The story is told of a couple who were on their way to California and who had decided to stop at the Grand Canyon along the way. Some friends of theirs had told them of this wonderful restaurant right by the Grand Canyon. This couple considered themselves to be somewhat of restaurant experts and had thought this restaurant by the Grand Canyon all the way there. When the couple arrived at the Grand Canyon, they discovered that the restaurant was nothing more than a little greasy spoon. They were so disappointed by this that they didn’t even take note of the splendor of the Grand Canyon. They were disappointed that one small aspect of their trip wasn’t fulfilled and so they missed something far more wonderful.
This is crazy, but this is what Israel did with respect to Jesus. They had the wrong expectations about who the Messiah would be and what He would do. When Jesus came they rejected the one who completely surpassed their expectations. What are our expectations of Jesus? We can better come to terms with our expectations by looking at Isaiah 11:1-16.
In order to answer this question, we must look at the historical background of Isaiah 7-13. Assyria to the north was threatening the entire region of Palestine. The nations of Syria and Israel decided to join together in an attempt to stop the oncoming Assyrians. They asked King Ahaz of Judah if he wanted to join them in resisting Assyria, but he declined, hoping that the Assyrians would then be beneficial to Judah. Syria and Israel didn’t like the idea of having a potential enemy in their backyard while fighting Assyria so they attacked Judah to the south. King Ahaz of Judah then asked Assyria for help against Israel and Syria. The Assyrians wasted no time; they swept in and wiped out both Syria and Israel.
To most Jewish readers, these things added up to one thing: an earthly king. This will be a man who will restore the kingdom of David once again, just as God had promised. The Jews in Jesus’ day were still expecting an earthly king who would deliver them and restore their nation.
II. Now how does Jesus fulfill this prophecy?
The New Testament gives us much evidence that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the one anointed by the Spirit of God and referred to in Isaiah 11. The Spirit of God comes upon Jesus when he is baptized and is anointed by God. Luke 3:21-22 says, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” This clearly indicates that Jesus is God’s special anointed one. In Luke 4:17-21, Jesus Himself says that another prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled by him. Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He then says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” There is no question that Jesus is the anointed one from the family of David.
Yet from a Jewish perspective, Jesus was not the one who fulfilled these prophecies. The Jews wanted a king who would know what to do with the Roman Empire. Jesus had the spirit of wisdom and understanding in that he not only knew what the problem was on a national level, he knew what the universal problem was. Jesus knew that the real problem for all men was sin, and he knew that the only way to solve that problem was to suffer death to take the punishment for that sin. The Jews were looking for someone who could negotiate with foreign powers. Jesus had the Spirit of council and power and knew that his enemy, the real enemy, was Satan, and he made no compromises. He fought Satan head on and defeated him numerous times while on earth and finally when Jesus rose again from the dead. The Jews were looking for a God-fearing leader, one like David, who truly knew God. Jesus also had the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. He not only knew God, but as God’s one and only Son, he was God. Jesus not only had all of the requirements of being a king, he surpassed them all. Jesus is the universal king of all men, not just the King of the Jews or Israel.
The Jews’ expectations were more than fulfilled, yet the Jews rejected him because he didn’t fit their idea of what the promised Messiah should be like. And Jesus could do so much more for them than give them national prosperity. Their expectations were too narrow and so they rejected him immediately. A salesman, driving on a country road one dark and rainy night, had a flat. He opened the trunk--no lug wrench. A light from a farmhouse was visible up the road. He set out on foot through the driving rain. He started thinking. Surely the farmer would have a lug wrench he could borrow. Of course, it was late at night--the farmer would be asleep in his warm bed. Maybe he wouldn’t answer the door. And even if he did, he’d be angry at being awakened in the middle of the night. By now the salesman’s shoes and clothing were soaked. Even if the farmer did answer his knock, he would probably shout something like, “What’s the big idea waking me up at this hour?” This thought made the salesman angry. What right did that farmer have to refuse him the loan of a lug wrench? After all, here he was stranded in the middle of nowhere, soaked to the skin. The farmer was a selfish clod--no doubt about that! The salesman finally reached the house and banged loudly on the door. A light went on inside, and a window opened above. A voice called out, “Who is it?” His face white with anger, the salesman called out, “You know darn well who it is. It’s me! And you can keep your blasted lug wrench. I wouldn’t borrow it now if you had the last one on earth!” The Jews didn’t give Jesus a chance to see how he could abundantly bless them far more than what they could imagine and so they angrily rejected him.
Are you looking for temporary answers to all of your life’s problems? Are you looking to Jesus to only give you peace and prosperity in your life? Are you wanting him to only solve your money or family problems? Are you looking to Jesus only as the one who cures your diseases and rids your life of pain, hassles and trials? Is Jesus only a solution to temporary problems?
I wonder how many people have become dissatisfied with Jesus because after they committed their life to him, they still had problems. They became Christians and still had financial struggles and family problems. I wonder how many people today have rejected Jesus because they figured if he can’t solve my little problems, he won’t be able to solve anything else either. But the Bible never promises that if we believe in Jesus all of our problems would disappear. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true: those who are believers face more opposition and strife than those who do not believe. We must have faith that even though our belief in Jesus may not take away our problems, we know that believing in Jesus will give us life, both now and in eternity. We can know that as we face problems God is with us and will not abandon us. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We must make sure that our expectations of Jesus are correct.
Moreover, for all who do trust in Jesus Christ and who firmly believe in him, remember as well that Jesus is called the branch. In John 15, Jesus says that we are the branches that have been grafted into him, the vine; we are part of Christ, grafted into him. In Isaiah 11:1, it says that the Branch of Christ will have the Spirit and will bear fruit. We are the fruit Isaiah is referring to, but it doesn’t even stop there. We are also filled with the Spirit and so we too are to bear fruit.
Let us examine our lives this Advent season. When you do good things this season, is it because “Tis the season to be jolly?” and to spread goodwill to all men or is it because you have been grafted into Christ? If you do good things because you are grafted into the vine of Christ, then you have come a long way in understanding what Christmas is all about. It is the celebration of the one who has given you new life and who now calls you to produce the fruit in your life he intends for you to produce.