The Root of Jesse
On this second Sunday of Advent we hear from the Prophet Isaiah:
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11::1-2)
Jesse was the father of King David. The stump of Jesse refers to the rule of King David and his family line that had been cut off. Only foreign nations were ruling Israel by the end if the Old Testament. The Prophet Malachi closed the age with this message from God:
Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5–6)
Just when many of the Jews thought that all was lost, a new age was beginning. It began with the preaching of John the Baptist. From today’s Gospel reading:
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3)
The kingdom of heaven had come near, indeed. John preached one more powerful than he would usher in this age:
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11)
Did the Jewish people reject this new leader? Not everyone did. Many who were baptized by John in the River Jordan were prepared for the coming of Christ Jesus. They wanted to believe what John was saying. They repented of their sins and were willing to undergo a baptism which was reserved for Gentiles. This was a drastic step for them.
It was a drastic step for a Pharisee named Saul who became the Apostle Paul. He was called by God to preach to the Gentiles. Paul quoted from the Old Testament concerning his ministry:
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.” (Romans 15:9-13)
We are those Gentiles. Do we find our hope in Jesus? That has, for many of us, been a drastic step. But our journey is not yet complete. We are now facing the close of an age.
The age of the Gentiles is closing. We have been living in a difficult age. It is an age that has become more troubling by the day. It has not been easy to confess the lordship of Jesus Christ in many parts of the world. This is now true for America. We are living in transition to a new age. Have we lost our hope? Has our Christian witness diminished?
For some of us it may be a time for repentance. Jesus is preparing us now for a new age. We can no longer hide ourselves in a darkened world. Jesus sees everything. From Isaiah:
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins. (Isaiah 11:3=5)
A new age is coming. It is just around the corner. It is the millennial reign of Jesus on the earth. Are we ready for this age?
In this new age the root of Jesse will have fully blossomed. Again, from Isaiah:
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10)
The psalmist wrote:
He shall defend the needy among the people;
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure,
from one generation to another.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown field,
like showers that water the earth.
In his time shall the righteous flourish;
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more. (Psalm 72:4-7)