Gate Pa – Advent 3,
11th December 2016
Hebrew Scripture: Isa 35:1-10 Bible Page 578
Psalm: Luke 1:46-55 NZPB Page 41
Epistle: James 5:7-10 Bible Page 982
Gospel: Matt 11:2-11 Bible Page 792
What I want to say:
That Isiah is important, and we need to hear him on his terms so that we can hear what Jesus was on about. We need to stop layering Christianity all over him and silencing his voice
What I want to happen:
During this week I invite you to take time at the end of each day to give thanks for ways God has both brought joy into your day; and through you brought joy into the lives of others. I also invite you to reflect on what has led you away from joy.
During the week I was at a carol service
person speaking – spoke about Isaiah 9:6 –
It is a verse we will hear tonight in the Carol service
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
verse commonly applied to Christmas and to Jesus
person giving talk did what we often do when using this passage
he said that it was about Jesus
that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy
as I heard him I really wanted to offer an alternate view
I didn’t – I mostly behaved myself
This passage was not written about Jesus.
yes, we can apply it to Jesus – but that is not the same thing.
but first we need to hear how it was first intended to be heard
2. Hearing the voice of Isaiah
the problem is when we reduce Old Testament to bunch of verses that foretell of Jesus,
verses that need to be fulfilled
we leave most of Hebrew Scriptures out
bits we do read we actually don’t listen to
too busy seeing how they talk about Jesus
the result is we end up with very warped idea about what it is all about.
we miss the point
4 Gospel writers were unanimous that prophets played crucial role in Jesus’ understanding of who he was, what he was about and what his ministry was
His Identity was shaped by his understanding of Torah
as expressed by the prophets
He did not see these prophets as foretelling about himself
instead they were they primary influence on his understanding of who he was and what his ministry was about
Prophet Isaiah plays a key role.
That is a big problem for us
because we keep reading prophets as just talking about Jesus
as bunch verses that need to be fulfilled
as result we have little or no idea what they are saying
and so little or no idea how they shaped Jesus and his ministry.
left in danger of having no idea who this Jesus is that gospel writers are talking about.
Who is Isaiah?
prophet in southern kingdom or Judah
centred in Jerusalem with temple
kings descendants of David
– around same time as Micah
and Hosea was operating in northern Kingdom of Israel –
centred in Samaria
- 10 tribes that got sick of heavy demands and high taxes of David’s grandson
- severed ties with Jerusalem
- went their own way
o own capital
o own centres of worship
- much of their history were larger and more prominent of 2 kingdoms
Book we have comes from three different times
a. chapters 1-33 come from around 742 – to 701
during this time Israel fell to Assyrians
most people taken away in exile and scattered around Assyrian empire
other people were brought in live on land
Assyrians then besieged Jerusalem
Hezekiah holds fast
suddenly Assyrians break siege and return home
survive for another 120 years before Babylonians return and finish the job
b. chapters 40 – 55 clearly come around 120 years later – when Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem
leadership and significant number of others – in exile
c. last section 56-66 – deals with stresses of returning.
Clearly person Isaiah did not write it all
he is thought be responsible for first 33 chapters
rest – disciples original words Isaiah reinterpreted to new time and new situation.
chapters 34-39 act as a bridge from original Isaiah to time of “second Isaiah”
36 – 39 direct quote from 2 Kings 18-19
4. What it is about
what were Isaiah 9:6ff about then
promise of king who would lead people justly
descendant of David and Hezekiah who would carry on the reforms
continue to create kind of Kingdom –
people longed for
where torah was lived out
where all had a place
and all thrived.
è Josiah could be seen as such a king.
These passages then become basis for one of the schools of thought about the long awaited messiah
restore kingdom of David
create kind of Kingdom –
people longed for
where torah was lived out
where all had a place
and all thrived.
By using Isaiah
Jesus is not only using Isaiah to understand who he is and what he is on about
but he is situating his ministry within one stream of competing ideas about who the messiah is and what it would all look like.
5. Isaiah 35
when we read passages like those we heard today
we first and foremost need to hear them as words of hope
written for people in extraordinary hard times
living in exile in foreign land
far land of their ancestors
far from land given them by God
land where lived in presence of God
far from temple around which their life in God had revolved
words offered to help them work out what it meant to be the people of God in those times and places
first instance - not prophecies of some far off time
not prophecies pointing to Jesus
they were for that time and those people
talk about God’s intervention
an intervention that brings life and restoration
both to people and to the land
restoration that required the people to live out God’s mercy, generosity, compassion and justice
about how their communities and societies were to function
about how social and religious leaders were to lead
about how people were to treat each other and land.
Jesus takes this as his mission statement
Jesus says – this is what I am on about
lives out promises of Isaiah.
So Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 35 are not about Jesus
but Jesus applied it to himself
when he did so he was saying
I am the one through whom God is intervening
and all that was hoped for and promised in Isaiah
people Judah facing the Assyrians
people in exile wanting to go home
people struggling with the reality of that return
that is happening now
When Jesus applies Isaiah to himself
we need to remember he is talking about
how their communities and societies should function
how social and religious leaders were to lead
how people were to treat each other and land.
6. Jesus and Isaiah:
Can we then apply Isaiah to Jesus?
but we have to remember that it comes with baggage.
trouble with the other night as the baggage got left behind
Same with what we heard this morning
words of hope to wearied exiles
filled with grief
lost hope in foreign land
losing their sense of who they were as people of God
Matthew says that Jesus is using these words to describe the kingdom or reign of heaven breaking upon them now
when God meets people in their weariness,
brings healing to them and their communities.
This Sunday our theme is joy
which for some of us is easy to think about
and for some of us joy seems so far away
for many Christmas is a time of grief
a time of fear and dread
a time of despair at what can’t be
actually we all carry our dread and fears for our lives and the world
at some level we despair
so with John we ask
"Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
and Jesus continues to respond with Isaiah 35
"Go and tell what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
I wonder where we see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
These are the signs of hope
the signs that joy is coming into our world
As we look
I hope we remember to look at ourselves
too often we think we bring healing to others
we forget that we too need healing
we too are the blind
when we are overcome by our fear, despair and hopelessness
we become blind to God
blind to signs of God’s work in world
blind to hope, peace, love and joy
we become unable to hear
unable to move
unable to act
unable to join those who live in hope
who bring joy to others
through our inaction we add to the grief and hopelessness
This advent I invite you to ask your questions
and see works of hope and life happening
in this land and around the world
and in each of us here this morning.
During this week I invite you to take time at the end of each day to give thanks for ways God has both brought joy into your day; and through you brought joy into the lives of others.
I also invite you to reflect on what has led you away from joy.