentle ministry of Jesus is seen in the way he worked with people and welcomed all who came and encouraged any spark of hope. He did so even to the extent of keeping with him the one whom he knew would betray him.
We need to imitate Christ in this gentle ministry. Last week, we spent a week ministering to inner city children at Gem Lake. The ministry of Inner City Youth is one that is a reflection of this method of Jesus. I saw how the staff encourages hope in children and young people who are in very difficult situations. They need a lot of patience with some of them and I was encouraged to be gentle as I watched this ministry. The example of Jesus tells me that such gentleness is right. Is our method one of gentleness?
The Messianic prophecies also speak of the path of the Messiah in Isaiah 52:13-15. Once again it refers to “my servant” so we know it is talking about Messiah. There are many things in this passage, but I would like you to take note of verse 14 which speaks of His suffering. This verse is a “strong way of saying how great his suffering.” The path of Messiah would not be a path of glorious victory. It would not be the path of a hero who has muscles like Arnold Swartzenager or the face of Tom Cruise. The path of Messiah would be, a path of suffering.
Once again, we see how this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus. He was a man of sorrows. He experienced rejection, beating and mockery. He was willing to take this path of suffering because he knew that this was the way in which he would be able to accomplish the goal of bringing salvation to people. When he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me,” this is the issue he was dealing with, but the path of suffering was the only way that God’s will would be accomplished.
As we think about imitating Christ, we also need to consider being willing to follow the path of Jesus. Following Him will not necessarily be easy. There are times when the path of the Christian is a path of suffering. In Matthew 10:38, we are invited to “take up our cross” which is an invitation to do whatever it takes to accomplish the task God has for us. It is the willingness even to follow the path of suffering if that is what God wants us to do, in order to serve Him.
The best known passage about the Messiah is in Isaiah 53. It describes every significant aspect of the work of Messiah and is amazing in its detail. As we look at this, we quickly are reminded of Jesus. It is quoted in Matthew 8:17, Luke 22:37, John 12:38 and numerous other passages in the New Testament.
2 - grew up like a tender shoot - reminds us of his birth and childhood.
2 - no beauty to attract - reminds us that he came not as a king, but in humility.
3 - despised and rejected of men - reminds us of the rejection he experienced not only from his own brothers and sisters, but also from his whole nation.
9 - speaks of the burial of Messiah.
11 - of his resurrection.
There is much more here that reminds us of Jesus, but I would like to focus particularly on verses 4-6 which tells us of the core of His work. Let us read these verses.
The amazing thing as we read this is to take note of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. He died in our place. This is so firmly presented in this passage that we cannot miss it. Notice that 7 times he says “he” and “our.” For example, “he was pierced for our transgressions.” Over and over again we are told what He did for us.
I read a story about a preacher who told about how he punished his children when they were small. His son and daughter who were in their teens sat in the room as he told it.
He kept a stick handy and when one of them would misbehave, he would get the stick and tell him or her how much it hurt him for them to do wrong. Then he would tell them that what they had done deserved to be punished. He would say he couldn't stand to punish them and that they would therefore have to give him their punishment. He would give the stick to the misbehaving child and turn his back and tell them how many times they should strike him."
As the story was told, the daughter who was listening said, "I couldn't stand it when Daddy would make me hit him with the stick. Then he would turn to me with tears in his eyes and reach out his arms to hug me and let me know I was forgiven. I know he loves me. And I'll never do anything to hurt him if I can help it."
Through giving his life, through yielding to death the Messiah would bring victory. Again we see the tremendous contrast. The greatest victory over the greatest evil in the world was not won by violence and aggression. Although blood is still involved, it is not blood taken, it is blood offered. It is also not the blood of multitudes of animals or armies of enemies, it is the blood of one who gives himself for all of us.
As we think about how we can imitate Christ in this, we realize that this is the one area in which we cannot and do not need to imitate Christ. The precise point of his death in our place is to assure us that we do not need to atone for sin any more. Jesus died in our place and the only response we can have to such a gift is to receive it by faith.
In human thinking, those who succeed are those who are powerful and able to gain victory. In football, it is the team that is able to take advantage of strength and ability that wins. Hope is strong when the team is strong. When they told us at the beginning of the year that the Bombers were the same team as last year and therefore it was just a matter of getting to the Grey Cup and winning it this time, we had great hope, based on last year’s performance, performance based on success.
How different the hope that is offered by the Messiah. Please turn to Isaiah 61:1-3. In this passage, the language that comes from the Jubilee concept is used to reveal that the Messiah would bring hope to those who were in bondage. We see hope and success, not for the strong or the skilful, but rather, good news for the poor, broken hearted, captives, prisoners, those who mourn and grieve. The good news is that Messiah would come to bind up, proclaim freedom, release, bring the year of the Lord’s favor, comfort and provide for.
The passage is quoted in Luke 4:18,19 by Jesus, who promised that he was the fulfillment of these promises. We see the way in which Jesus brought hope to the down and out in the stories in Luke 4 which follow this. We read about the way in which he brought freedom to one in bondage to evil spirits in verse 33; healing to Simon’s mother-in-law in verse 38 and freedom and healing to many others in verse 40.
We imitate Christ as we also proclaim good news and gently reach out to the most needy of our society and bring them hope.
The real tragedy of the method of the world is that it doesn’t work. Force, power, smashing through enemy defences only succeeds in more smashing and more blood. Someone has said that if it is always eye for eye and tooth for tooth all you get is a bunch of blind people who have to eat mashed potatoes.
