I wrote this post last April but have been reviewing it once in a while as well as, and I hate to confess mea culpa, for being lazy till now to post it.
One of my favourite piece of classic music is The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. I am sure many of my readers admire this famous Baroque music as well. Each season has its own charm; mine is Spring. As the cold winter moves out and the spring moves in, one cannot help but delightfully experience sunshine, warmth and joy. From nowhere the birds keep coming, chirping and singing. The buds keep popping up and the scenery changes from white to green, at least in Canada, eh? Isn’t there an old song called “Spring is in the air?”
This spring, I took a walk with my son-in-law Joel Lawton, my grand-nephew Melvin Paul and grandson Joseph Lawton along the Tom Taylor Trail, just behind my building. I took time to observe hundreds of tiny “tender plants” peeking through the grounds. I wondered how could these plantlets, just an inch tall could survive and grow to mature plants producing leaves and flowers? What if it was hit with insects swarming to devour the shoots or a torrential rain and floods to destroy the roots. Worse still, can a drought scorch them? Who will care for these tender plants ?
This brought to my mind an interesting Scripture, Isaiah’s prophecy (53:1-10). Was Isaiah, besides being a Seer, an artist as well ? He wrote – rather painted with words, a superb prophetic picture of Jesus, the Saviour of the world as a “tender plant with roots out of dry ground ”. There is a lot packed in those words and I thought it best in this post to cut short my own words and in its stead place two poignant quotes. Bear with me; they are lengthy.
First, the Scripture itself
1.“Who has believed our message ?To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm? 2.My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance.nothing to attract us to him. 3.He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with deep grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way., He was despised and we did not care.4. Yet it was our weaknesses; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5. But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s path to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 7. He was He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers he did not open his mouth. 8.Unjustly condemned he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of his people. 9. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave”
Second, one of my favourite Bible Commentators, Matthew Henry:
“Nowhere in all the Old Testament is it so plainly and fully prophesied, that Christ ought to suffer, and enter into his glory,……… But to this day few discern, or will acknowledge, that Divine power which goes with the word. The authentic ……report of salvation for sinners, through the Son of God, is disregarded. The low condition he submitted to, and his appearance in the world, were not agreeable to the ideas the Jews had formed of the Messiah. It was expected that he should come in pomp; instead of that, he grew up as a tender plant, silently, and insensibly. He had nothing of the glory which one might have thought to meet with him. His whole life was not only humble as to outward condition, but also sorrowful. Being made sin for us, he underwent the sentence sin had exposed us to. (Vow !) Carnal hearts see nothing in the Lord Jesus to desire an interest in him. Alas! by how many is he still despised in his people, and rejected as to his doctrine and authority!”
I suppose the religious leaders were expecting a typical king or a prophet but definitely not “a tender plant”. This is the crux of God’s plan and Isaiah’s prophecy. See how it turned out.
Jesus had a universal mission and a divine plan, yet very few on earth knew when “in the fullness of time” the Saviour, the “tender plant was born”. Some did, including Mary, who heard from the angel, and Joseph. Elizabeth, the poor Shepherds from the field; an old, just and devout Simeon and Anna, the old widowed prophetess.
The rich and famous Scribes, Pharisees, the High Priest and his coterie with their holy books had no clue or did not want to accept the truth. Observe the juxtaposition!
Ironically the so-called pagans, the wise men from the east, knew about the coming of the Saviour from the stars! Very interesting and surprising! (I hope to write a post on this soon).
The tender plant is also revealed in 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT 9) “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty (tender plant) he could make you rich.
Unlike many Jewish theologians (e.g Saul of Tarsus) of his time, Jesus did not sit at Gamaliel’s feet. Instead, most probably, Jesus attended the local synagogue school. Jesus did identify with the common people calling himself the “son of man”. He adopted a meagre lifestyle. He said: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). He made that kind of lifestyle a “welcome norm”.
Jesus permeated that life system into his teaching – e.g: “blessed are the poor for yours the kingdom of God” (Sermon on the Mount – Luke 6:20).
No wonder Jesus had a sharp eye for the poor e.g. widow’s offering of two mites and drawing the attention of the disciples as an object lesson (Luke 21:1-4).
Jesus heard the derisive remarks cast at him by the Jewish leaders: “Isn’t he the carpenter’s son” (labour class and not the privileged). That certainly did not fit well to their expected Messiah’s “pomp”. (Matthew 13:55-57). This led to contempt, disdain and ultimately the cross. There is a piece of poetry in my mother tongue (Malayalam). Translated it means “only those who experience poverty can empathize the hardship of others”. (I will be grateful to hear more about this poet and his poetry from my readers from Kerala, India).
How could Jesus communicate with the masses if he had lived in a palace or a monastery as many did ?
Take note particularly Matthew 13:57: “And they took offense at him”, the physical starting point of their rejection. Jesus said to them: “A prophet is not without honour except in his home town”. Isaiah’s prophecy of a “tender plant” came to pass.
This reminded me of the Saviour’s words, as he got closer to the cross: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my father and he shall presently give me more than ten thousand legions of angels” (Matthew 26:5? Do you recall that beautiful song: “ He could have called ten thousand angels” by Loretta Lynn?
“They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where he prayed
They led him through the streets in Gethsemane
They spat upon the saviour so pure and free from sin
They said crucify him; he is to blame
Chorus:He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set him free
But he died alone, for you and me”
I started this post giving reference to Vivaldi’s Baroque masterpiece “The Four Seasons”. Allow me now to close with another classic, this time George Frederick Handel’s famous Oratorio, the Messiah. That tender plant of Isaiah’s prophecy was indeed the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in the magnificent Hallelujah Chorus!
Here is a bit of imagination. Methink the Lord decided not to dispatch a legion of angels, but to go personally, just like he joined the three in the fiery furnace in Babylon, this time to his beloved coworker, another tender plant, as they hurled stones at Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). I think the persecuting Saul of Tarsus, since that stoning could not rest since then till he made it to the Damascus Road. If any still on the Damascus road ? Take heed to the Saviour’s words “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls’. (Matthew 11:29) .Oh, what a “tender plant, what a Son of man, What a Saviour!
God bless, Danny Paul.
Ps. I am sure my readers have read that classic write up called “one Solitary life”, author unknown. Get it from Google.