What were the Jews thinking who read or heard the prophesy of Isaiah? After several warnings of pending captivity and doom for many of God's chosen ones, Isaiah, by inspiration, begins to look forward to a period of time in which God would send a special servant to redeem and rescue them. So many Old Testament pictures of this Messiah was of One unlimited in power and greatness, a King, and One greater even than Moses or David. They could envision the Jewish army led by such a commander in chief, perhaps conquering all other nations of the earth and ushering in unprecedented domination and prosperity. Yet, at times they had an enigma on their hands. Descriptions of this coming One in certain scriptures were at odds with their preconceived notions of who this Messiah would be.
Things have not changed in time. It is not just a Jewish, first-century or 21st-century problem. Man tends to try and fit Jesus into his own mould. Many want Jesus, but only the Jesus they imagine and desire.
Some want the King, but not the suffering Servant. Isaiah 52:13 through the end of the next chapter depicts One with an appearance disfigured beyond human likeness, despised and rejected, pierce, crushed, wounded, oppressed and afflicted, led like a lamb to the slaughter, cut off from the land of the living, suffering, and numbered with transgressors. How could such a One be the mighty leader of Jewish conquests? Rabbis chose to ignore or leave unexplained such passages as these. Yet, we could not have the King God intended without His first having suffered and died (Heb. 2:9).
Some want an earthly Lord, but not a heavenly Lord. Premillennialists have constructed an entire doctrine centered around their misunderstanding of both Old and New Testaments, the summation of which is that Jesus will return to earth for a thousand years to sit upon a literal throne in Jerusalem. They strain symbolic and figurative passages, interpreting such things as the battle of Armageddon, the 144,000, a period of tribulation, and much more as having literal fulfillment at some future point. On His way to the cross, Jesus emphatically told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). No passage tells us Jesus will return to this earth, much less set up an earthly kingdom here. Instead, the earth will be destroyed with fire at His coming (2 Pet. 3:10ff) and all mankind will be caught up in judgment before Christ's heavenly throne (1 Thess. 4:13ff; Matt. 25:31ff; John 5:28-29; etc.). His spiritual Kingdom, the church (cf. Dan. 2:44; Matt. 16:18-19; Mk. 9:1; Heb. 12:28), is already in existence and is spiritual in nature. That is not glamorous to the majority, perhaps, but it is biblical.
Some want a baby Jesus, but not the eternal Judge. The babe in a manger, adorned with swaddling clothes, cooing and dependent upon Mary for food, clothing, and protection, is a safe Savior. He makes no demands, sets no expectations, teaches no doctrine, and sits in a fetal position rather than a position of authority. Certainly, the incarnation (Jesus coming in the flesh) and the virgin birth are essential doctrines of Christianity. That He was a baby in this eternal scheme is not denied! Yet, many want only such a Jesus. They pass over passages that speak of Him sitting upon the throne of judgment some day, consigning the disobedient and ignorant to eternal condemnation (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10). But sit in judgment He will most certainly one day do (Matt. 25:31-34).
He is a King. He has all authority on earth. He came to earth as a newborn baby. Yet, as accurate as these pictures are, they are incomplete. They must be understood in the full light of scripture rather than by looking through selected windows we cut to our own custom dimensions. Let us accept the whole Jesus, love Him, serve Him, obey Him, and look forward to an eternity with Him!
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