The promise to Israel, in the midst of destruction and devastation was that the way of the Messiah who would come to give his life would actually work. Please turn to Isaiah 11:6-9. Here we have a powerful picture of peace. It is a picture of those who are aggressors living peacefully with those who are victims. The victims do not have fear anymore. Knowledge of God fills the earth.
The kingdom of Jesus will be ushered in when Jesus comes back again and at that time this kind of a world will come into existence. What aggression could not accomplish will be accomplished by Jesus because he died. How I look forward to that day!
Our response to this is to live in hope at all times. When the world is so filled with evil, we can have peace in the knowledge that it will not always be like that.
A year or two ago a new show came on TV called “The Weakest Link.” Contestants are asked questions which they must answer correctly to win money. There are about 6 contestants to start with and after a round of questions, all the contestants get to vote on who is the “weakest link.” They vote on the player they consider the weakest and that person is unceremoniously asked to leave the game because they are “the weakest link.”
Listen to what Oswald Chambers said, “Jesus Christ founded His kingdom on the weakest link of all - a Baby.” As we read the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah, we see how powerfully that is true of Jesus.
Our response must be to thank Him for being willing to do something so different, so sacrificial. I rejoice at what He did and thank Him for it. Such a gift, such a victory deserves to be considered and I would invite anyone who has not yet received it to do so today.
Furthermore, it says something about the way in which we ought to live our life. If the Bible calls us to be like Jesus, then gospel acceptance, gentleness, compassion and sacrifice ought to characterize us as well. Instead of seeking the methods of the world - aggression, force or power to gain victory in this world, we need to learn the sacrificial ways of Jesus. For this time of history, God has called us to this kind of living. If we are tempted to accommodate to the world by thinking that this won’t work, we need only look at the life of Jesus to see that it does work.
4:2,3 - mention of “the Branch” but the messianic reference is obscure. Describes a time of restoration.
7-9 form a unit that discuss the birth of three children. Two of those children also have messianic implications.
7:14 - virgin with child, Immanuel.
8:13-15 - the stone that causes men to stumble and makes them fall.
9:1-7 - a light has dawned; to us a child is born, wonderful counsellor…
11:1-16 - a shoot from the stump of Jesse, a Branch. Spirit of the Lord upon him, a gathering of the nations to the Root of Jesse.
16:5 - a throne established, one from the house of David will sit on it.
28:16 - a cornerstone in Zion, context: judgement on Ephraim.
32:1-8 - a king will reign in righteousness. Description of that righteousness.
35 - “then will the eyes of the blind be opened.” Restoration passage, which does not have a specific messianic reference.
40:9-11 - the sovereign Lord comes with power, he tends his flock like a shepherd.
42:1-9 - my servant, my Spirit upon him. “a bruised reed he will not break.” A light to the Gentiles.
49 (later) - servant of the Lord to bring Israel back. A light for the Gentiles. Restoration promises,
50 - vs. 6,7 - I offered my back to those who beat me,
52:13-15 - my servant, appearance disfigured, form marred, he will sprinkle many nations.
53 - he was despised, pierced for our transgressions, cut off from the land of the living, he will see his offspring. Will divide the spoils.
Servant offered himself to death, not a pawn who could not help his outcome.
59 - a writing of the separation of sin and the promise in vs. 20 “your Redeemer will come to Zion…”
61:1-3 - Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach good news to the poor” cf. Luke 4 continues past vs. 3 with restoration words.
62:11 - restoration passage, “see your Saviour comes…”
Isaiah quoted in the NT
| !!! ISAIAH
| !!! NEW TESTAMENT
Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions of men would die for him. -- Napoleon Bonaparte
Alexander, Caesar, and Hannibal conquered the world but they had no friends. ... Jesus founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions would die for him. ... He has won the hearts of men, a task a conqueror cannot do. -- Napoleon Bonaparte
"Of all trees, I observe, God has chosen the vine, a low plant that creeps upon the helpful wall; of all beasts, the soft and patient lamb; of all fowls, the mild and guileless dove. Christ is the rose of the field, and the lily of the valley. When God appeared to Moses, it was not in the lofty cedar, nor the sturdy oak, nor the spreading plane, but in a bush, a humble, slender, abject shrub--as if he would, by these choices, check the conceited arrogance of man."
-- Owen Feltham
The true Christian religion ... does not begin at the top, as all other religions do; it begins at the bottom. You must run directly to the manger and the mother's womb, embrace this Infant and Virgin's Child in your arms, and look at Him--born, being nursed, growing up, going about in human society, teaching, dying, rising again, ascending above all the heavens, and having authority over all things. -- Martin Luther
Jesus Christ founded His Kingdom on the weakest link of all--a Baby. -- Oswald Chambers
“You are the weakest link.”
See the Lamb and the Lion
The Lamb says: simplicity, meekness, white fleece, smallness, innocence, purity, helplessness, submission to sacrifice. The Lion says: strength, size, golden mane, grandeur, courage, untamed power. How paradoxical that both images speak of Christ! Neither is a perfect image; each symbolizes different characteristics of the same infinite Person. -- Luci Shaw
John Howard Griffin was a white man who believed he could never understand the plight of African-Americans unless he became like one. In 1959, he darkened his skin with medication, sun lamps, and stains, then traveled throughout the South. His book, Black Like Me, helped whites better understand the humiliation and discrimination faced daily by people of color.
Jesus Christ became like us; the Incarnation is evidence that God understands our plight. "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering" (Isa. 53:3). -- Tom Moorhouse
I think we need to be constantly reminded that Jesus, by the standards of cultural success models, was a miserable failure. -- Gordon MacDonald