Not the King They Were Looking For

Preface:

In these six devotions (there will be one on Saturday this week) for Holy Week leading up to Easter, we will look at daily readings from the lectionary. We’ll study just one of the four lectionary passages, but I will include the others at the bottom and encourage you to spend some time reading and meditating on them as well. What’s really cool about following the lectionary is that Christians all over the world across denominational lines use the lectionary for weekly worship and daily readings. Particularly in this season of global crisis, I think there can be something really powerful in being united, praying together, worshiping together with the global church, united in our present suffering, united under the Word of God, united in Christ Jesus. In your isolation, in the midst of all the fear and chaos, pray these Scriptures along with us, and know that you’re not alone.

Isaiah 42:1-9

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
    I tell you of them.”

The entirety of the Bible points to Jesus. It’s a little harder to see in some places than others, like Leviticus or Song of Solomon, but it’s true of every verse. From the Tree of Life in the garden in the land of Eden, to the Tree of Life before the throne in the New Jerusalem, every syllable of Scripture is part of a story whose central plot culminates on hill called Golgotha where hangs the Son of God on a tree that gives life. Every verse of the Bible points to Jesus.

The same is true of this passage from Isaiah. The servant in verse 1 is Jesus.

Sunday, we read about Jesus’ arrival in the city of Jerusalem, greeted with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” I never cease to be amazed by how much the Jews’ expectations of the Messiah play into how we ought to read the Gospels. The stark transition from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” only makes sense when we realize what the Jews expected the Messiah to do and how different it looked from what Jesus actually did. They laid their down cloaks at his feet expecting that he would take up the sword against their Roman oppressors. Imagine their surprise when instead he walks into the Temple and knocks all the tables over. Instead of cutting down Roman soldiers in the streets, he ridicules their teachers in the synagogue.

Like Isaiah says, they wanted the Messiah to bring justice, to bring their friends out of Roman prisons. They wanted everything to be like it was back when David was king in 2 Samuel. But, the former things have come to pass and new things the Lord now declares. Jesus was bringing a different kind of Kingdom, where the glory due to God would not be given to idols of material wealth or national power. Where the last would be first and the first last. He was a king who took up a cross instead of a throne and whose crown was made of thorns. And rather than bringing suffering upon Israel's oppressors, he bought their redemption by bringing suffering upon himself, defeating the power of death through dying.

It’s easy for us to be deceived by the world we see, like the Jews in Jerusalem, and convince ourselves that this Jesus surely can’t be our Messiah. The world we see can be daunting and fill us with fear and doubt. How can Jesus be the King who would bring prisoners out from the dungeons when I’m imprisoned in my own home, fearing for my health for the lives of those I love? How can Jesus be the one who would bring justice to the nations when I just lost my job and my only means to feed my family? What light is there for the nations while bodies are stacked in semi-trucks in the streets of New York?

The truth that the Messiah has come doesn’t mean that his people will not face suffering. Clearly the world still looks pretty dark. It does mean that we can hope in a Kingdom of light, in world we can’t see that is more real than the world we can see. Jesus has delivered us from our spiritual affliction of the disease of our sinful flesh, and he will return to deliver us from our physical affliction and all disease that plagues this world. We’re promised in Romans 8:18 that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” That doesn’t mean that our present sufferings are insignificant. It does mean that the glory to be revealed is incomparably greater. Our King has come, and he is coming soon.

Reflect

  1. In what ways do you seek an earthly kingdom instead of the Kingdom of God? How can you repent of them?

2. What evidences can you find of the truer world we can’t see amidst the one we do see?

Pray

Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see glimpses of the glory to be revealed. Let the Kingdom of light be more real to me than this world of darkness. Help me know the goodness of the Father who who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Taylor Whitson, April 6, 2020

Other Readings

[Look for how these passages connect with each other and with the larger story of the Bible about Jesus.]

Psalm 36:5-11
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
    nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.

Hebrews 9:11-15
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

John 12:1-11
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

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