“The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.” —Isaiah 60:22
Sometimes, what we expect may turn out to be the opposite. For generations, the Israelites waited for the Messiah. They wanted the big and the shiny, the Solomon-like grandeur of a Messiah. They thought the Messiah would be a warrior who would throw off the oppression of Rome and return Israel to its glory. The disciples of Jesus were also subject to this struggle: when Jesus entered Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry, they expected Him to establish the kingdom, throw off Rome and be declared King. Even in Jesus’s post-resurrected state in the book of Acts, the disciples were waiting for Jesus to establish His earthly rule and reign. These expectations probably stemmed from Old Testament texts, such as Daniel 2, when king Nebuchadnezzar had a vision of the kingdom of heaven coming to the kingdom of earth striking the empires, destroying and shattering everything.
Yet, Jesus gave parables describing the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed and yeast. He likened the kingdom of heaven to something so small that it is imperceptible and, in the process, revealed that the kingdom of heaven is unlike the kingdoms of this earth. The kingdom of heaven is not something impressive and industrial in its scale; it is an organic movement of reproduction that will be carried out by the common things of life, the unimpressive and relatively small things. It is obscure, often growing underneath the surface, unnoticed and hidden from plain sight. The people wanted powerful and impressive, but Jesus described it as puny and ordinary.
Last month, when we looked at the birth of Jesus, what we saw in the Christmas story is humility: a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. Jesus’s own upbringing was one of disdain, fleeing with His parents to Egypt as refugees and growing up in a small town of relative obscurity. Jesus did not come in the form of worldly power and political influence, but something totally other. Jesus “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).
Jesus was not the Messiah that humanity expected. He came as a servant, not a conqueror. He ushered in a kingdom that seemed ordinary and inconsequential, seemingly contrary to what God had promised in the Old Testament. But as He called common people into His Kingdom, it grew into something this world has never seen before, just as God promised.
God Almighty, You are the One who faithfully fulfills Your promises. Thank You for sending Jesus, the Messiah King. Praise You!