This is a serialised version of a sermon preached as John the Baptist. Perhaps consider it a kind of ‘true confessions’ of that first eye-witness of the Lord.
So, I’m expecting big things. Impressive things. God-who-rescued-us-from-Egypt-and-made-us-his-own-people kind of things.
Then Jesus showed up. And, like I said, he wasn’t what I was expecting at all! But the Spirit descended and remained on him. It marked him out — just like God had prepared me for. Like a giant neon sign saying: ‘Here’s the Chosen One’.
I was as surprised as the next person. As I said, Jesus really isn’t that impressive. He doesn’t really have the right ‘look’ … you know? I can hardly picture him as the triumphant Messiah-king. The judge of all the world. The one who’ll lift one hand and they’ll be vindicated and drop the other one and they’ll be condemned.
Let’s be honest, he’s hardly Lion of Judah material. He’s just doesn’t look like the all-conquering, all-judging type. He just seems a bit too meek and mild. Not really a prize fighter. No tattoos or rippling abs.
(Although perhaps he does have the charisma for it. Who knows? Two of my disciples — Andrew and one of the others — did leave me to follow him today.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. That was my first encounter with Jesus. The other day. And it sort of rattled my cage. How could someone like that be the Messiah?
It really got me thinking. So … I did what I’d been taught to do when something gets me thinking. I went back to the prophets. And, for some reason, those words of passion and insight that Isaiah spoke about the ‘servant of the Lord’, those words got their hooks into me and they set my heart on fire. To begin with, Isaiah pointed out that we should be expecting the unexpected (and humanly unimpressive). Because God’s servant — a bit like the nation of Israel — ‘grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; / he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.’
Then Isaiah went on to speak of how this servant will be despised and rejected, struck down and afflicted. For us. In our place. Taking a bullet for us. Suffering for our iniquity, guilt and sin. Bearing the divine rejection and wrath we deserve. ‘Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent’ he’ll be killed. And, like a sacrificial lamb, his death will be ‘an offering for sin’…
So. Like I said, I read that and it set my heart on fire. You see, I’m not sure I’ve fully understood it or sounded its depths yet, but I think I caught a glimpse — a fleeting, dim glimpse — of what Jesus’ significance might be…