From sermon notes I wrote, and am speaking on tomorrow (06-02-2011) at Canbury Park Church, Kingston Upon Thames.
I don’t know if you have ever had the experience of meeting someone at the airport or train or bus station, but there is always a sense of great anticipation as you stand in the waiting area, and watch all the passengers coming out of the arrival gates. If you do it with children, it is fascinating to watch them – their sense of anticipation is very easy to read, and the excitement on their faces as they wait for Granny and Grandpa (or whoever you are waiting for) to come through the doors is obvious. And when they see the person they have been waiting for come through the gates, everyones faces light up with pleasure and recognition.
Now imagine with me, if you will, going to the airport to meet someone you have never met before. I have had to do this a number of times over the years as I have led Ywam Bible schools, and had to go and meet students at the airport. Usually I have some idea what they will look like, as they are supposed to provide a photo with their applications. So, standing at the airport, I carefully check and recheck the photo every time I see someone appear in the gate who may be the person I am expecting. Mostly, I am able to identify the person when they come through the gates from their photo’s, although sometimes they look quite different – their hair is longer or shorter, they have put on or lost weight – their can be quite a few things that are different to what I have been expecting.
One student, however, stands out in my memory above all others. When we received her application, she had forgotten to attach a photo of herself. For the first time, I actually paid great attention to everything she had written about herself in the application:
Her date of birth let me know to expect someone who was around 30 years old. Her height was 5 ft 3. She described herself as “Native American” under ethnicity, leading me to conclude she was either completely or partly American Indian. She was single. She was a nurse by training – maybe she would have “nursey” shoes? All of the clues I could find in her application helped me to build a mental picture of what she might look like.
Well, the good news is I decided to take a sign with me that said “Youth With A Mission” so she could find me, even if I didn’t recognise her. But.... I was determined I wanted to prove my detective abilities by recognizing her first!
Sadly, a number of flights all came in at around the same time, so I had my work cut out for me. The first thing I did when each passenger came through was check their agre and gender. Anyone too young or old, or male, was immediately dismissed (sometimes determining gender was harder than I first anticipated!) Then I would check the airline luggage tag – were they passengers on the flight from New York? Check! Ok, now for the detail stuff – were they around 5 foot 3, and “native American” looking? Hmm...
Eventually, I spotted a Native American looking lady, roughly the right age and height, and I was convinced I had found the correct person. Proud of my investigative ability, I boldly held the Ywam sign up high, and waited as she walked up to where I was standing.... and then walked right by.
Rats! She wasn’t the one. Looking towards the door again, I didn’t notice someone else looking at me and walking tentatively over.
“Hi – are you Dale?”, she asked. “I’m Andrea.” I literally had to stop my mouth from dropping open. She was nothing LIKE how I imagined – she looked more like a ... well.... student! (A 20-something year old white American, slim, light brown shortish hair, and with trainers on – not sensible, durable nurses shoes!) Fortunately, while I had been looking for another American Indian, she had seen the sign I held up – for the wrong person!
Well, Andrea and I laughed later when we found out that “Native American” was the PC way of saying “American Indian”, and not “Born in America American”, and she hadn’t though “White Caucasian” was a specific enough designation.
As we take a look at the topic this morning, we will see that the Jews of Jesus time were looking out for him. That as the Messiah, his coming was foretold in great detail. Sadly, we will see that although his coming was expected, the Jews, having examined the prophesies about him, like me in drawing incorrect conclusions about Andrea from the information I had available, had come to some incorrect conclusions about what the Messiah would be like and what he would do, and these wrong conclusions led to them not recognizing him when he was among them.
Jesus coming was foretold
When God created man, and gave him free will, He knew that the possibility existed that one day they might choose to disobey Him, and sin. In fact, I would go one step further and say He actually knew that they WOULD sin (I believe that God KNOWS with 100% certainty everything that is going to happen, and not just everything that might happen). Because he is a loving God, He spared mankind from a fate literally worse than death – eternal separation from Himself, by causing physical death to become part of the created order (see Gen 3:19). However, not only did He spare mankind from eternal separation from Him by creating death, He planned a way for the relationship that they had lost through sin to be restored – by sending His son to pay the price for our sins. And He didn’t do this secretly – from the moment he pronounced judgement on the serpent and Adam and Eve, he began to let them know about his plan of redemption.
Genesis 3:15 (God is talking to the Serpent – ie. Satan)
“And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Of course, the offspring who would crush the serpent was Jesus. God went on to give over 300 prophecies in Scripture to the Jews that would help them identify the Messiah when he came.
1) He would be born of a virgin (Is 7:14)
2) He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
3) His mission was outlined in Is 61:1-3
“ to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.”
4) The way he would fulfil his mission is described in Is 53:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
All sorts of other details about his life were prophesied, and we can read them throughout the Old Testament.
So Jesus coming was foretold.
Jesus coming was expected
Not only was it foretold, but the Jews expected it! We see that the Jews at the time of Jesus, experiencing the occupation of their land by the Roman Empire were holding on to the promise of a Messiah who would deliver them.
When they heard John the Baptist preaching, they wondered if finally the Messiah they were expecting had com.
Luke 3:15 says:
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.
John 1:19 adds a little more detail to this:
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
From this we can see that not only the people were expecting the Messiah to come, the religious leaders of the day were also expecting it. I am quite sure that they regularly consulted the Scriptures to be ready for his coming. What was he going to look like? (Is 53:2 And when we see him There is no beauty that we should desire him. What does that mean? He will be a tough, rugged warrior?) How was he going to come? Ahh – he will arrive on a donkey! (Zech 9:9) Etc, etc – looking for clues that would help them to recognise him when he came.
Well, not only was Jesus coming foretold, and expected, but also
Jesus arrival was announced and confirmed
John the Baptist, both to the people, and the leaders, told them he had come to announce the arrival of the Messiah:
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
And of course, when Jesus arrived on the scene, John recognized him for who he was:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
And then, the ultimate confirmation to everybody there, when Jesus comes out of the water, God the father announces and confirms that this is indeed the one the people had been expecting:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
So, after all this, how could the leaders of the day not recognise who he was? Well, like me when I focused on the wrong details about Andrea, they had focused on the wrong aspects of the prophesies Scripture had made about him. Because they were suffering under the occupation of the Romans, they were looking for a Messiah who would come as a conquering King, someone who would overthrow the Roman leaders, and establish his Kingdom on the earth. After all, Daniel had said in Dan 7:27
Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.
So focused were they on those words, that they neglected Is 53:3 when it said:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
And thus, when he came, very few recognised him for who he was. In fact, during his lifetime, we see very few who recognised him as the Messiah:
Mary, who was told by an angel
The Wise Men, and the Shepherds
John the Baptist (Mt 3)
Peter (Mk 8:29)
James, John, their mother, and the Disciples (Mk 10:35-41)
Perhaps Nicodemus (Jn 3)
A Roman Centurion (Lk 7)
And a very few others.
Well, the story doesn’t end there...
Even before his crucifixion, Jesus, after telling his disciples he was going to leave them, offered these words of comfort:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
This promise Jesus made, to return for his friends, was re-affirmed to them by angels at his ascension (Acts 1:11)
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
They held onto these words throughout the difficult trials that lay ahead of them.
We read these words in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:20-24)
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
Jesus has not yet returned in this way. That means that we, too, can look forward with anticipation to his second coming. Jesus has foretold it, the angels have re-affirmed it, we are awaiting it.
Are you ready for it?