There is a story I have heard repeated many times now that seems to stem from the East Coast school somewhere. The school policies allowed teachers to read devotionals and some religious texts to their students, but the school was a mostly Jewish population, so teachers were not supposed to read from the New Testament or mention Jesus. One day the mother of a student came in very upset. Her daughter, who was not so sheltered as to have never heard about Jesus, told her that the teacher had been reading from the New Testament story of Jesus. Naturally, in this situation, the mother was furious, and the teacher was called into the office to explain herself. The teacher brought with her a Bible and read for the mother and principal what she had read to her class. Please just listen carefully to what she had read…
1 Who would have believed what we just heard?
When was the Lord’s power revealed through him?
2 He sprouted up like a twig before God,
like a root out of parched soil;
he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention,
no special appearance that we should want to follow him.
3 He was despised and rejected by people,
one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness;
people hid their faces from him;
he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.
4 But he lifted up our illnesses,
he carried our pain;
even though we thought he was being punished,
attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds,
crushed because of our sins;
he endured punishment that made us well;
because of his wounds we have been healed.
6 All of us had wandered off like sheep;
each of us had strayed off on his own path,
but the Lord caused the sin of all of us to attack him.
7 He was treated harshly and afflicted,
but he did not even open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block,
like a sheep silent before her shearers,
he did not even open his mouth.
8 He was led away after an unjust trial –
but who even cared?
Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living;
because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.
9 They intended to bury him with criminals,
but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb,
because he had committed no violent deeds,
nor had he spoken deceitfully.
10 Though the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill,
once restitution is made,
he will see descendants and enjoy long life,
and the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished through him.
11 Having suffered, he will reflect on his work,
he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done.
“My servant will acquit many,
for he carried their sins.
12 So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes,
he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful,
because he willingly submitted to death
and was numbered with the rebels,
when he lifted up the sin of many
and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”
“You see,” the mother yelled at the principal, “She’s reading about Jesus. Even I know that…” The teacher then showed them the passage she had just read. It was Isaiah chapter 53. As the story goes, as a result, the woman and her entire family came to believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.
The prophet Isaiah was born during the 8th century before Christ was born and wrote somewhere around 740 years before the birth of the man we know as Jesus. No matter how liberal theologians try to twist the scriptures by claiming up to three writers for what Hebrew and Christian traditions say was written by one man, the fact remains that ancient fragments of the scrolls of Isaiah were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, still dating long before Jesus lived on the earth. Trying to pull the miraculous out of scripture because “modern enlightened man” can’t accept the existence of miracles, still doesn’t change the fact that somehow, someone who lived and wrote hundreds of years early could have given such a details account of what was to come. It is nothing short of a miracle. Compare what we just heard from Isaiah to these passages from the New Testament.
He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him.
Isaiah 53:3 said he would be rejected by his people.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Isaiah 53:5 explains Messiah will die as a substitutionary sacrifice for his people.
So Pilate asked him again, “Have you nothing to say? See how many charges they are bringing against you!” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Isaiah 53:7 says he will be silent before his accusers.
Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut in the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away.
Isaiah 53:9 speaks of Messiah being buried among the rich, though it was intended he be buried with criminals.
And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.
Isaiah 53:9 mentions the criminals, but verse 12 says he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the criminals, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.” And who are those rebels? ALL who have rebelled against God in our pride and vanity, thinking we know better for ourselves than the God who created us and wants to adopt us into his family as children.
We have a promise keeping God! Amen? Over 7,400 hundred promises made, over 1,800 prophecies predicted, over 300 of those prophecies foreshadowing or predicting Messiah like this passage in Isaiah 53, each and every one of them kept, or fulfilled, or yet to come. God has been reaching out to humanity for thousands of years. God has approached us time and time again, and yet he is rejected. God has demonstrated his love for us in the death of his Son and given us an opportunity at a new life in relationship with him. As we look into the prophecies and passages foreshadowing and predicting Messiah coming; we also remember, in spite of knowing the scriptures, his own people didn’t recognize his coming. That makes it easier for us to grow complacent to the schemes of those who try to steer us away from the inspiration and authority of scripture. Our promise keeping God has kept his word! Amen? He has given us proof of what he would do, and he has done it time and again.
Let us continue one more time in Isaiah, this time chapter 9:6-7.
For to us a child is born unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
How often have we heard these verses? Not only do they echo from other passages we have heard and studied out of the Old Testament, but the New Testament sees these things fulfilled and the second coming of Christ an everlasting kingdom.
There has been a lot of questions about the meaning and timeline behind Daniel’s 70 weeks referenced in Daniel 9:25. However, over the years, and many scholars are able to narrow down the timeline from the prediction of this prophecy and the conclusion of 69 of those weeks to the approximate time we know Jesus’s ministry was active. One article on biblearchaeology.org lays out many of the theories and dates in question. However, one thing is absolutely clear, no matter how closely we argue the accuracy of each date; God through Daniel years before the restoration of Jerusalem predicted of a time when Messiah would come and during that time, Jesus was here on earth. While in our flawed humanity and limited understanding we may not have it exactly right; God did get it right from the beginning. We are the ones who keep messing it up. Thank God for mercy and grace to see us through!
Micah 5:2,4 foreshadows Messiah coming out of Bethlehem,
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
And the chief priest and teachers of the law quote this passage when answering King Herod in Matthew 2:6. Whose origins but the Son of God who was at the foundation of creation could be from such ancient times yet will come out of Bethlehem as Jesus was recorded to have been born in Luke 2:4-7. Who else but God could predict in Jeremiah 31:15 the slaughter of the innocents we find in Matthew 2:16-18 when Herod had the boys under age 2 all killed who had been born around Bethlehem. But the angel in Matthew 2:13-15 had warned Mary and Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt and yet that was also predicted hundreds of years earlier in Hosea 11:1.
Only our amazing promise keeping God could do all this! Only our amazing promise keeping God would send his Son as a ransom, a sacrifice, for all mankind and give us hints, prophecies, and promises of his coming going all the way back to Genesis chapter 3. Only a loving Creator, a perfect Father, a compassionate God would show those who are so willful and disobedient such a wonderful gift. This holiday season, let us remember to accept this gift with open hearts, and share this gift with all around us with open arms.