by Murray Tessendorf, National Director for A Rocha South Africa and ordained Baptist minister
Notes on the Readings
Isaiah 25:6–9 (NIV)
Isaiah, in this passage of praise to God, points us to a place, a person and an occasion with extraordinary prophetic clarity. The place described twice (vs 6 & 7) as “on this mountain” is a certain reference to Mount Zion (see Isaiah 24:23). This is the mountain upon which King David uttered the words, “… I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing”(1 Chronicles 21:24, NIV) and which the Apostle Paul quotes, “… As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:26–27, NIV). That Mount Zion is the place of sacrifice and forgiveness of sins is undeniable. The ‘person’ Isaiah draws our attention to is the Lord Almighty: Father, Son and Spirit who works in such a manner that in Him we rejoice and are glad in his salvation (vs 9). Most extraordinary is the occasion in which Almighty God serves people in what is described as his preparation of a banquet rich in the symbolism of broken flesh and wine which swallows up death forever.
Psalm 118:1–2 (NIV)
Within the opening phrase of Psalm 118, the psalmist sets the context of the psalm within the eternal nature of our Lord’s enduring love; thus, this Psalm, whilst certainly referencing the psalmist’s personal encounter with his Lord, is framed within an eternal perspective. Verses 14-24 describe the psalmist’s experiences of God’s grace in a manner that every ‘born again’ Christ follower surely experiences: the Lord is my strength, defence and salvation; the Lord’s hands have done mighty things; I will not die but live. These are all spiritual truths common to followers of our Lord Christ. The psalmist goes on to point us to a gospel message in his reference to the ‘gates of the righteous’ (vs 19-21) which may surely be paralleled by Jesus Christ’s utterance, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. …” (John 10:9, NIV) (see also Matt 7:13-14). This eternal perspective is furthered within the last chapter of scripture: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14, NIV). Prophetically, we cannot miss the eternal nature and work of Jesus Christ as ‘the stone the builders rejected” (vs 22) which so beautifully ties to the Apostle Peter’s reference of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:6, ““For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
The Apostle Peter’s calling to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles fulfils many OT passages that speak of God’s salvation for the Gentiles as well as the Jews, including Isaiah 25:6-7, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations” (Isaiah 25:7, NIV). Through this encounter Peter helps us to understand that whilst Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross is a gift available to all, he reminds us that the words of the prophets remain relevant that “everyone who believes in him (Jesus Christ) receives forgiveness of sins through his name”. The essence of the word ‘believes’ in verse 43, speaks of more than simply ‘believing in God’ (see James 2:19) but of placing our full faith, confidence and trust in the person of Jesus Christ for our salvation.
This narrative passage is full of emotion: Mary anguished at finding Jesus’ tomb seemingly desecrated and standing open; Peter and John’s panicked confusion in their rush to confirm Mary’s story but leaving without answers. The most striking emotions occur once Peter and John have left the open tomb and Mary Magdalene, now alone and standing before an empty tomb in the early morning light, has an extraordinarily tender encounter with the risen Lord. Through her uncontrollable sobs she answers the angel’s question, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him” and even though Jesus was standing right there with her, she failed to recognise him, thinking he was the gardener. Jesus wasn’t the gardener. Scripture doesn’t tell us that he was doing the work of a gardener nor that he was even pretending to be the gardener, but in Mary’s grief she mistook him for something that he was not. Mary was not alone in mistaking Jesus for something he’s not. His peers looked to him as a political liberator freeing Israel from Roman oppression. We might even reduce him to liberator of the oppressed from the power of tyranny and in so doing fail to recognise more importantly that he is mankind’s liberator from the tyranny of our own sinfulness. Mary’s confusion was undone with Jesus simply calling her name, “Mary”, leading her to that extraordinary confession, “I have seen the Lord”.
Draft Sermon Outline
The narrative of Christ’s resurrection in John 20:1-18 provides the account that reveals a number of common themes emerging from today’s passages:
Christ as suffering servant and risen King:
Isaiah 25:6 alludes to Jesus Christ’s deliverance through suffering in the banquet imagery of broken flesh and wine upon Mount Zion. Romans 11:26-27 echoes Isaiah 25, speaking of a deliverer coming from Zion who will take away sins. Psalm 118:21-22 provides a clear image of a rejected saviour who becomes the cornerstone, whilst 1 Peter 2:6 helps us to understand that the precious and chosen cornerstone laid in Zion is the person of Jesus Christ. Acts 10:39-40 bluntly speaks of Jesus death, “…They killed him by hanging him on a cross…” and resurrection, “…but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen”.
Christ’s eternal work:
The eternal consequences of Christ death and resurrection are seen in his swallowing up death forever, (Isa 25:8) and in his ‘forever enduring love’ of Psalm 118:1 which provides the eternal context for the remainder of the psalm, including the psalmist’s phrase, “I will not die but live” (vs 17). Even Psalm 118:19’s reference to the gates of the righteous have a present context: “…enter through the narrow gate (Matt 7:13) and the eternal reality of entering “through the gates into the city,” the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:14).
Christ’s work in restoring creation to himself:
Isaiah 25:8 speaks, in Old Testament terms, of ‘all things being reconciled to Christ by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col 1:20). Within the phrase, “…he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth…“ (Isa 25:8) we see the saving work of Jesus Christ freeing his people from the disgraceful effects of sin and death. What’s more, Christ’s sacrificial work on our behalf is complete in both the removal of the disgrace of sin from his people over all the earth, and complete in that it will undo the effects of the disgrace of mankind sin from all the earth. Our current environmental crisis is without a doubt a human sin issue but Christ’s death and resurrection have done the work in full to undo the curse of sin on the earth (Gen 3) so that we can look forward to the undoing of the effects of sin on all God created on the day when he makes all things new (Rev 21:5).
Our response: Christ I praise and Christ I proclaim.
In today’s passages the response given to knowing Christ’s salvation is praise and proclamation. Isaiah 25:9 “…let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation”; Psalm 118:24 “…let us rejoice today and be glad”; Acts 10:42 “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead”; John 20:18 “…I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her”.
by Murray Tessendorf, A Rocha South Africa