This week’s sermon was written around having a lot of discussion, which we did. Please feel free to add your own insights as to how you see Jesus represented in our world that does not line with this week’s Scripture readings.
Jesus: Doesn’t Play by the World’s Rules
Isaiah 42:1-9; Matthew 3:13-17
“Take a good look at my servant.
I’m backing him to the hilt.
He’s the one I chose,
and I couldn’t be more pleased with him.
I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life.
He’ll set everything right among the nations.
He won’t call attention to what he does
with loud speeches or gaudy parades.
He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt
and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant,
but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.
He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped
until he’s finished his work–to set things right on earth.
Far-flung ocean islands
wait expectantly for his teaching.”
the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies,
laid out the earth and all that grows from it,
Who breathes life into earth’s people,
makes them alive with his own life:
“I am God. I have called you to live right and well.
I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe.
I have set you among my people to bind them to me,
and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations,
To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light:
opening blind eyes,
releasing prisoners from dungeons,
emptying the dark prisons.
I am God. That’s my name.
I don’t franchise my glory,
don’t endorse the no-god idols.
Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled.
I’m announcing the new salvation work.
Before it bursts on the scene,
I’m telling you all about it.”
In the Christian tradition, we affirm that these verses find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. Can that be? Is this the same God who as some Christians affirm tells us to go invade other countries because of their heathen populations? Is this the same Christ that if you follow and obey him, he’ll bless you with everything you every wanted including a Rolls Royce? We hear a lot about Jesus through different religions, different Christian denominations, and through our culture and media. What are some of the things you’ve heard about Jesus?
Let’s look at Isaiah again. What does this passage say the servant of God will be like and what will he do? How will he act?
How does this line up with what we’ve grown up hearing about Jesus in church? In politics? In popular culture? In the media?
Originally these verses were written for the Jewish exiles. They were to be the servant of God who would be a light to the nations, and show the nations God’s love and power. As I said earlier, Christians very early on identified this passage and the Servant of God with Jesus; in fact, Matthew quotes part of this passage in his baptismal account. The Church is the body of Christ, and we are to be Christ in our world. How does what you see in churches line up with this passage in Isaiah? How about what you hear from either the Religious Right, the Religious Left or American Christendom in general?
Now let’s turn our attention to the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
John’s baptism was one of confessing sin and repenting. Also to be baptized by someone meant that you put yourself under that leader’s authority. John was rightly confused when, the One John had been saying would come and baptize with fire and Spirit, came to him to be baptized. So why did Jesus do it? What does it mean that this was the proper way to “fulfill all righteousness”? This is what one of my seminary professors, Roger Hahn, had to say about it:
In Jewish thought righteousness was conduct that pleased God or was in accordance with God’s will. Jesus’ humility in obeying God and identifying with his people is an important lesson to us. Personal status is never a reason to disobey God nor to distance ourselves from the people God loves.
Again we see the servant of God submitting to God’s will in humility by submitting to John’s baptism. By doing this he is identifying himself with the people he came to save from their sins–us. He didn’t let his status as God’s Son stand in the way of obeying God, even if it looked like he was submitting to John’s authority. John, Jesus, and God all knew better. God affirms this was God’s will when the voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” and echo of Isaiah 42:1, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.”
What does this humility and submission tell us about Jesus? Again how does it differ from other things we have heard about Jesus from churches, American Christendom, political views, and what our own culture has to say about Jesus?
And if the Church is the Body of Christ in this world, doing the things that Jesus did, then what does that say about us? What things do you see the Church doing that does not reflect the picture of Jesus we have in our Scriptures this week? What do you see that the Church is doing right? When have you seen the Church acting like Christ? What can we do better?
Summing up what we’ve talked about what do you think is the biggest way you see Jesus being misrepresented in our world? What is the church’s biggest misrepresentation? In our lives, how are we misrepresenting Jesus? And how are we being faithful ambassadors to Jesus? Think of one way you would like to more accurately reflect Christ in your world this week. Pray about and if you feel comfortable tell a friend about it. Then wait and see what happens. I’m sure we’d all love to know what God does in response to your humility and submission.