“…To comfort all who mourn. To grant those who mourn in Zion—to grant them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit…” (Isaiah 61.2-3)
When Jesus, the word of God, broke forth into the world, he shattered the expectations of his hearers. They were looking for a savior from their physical circumstances. The disciples were hoping even at the ascension that he would restore the kingdom to Israel. However, in God’s perfect plan, he paved a new and better way. Jesus overcame Rome, Greece, and even the wicked rulers of Israel not with a sword, but with his Word. Isaiah tells us that this Word proclaimed a message to the poor, brokenhearted, and prisoners. This Word brought signs that pointed to the restoration which would happen on the cross of Christ. What the disciples failed to see, until the Spirit brought them understanding, was that Jesus conquered as he went to the cross. The signs of Jesus healing the lame and lifting up the brokenhearted all pointed to the work of the cross.
We often live like the disciples longing first for a physical restoration, blind to the more foundational and essential restoration of Jesus conquering sin. As we go forward from this conquering of sin, Jesus says we will have joy! As we abide in Christ, our mourning can be put away! We see examples of what this looks like in Stephen, the Church’s first martyr. He was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” He received his death with boldness and joy. How could he do this except because of his confidence in the cross of Christ which even overcame death.
As we prepare our hearts for worship, know that you can entrust yourself to Jesus. He has overcome the world, sin, and death so that you can rejoice with a pure joy.
--J. Andersen 03/04/16