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Advent Devotional 2021 – December 18th

PRAYER

Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:

O Emmanuel, God-with-us, You know intimately the trouble and heartache of our world and of our lives. Breathe the quiet calm of Your Spirit over us, and ready our hearts to listen. Silence every voice but Your voice so that we might hear words of life and love. Amen

REFLECTION

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account… But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
Isaiah 53:2b-3, 5

Like a child looking forward to Christmas Day, I look forward to listening to Handel’s Messiah during the Advent season. I love its glorious music paired with moving scripture texts. We are indebted to Charles Jennens, a patron of the arts and follower of Jesus, for supplying the scripture texts Handel set to music. It is significant that 10 of the 34 scriptures in Messiah are from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Jennens did not think the story of Messiah could be adequately told without Isaiah’s prophecies recorded 700 years before Jesus’ birth.

Lines from today’s scripture make up the longest portion of Messiah, portraying the suffering of Jesus in His humanity. In these brief lines history is written in advance. Perhaps no prophecy about Jesus is more strikingly fulfilled than this: “He was despised and rejected by others.” Theologian and pastor Alexander Maclaren describes the abuse endured by the eternal Son:

“His claims were ridiculed, His words of wisdom thrown back on Himself; none were so poor but could afford to despise Him as lower than they, His love was repulsed, surely He drank the bitterest cup of contempt. All His life He walked in the solitude of uncomprehended aims, and at His hour of extremest need appealed in vain for a little solace of companionship, and was deserted by those whom he trusted most.” (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture)

“Not this man, but Barabbas!” was the crowd’s verdict on Jesus. He was born in a stable, raised by peasant parents in a tiny village out of which no good was said to have come (John 1:46). At no time in His life did more than a “little flock” follow Jesus (Luke 12:32), and “of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66).

Isaiah forewarned that people would look down on Jesus and hold him of “no account”. And so, Jesus was scorned as a drunkard, glutton, imposter, and an evildoer performing healings in league with Satan (Matthew 11:19; 12:24; John 7:47-48). Jesus was despised “as one from whom others hide their faces.” At the end, even His handpicked and trained apostles “deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

Isaiah also tells us that Jesus was intimate with misery and calamity as “a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity.” Hebrew scholar Franz Delitzsch explains Isaiah’s wording to say that Jesus was “a man whose chief distinction was, that His life was one of constant painful endurance.” (Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah)

Matthew’s gospel saw Jesus’ suffering as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). As the Great Physician, Jesus heals by becoming the patient. He takes upon Himself all the sins and brokenness of the world so that He might give life. The more Jesus loved, the more He suffered when His love was rejected. His human anguish was seen in the “blood and water” pouring forth from His broken heart (John 19:34).

Isaiah foretold that many people would not understand that Jesus’ suffering was for us: “he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.” It was Jesus’ “punishment that made us whole.” Jesus endured the sentence sin imposed on us. The apostle Paul beautifully explains the meaning of Jesus’ suffering for us as, He “was made sin for us who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because Jesus took our sins to Himself, Martin Luther could boldly declare: “Christ may say: ‘I am that big sinner.’ His sins and His death are mine, because He is joined to me, and I to him.” (Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians) Ah, the humanity of Jesus!

WORSHIP

Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.

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