which Jesus?

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. 

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:1-9

Who is Jesus? If you’ve ever been to church, you might have a ready answer. Maybe something along the lines of He’s the Son of God. Or maybe He’s a nice teacher, or even He’s a figment of our imagination.

On my journeys I’ve seen lots of different Jesuses:

There’s Youth Group Jesus, who just totally gets you fam, he’s like super pog and he’s all about just lovin’ on everyone and he wants you to join youth group every Saturday at 5.30pm, with dinner afterward.

Then there’s Conservative Jesus, who hates abortion, he hates drugs and smoking, he hates dancing, actually he hates lots of things, I can’t think of anything he actually likes. He’s also just angry all the time.

On the other hand there’s Liberal Jesus, who’s basically ok with you doing anything as long as you don’t hurt anybody. He seems kind of embarrassed by the Bible, but he’s really good at focusing on all the nice parts, and explaining how all the uncomfortable parts don’t matter anymore.

Closer to home, you might’ve encountered a more regional kind of Jesus, whom I call Chinesus. He’s, well… really similar to Conservative Jesus, just more Chinese. He really wants you to get good grades and get into a good university and get a good job.

And someone really close to home, you might’ve met DGSus. He gives you something to talk about during morning assembly, he helps you achieve whatever it is you want, and if you pray really hard to him you might get a red mark.

Most of these Jesuses bear some small similarity to the real Jesus, but none of them are real. None of them come even close to resembling the real Jesus. 

Compared to the Jesus of the Bible, the one that’s being talked about in today’s passage, all of these Jesuses are just so simple. They’re one-dimensional. And of course they’re simple and easy to understand and follow, it’s because we made them up

So what about the Jesus that Isaiah talks about in this passage?

Well for starters, Isaiah wasn’t talking about Jesus in hindsight, Isaiah lived about 700 years before Jesus. He was talking to God’s people, and he told them that even though times were good then, things would get really bad really fast. The enemies of the people of God would invade and scatter them. But one day there would come a saviour to bring the people of God back home and restore them.

So who is this future saviour that Isaiah talks about? He will come from the family line of David, so he will be like one of the old kings of God’s people. 

Will he be like other mighty saviour kings? How tall will he be, how loud his voice? How many fighting men will he have?

None of those things — Isaiah says that this saviour will have the Spirit of God, he will fear God, he will love God like nothing else.

He will be kind to the poor, but he will be a fierce king who punishes and kills those who do evil. 

And in the saviour’s kingdom, you’ll find the calf and the lion grazing together — this kingdom will be peaceful, but not because there will only be nice things there. It will be peaceful because this saviour will be king, and he will make possible things that don’t seem possible now. 

And so when this saviour finally came, 700 years after Isaiah and 2000 years before us, what was he like?

He was God, but also man. He was born to a girl before she was married. He grew up learning how to be a carpenter, not a preacher. He didn’t own a home. His friends came from all over: blue-collar, white-collar, honest folks, crooks. He was a very religious man, but religious teachers hated him. He called the religious teachers the Sons of Hell, but he defended a woman who had cheated on her husband. He was the gentlest, most forgiving, most compassionate man you could meet, but he went around calling himself God, and said that rejecting him would have eternal consequences. And his moment of victory and glory was during his murder by the government, when he was strung up like a bleeding piece of meat. 

And against all odds, going by evidence that isn’t always easy to accept, Christians believe he came back to life, and he will come back one day as King. He is the Prince of Peace, the Commander of the Angel Legions, the Lion and the Lamb, the one who was slain but now lives.

That’s Jesus. These other Jesuses we make up in our heads, who tell us what we want to hear or what our parents want us to hear, who always have easy answers — they’re not the real Jesus. Not even close.

So who is Jesus? It’s a hard question to answer. And no answer I give you now will do justice to the real one. But if you want to find out, a good place to start is the Jesus of the Bible. And I hope, someday, when you are older and more aware of your own weaknesses and failures, you will look to Jesus and be amazed that he could ever love someone like you, someone like me.

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