Summary: The Physical features of Jesus
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, January 2, 2005
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
Through the Eyes of a Prophet: “A Tender Shoot” [Part Two of Five]
In his book titled, The Major Prophets, James E. Smith writes: “For the Christian, the Book of Isaiah is extremely important. Forty-seven chapters of this book were quoted either directly, or alluded by Christ Himself or by one of His apostles. The book of Isaiah is second only to the Psalms as the most cited book in the New Testament.
In this book, we find many predictions concerning the coming of the Messiah, ranging from His virgin birth, His earthly ministry, His suffering and death. Isaiah is second only to the Psalms in the number of Messianic prophecies.
But, in order for us to appreciate Isaiah’s prophecies, it’s important for us to understand that Isaiah’s predictions were recorded from about 740 to 680 B.C., a period of some 60 years. From the time of Isaiah’s writings to that of Jesus’ birth, which occurred in about 6 B.C., there was a span of some 700 years!
To give you some perspective that’s more than three times longer since the founding of our nation. It’s nearly a third longer than the time when Johann Guttenberg first began publishing the Bible (September, 1452) to our present day. If we went back in time some 700 years ago, the Roman Catholic Church had commenced its final crusade with the suppression of the Knights Templar. In a time span of 700 years, you could retrace your ancestry almost eighteen generations. Now that’s a long time by anyone’s standards! Even so, Isaiah’s prophecies are amazingly accurate in depicting the Lord Christ.
So, for the next four weeks, we’re going to explore this one chapter, chapter 53, which scholars call the “Suffering Servant Poems”. In this one chapter, we will see a painting unveiled as on a canvas. First, we get a peak at the “Rejected Servant” in verses 1-3. Next, we view a pencil sketch of the “Suffering Servant” in verses 4-6, followed by a landscape of the “Despised Servant” in verses 7-9. Finally, we catch a glimpse of the finished portrait of the “Victorious Servant” in verses 10-12.
Isaiah begins this treatise by asking, “Who has believed our message?” Isaiah is asking this question of his fellow countrymen centuries before Jesus came to earth. Paul addresses this same question, posed by his fellow Jews, in his letter to the Romans where it says: “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed … And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” Paul then admonishes God’s chosen people where he writes: “However, they did not all heed the glad tidings for just as Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ ” [Romans 10:14, 15].
This reminds me of the story of a soap manufacturer and a pastor who were walking down a street in a large, metropolitan city. The soap manufacturer remarked glibly, “The gospel you preach hasn’t done much good, has it? Just observe. There’s still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!” The pastor spoke not a word until they passed a dirty little boy making mud pies in the gutter. The pastor, seizing the moment, said: “And I see that soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for there is much dirt, and many dirty people.” By way of a rebuttal, the soap manufacturer retorted, “Well, soap is only useful when it is applied.” To which the pastor nodded in agreement saying, “Precisely! And so it is with the Gospel.”
Isaiah then moves on from his urgent plea, and begins to delve into the physical appearance of the Messiah. Herein lies both an interesting as well as a provocative annotation. Nowhere else in Scripture do we read or hear about Jesus’ physical appearance. And why do you suppose that is? Perhaps it’s because we spend an inordinate amount of time looking at a person’s outward appearance, as opposed to his inwardness. In other words, the depth of his being. Which begs the question: “What does Isaiah want us to know about the Person of Jesus?”
Allow me to suggest there are three points to ponder: First, JESUS’ CHILDHOOD WAS NOT EXTRAORDINARY. Secondly, JESUS’ MANLY APPEARANCE WAS NOT EXTRAORDINARY. Thirdly, JESUS’ ANGUISH AND SORROW WAS EXTRAORDINARY.
The first point being: JESUS’ CHILDHOOD WAS NOT EXTRAORDINARY (repeat).
Verse two begins with this most unusual expression. “For He grew up before Him like ‘a tender shoot’ …” Since there are various interpretations, let me preface my remarks by saying that this is both a prophetic, as well as a Messianic reference, to Jesus’ childhood. Both Jeremiah and Zecharaiah refer to the coming Messiah as One who would come forth as the “root” or “branch” from out of Jesse. An obvious reference to David’s lineage whom God had promised would never be broken.