Summary: Everyone was hoping for, even expecting, the Messiah in Jesus’ day. But, he disappointed everyone, thought Messiah would come as a conqueror. Isaiah’s first Servant Song shows their expectations to have been badly misinformed.
The Unexpected Messiah
In the May 29, 2005 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a story ran concerning a courthouse puzzle. The story in that paper begins like this:
“In the Milwaukee County Courthouse, where plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers and ex-spouses line up every day to bicker about money, nobody knows quite what to make of the man who won’t take home his $617,000. By a judge’s order, that sum sits quietly in an interest-bearing account at Tri City National Bank, waiting for Gene A. Sehrt to walk into the clerk of court’s office, show an ID and ask for what’s his. The ownership of the money couldn’t be clearer - the sum came … Milwaukee commercial properties [that] a court-appointed receiver administered at Sehrt’s family’s request, after he wasn’t heard from for several years. … And so it happens that Gene Sehrt - or a man who the clerk of circuit court and his staff believe is Gene Sehrt - shows up frequently in the very office where he could easily claim that $617,000 but leaves every time without even asking for it.‘ [http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/may05/329830.asp]
Most of the story in the Milwaukee paper is devoted to showing that the man who owns the money really exists, that he is very likely the same man who comes frequently into the courthouse, and that he never claims the money, even though it is just sitting there waiting for him to claim it. And, then, the newspaper quotes the speculations of many people as to why this man would behave so very strangely. Most folks think he is just plain crazy.
If there were anything stranger than this, it must be Jesus Christ himself, and the Scripture readings assigned for today show us why. A great many people thought Jesus was crazy too, including his own mother at one point. And, what seems to have confused everyone about Jesus is two things.
First of all, there are a few things in Jesus life which indicate that he is in fact the Messiah promised in the Old Testament Psalms and many prophecies of Old Testament prophets. Alongside the things that indicate that Jesus is the Messiah, however, there is this stunning fact – Jesus does not DO the things that everyone expects the Messiah to do. He does not act in the ways that Israel is expecting Messiah to act when he appears in history. Like this odd fellow in Milwaukee, who is the rightful owner of a huge chunk of money but who will not touch it, Jesus is the promised Son of David, the anointed one, whom all Israel was expecting to throw off the yoke of Imperial Rome and to re-establish the Davidic Kingdom on earth. But, Jesus doesn’t do anything remotely connected with re-establishing a kingdom.
This oddness was, for Jesus’ disciples, and for the crowds and the religious leadership of the Israel, one of the greatest stumbling blocks to their acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity and mission. Were their expectations of the coming Messiah so wrong? Or was Jesus’ behavior at his first advent just too, too bizarre? Or, perhaps, did Israel have a kind of selective hearing of what their prophets had been telling them for centuries?