Welcome to our final conversation on Advent. Today we talk about Jesus’ life and the concept of Messiah.
Advent, again, is the time leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays. There are several traditions tied to Advent: lighting of candles, scripture readings and responses, specific prayers. While we haven’t done all of these things in the last four weeks, we’ve been able to take a look at what each week and the traditions signify.
We have had conversations around each of these advent themes and how they’re not destinations but tools in the process of life and relationship with God. Wrestling with hope. Choosing peace. Learning perspectives of joy in light of hardship. Walking in love. And today seeing how Jesus’ messiahship affects everything.
In order for us to understand a fundamental part of the “Messiah” story I want you to think about not getting something you thought you deserved.
How do you respond when you don't get what you expect?
This idea of the Messiah was something completely unique to the Jewish religion. There was very little overlap between God and man in ancient religions until the idea of Messiah came about.
The Israelites held closely their understanding of their special place in humanity with the many, many covenants between them and God which laid the way to their understanding that they were the people in which relationship with God could be established.
And yet these promises didn’t really align with the current reality of Jewish life.
The Israelites had been subjected to pain by many different empires and lost much as a people. Life in Rome was not what the Israelites expected, as they would have been expecting God to fulfill his promise for them to live in the promised land. What did these people expect from the Messiah?
Someone to redeem them?
To put them back where they belonged?
To restore the temple and tabernacle?
To build a kingdom that would rival Rome?
To bring justice and peace and freedom?
Wouldn't some or all of that be understandable? Can you see how those things would be the expectation?
The Jews were looking for a savior, a Moses-type figure to once again lead them out of oppression. But at this moment they were looking for the wrong things.
What are some consequences of looking for the wrong things from people? From God?
This picture of the Son of Man shows up quite a bit through all of Scripture. The Jews didn’t recognize it but Jesus came to fulfill this role of the Son of Man.
The book of Daniel is full of this imagery. As he and others choose to follow God instead of bowing down to false idols, they’re faced with all kinds of potential pain. A fiery furnace. A den of lions. And the Son of Man is present in a vision Daniel has in the middle of all of this.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Jesus refers to being this Son of Man.
Jesus saw many people and told them to go to the other side of the lake. A teacher of the Law came to Jesus. He said, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes. Birds have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think about this? A man has one hundred sheep and one of them is lost. Will he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to look for that one lost sheep? If he finds it, for sure, I tell you, he will have more joy over that one, than over the ninety-nine that were not lost. I tell you, My Father in heaven does not want one of these little children to be lost.
These are but a couple of the countless references in the gospels to Jesus being the Son of Man, the same one spoken of in Old Testament writings and prophecies.
If you do a quick Google search of Jesus, Son of Man, you’ll likely find this connection to the writings of Daniel. And the people who heard Jesus speaking and referring to himself as the Son of Man would have immediately recognized this phrase as connected to these writings.
There’s a moment in Jesus’ ministry when a man is brought before him by friends. This man is paralyzed and confined to his bed. Jesus ends up forgiving this man’s sins and healing his physical body, telling all who were present that the Son of Man has the right and the power on earth to forgive sins. That physical healing wasn’t the main purpose of Jesus’ life. Forgiveness of sin was what he was all about.
As the Jews in the room would have been familiar with the words of Isaiah, they would have known that sin separated them from Yahweh. This would have been a concept that turned their world upside down.
All of Advent points to Jesus as the Son of Man, the Messiah. The sacrifice for our sins. God himself made flesh who intercedes on our behalf. Do I see the value of who Jesus really is? Not as the deliverer from temporal challenges (though He can and does do that), but as the Son of Man opening up the door to relationship with God?
What is the value of connection with God?
We often desire connection with God so He can fix something or meet our needs. We see Him do all these amazing things in Scripture and think, “if He would just do that in my situation, I would be all set.”
But when we go to God as just someone to meet our needs or just someone who can fix something that we think is wrong in our lives, we can miss who He is. We can be, in effect, seeing Him for the Messiah we want Him to be, not who He actually is.
So what does this concept of Messiah mean for us today? In the USA? In 2020? Who is Jesus as “the Son of Man” to us?
We’re far separated from Jewish community over 2000 years ago, yet we still have this invitation to connect with the person of Jesus the Messiah.
What kind of Messiah are we looking for? Are we seeing Jesus for who He really is?
Remember this picture of Jesus as the overcomer.
What are we celebrating that He overcomes?
Are we celebrating the wrong Jesus?
Are we looking for a Jesus who gives us the wrong kind of prosperity, or do we think we don’t need deliverance from sin?
What about specifically in 2020? I know for a lot of people, a lot of moments have gone differently than expected or hoped for. On a small scale, even where I am this morning is a different spot than what I expected. Maybe I have hoped Jesus would be someone specific in 2020 and maybe He hasn’t been who I thought He would be.
What is the impact of seeing Jesus as someone He is not?
What is the impact of seeing Jesus for who He really is?
Who did the Jews 2000 years ago expect Jesus to be? Why didn’t all the Jews recognize Jesus as the Messiah? Again, the people expected the Messiah to be the person who brought freedom to the entire Jewish nation, and it was largely viewed as salvation from the external. Being free of political oppression. Living free from Rome. This Son of Man would come and strike the beast, whom people thought was something other than what it is.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[a] (which means “God with us”).
This was in clear connection to prophecy given by Isaiah hundreds of years before.
Immanuel. Doesn’t mean “God fixes everything.” Or “God gives us everything we hope for.” Or “God sets us free from our external oppression.” It means “God with us.” Literally Jesus’ presence with us. He is with you through the best and the worst, and He came to save us from our worst.
How does knowing God is with you and has set you free from sin impact you?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Luke 19:1-10
What attribute(s) would a friend use to describe you to a stranger?
What motivated Jesus’ actions
What motivated Zachaeus’ actions?
What does “seeking and saving” mean?
What is motivating you to have right relationship with God?
How are you encouraged, challenged, focused, or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan