Friday, 24 April 2015

The Holy Arm

Exeter Temple Message notes:  Easter Sunday 5th April 2015
Bible Reading:  Isaiah 52: 10-15

“The Lord will bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”  (v 10)

In Bible times, it was commonplace for kings to be present and to even fight in the battles. The robes of kings in the Bible times were long garments with long sleeves.  In times of battle, the king would remove his robe.  The sleeves would then be tied together in a knot.  The knotted robe would then be put over his head so that his robe would now be behind him, held by the knotted portion which was now around his neck.  This indicated to all those present, as well as to the enemy, that the king was not hindered in any way.  His arms were free and unobstructed.  He was now prepared to fight, with nothing to obstruct him.
Arms are a symbol of strength.  So when we read in Isaiah 52:10 about God baring his holy arm it is a promise that he is ready and willing to fight for us.
God gives this promise to Isaiah in the context of the group of prophecies known as the Servant Songs. These songs are all about a Servant that God would send to redeem his people. It is therefore safe to assume that when God promises to bare his holy arm he will do this through his chosen Servant, through his Messiah.

1.  Astonishment
However Isaiah warned that the possibility of the Servant winning through would be a cause of astonishment.  People would mostly be appalled at his appearance which would be altogether different from what you would expect.  Unless someone tells people that this is Christ, it is hard to believe it.  No-one expected the Servant to come a life of poverty where He has no place to call home. No extras in His life, no luxuries. He comes, not with might or power, but teaching—using words. He gathers a band of followers who are mostly uneducated and he lives a life on the edge of society—despised and rejected of men.
He ends up on trial badly beaten and wounded.  All His friends and disciples forsake Him. He is falsely accused. He is led away and crucified with two thieves and murderers. He is abused. His appearance is so marred that it is barely possible to tell that He is a man, let alone that this man is the Son of God?
He looks weak, not powerful.
“At first everyone was appalled. He didn’t even look human— a ruined face, disfigured past recognition. Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback, kings shocked into silence when they see him. For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes, what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.” (v15 The Message)
Yes, God through his Servant is baring his holy arm, going into battle against the forces of evil in the world, but the servants arm is stretched out on a cross.  This does not look like victory. It looks like the arm of God was willing to fight but it was not strong enough to win.

2.  Almighty Power
But Isaiah assures us that God has got it right.
“See my servant will act wisely, he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted,” v 13

a) He will act wisely
The temptation that Jesus faced all through his life was to take the path that looked sensible, turn stones into bread, use force to build a kingdom, make a deal with the devil.  In Gethsemene it was the seeming foolishness of staying in Jerusalem that would make a painful death inevitable that was the battle.
But Jesus chose the cross, not because he was a fool but because as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 2 “the foolishness of God if wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
The cross is not foolishness if it has the power to show that this Servant, the Son of God himself is able to accept the worst evil could do and continued to love and forgive.  It is not foolishness if this one act of supreme sacrifice can act as a bridge between man and God for all time.
b) Raised and highly exalted
Isaiah says there will come a day when the whole world will be silenced in astonishment again. It will be when this beaten, crucified man, rises again from the dead and is exalted.
Paul prayed that Christian people might grasp “the incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:18-19)  
Tom Wright says that Ephesus was seen as a place of power both politically and religiously.  The Romans saw it as a place to display their might and many cults existed which proclaimed to provide the greatest power to bring wealth, health, influence or the downfall of your enemies.  Paul said the greatest display of power the world has ever seen took place when God raised Jesus from the dead. 
How much power did that take? It was immense. Jesus’ resurrection was very different from when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead – Lazarus’ resurrection was temporary, he still would have died a second time. In the resurrection of Jesus, we have an eternal life, a resurrected body, a deliverance from the permanence and hopelessness of death!

3. Accomplished
Isaiah shows us there was purpose in in God baring his holy arm. It was so that all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”
Was this accomplished?
It is obvious from Jesus’ last words that He didn’t die thinking that all was lost or that His mission was all washed up.
We read that, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last.”
When Jesus died He didn’t whimper or whisper. The phrase “loud cry” can be translated, “a big or exceedingly great voice.” 
His final words were a roar of victory.
John 19:30 tells us that this shout contained the words, “It is finished.”
It is finished.  It is accomplished.
And the Resurrection confirms for us that all Jesus said and claimed for himself is true; it assures us that goodness and love are indestructible; it assures us that our faith in Christ is vindicated and safe. In short it says finally and gloriously that - in the words of the first Christian creed - JESUS IS LORD!
We looked on the internet to see of anyone had come up with a comprehensive list of Jesus’ accomplishments through his death and resurrection.  One site had a list of 40, one of each day of lent, another 20.  No list can fully sum up the depth, height or breadth of what has done but just be reminded for a moment from this list of just 10. 

1. Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven

2. Jesus was wounded that we might be healed

3. Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness, that we might be made righteous with His righteousness

4. Jesus tasted death for us that we might share His life

5. Jesus was made a curse that we might receive God’s blessing

6. Jesus endured our poverty that we might share God’s riches abundance

7. Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory

8. Jesus endured my rejection that I might have His acceptance with the Father

9. He was separated from God so that we might be joined to the Lord

10.   In his our selfish nature was put to death, that we might be reborn as children of God.

Remember what Isaiah said would happen.  The world would look on Jesus with astonishment that this broken, disfigured man could be the Saviour of the world. But we are told in Scripture that there will be a day when all men will have to recognise him as such.
Famous words from Philippians 2 say this, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father.”

 God bless

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