In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There are signs all around us. Street and traffic signs; signs that advertise and signs that promise; signs of the season and signs of the times. But there is one more sign, for those who have eyes to see. A sign that whispers when the world shouts. A sign that stands firm in the middle of all the rush and the noise. A sign that cannot be shaken. A sign that cannot be seen or heard unless time is taken, stillness observed, and grace and faith given. This sign is called the Root of Jesse. Jesse was David’s father. At the time of the prophet Isaiah, the people who had once flourished as a great tree became little more than a stump, chopped low by the axe of Assyria. Beginning about 975 years before Jesus was born, the House of David was divided and destroyed, cut down and conquered. Nothing left but a seemingly dead stump. And stumps are not supposed to grow again. If you cut down a tree, you don’t expect its stump to grow up again into another tree.
But this is no ordinary stump. This is no remnant of just any people. It is what’s left of the people of Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth and everything in between. This God does not cut down except to raise up; He does not kill except to bring back from the dead; He does not leave stumps except to bring new growth; and He sets up signs to bring people back to Himself. Those signs He has set up all point to the one great Sign, the Shoot that comes forth from the stump of Jesse; the One on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests, whose delight is in the fear of the Lord. “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins” (Isaiah 11:2-5, ESV). This Root of Jesse, this Jesus Christ, it is He who shall stand as a “signal”: a sign for the peoples and a banner for the nations.
And no less is He your sign. Look to Him in newborn infant flesh. Look to Him, hanging on a cross that towers over the wrecks of time. Look to Him, risen from the dead. Look to Him, sitting at the right hand of the Father; thence He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead. And He is coming as your judge. Can you be sure that His advent means salvation for you? Yes, you can. He has set up Himself as a sign for you and for all sinners. His signs are everywhere you look in this place. Water, made holy by His blood and His Word; bread and wine made body and blood because He said “Do this”; words that forgive your sins because He speaks them. These are the signs He has given; signs of His intentions toward you. He has come to save and He has come to forgive, and His sign will stand until He returns again.
And this Branch that comes from Jesse’s roots has born fruit. You are that fruit; you, who have seen the signs of your sin and have looked to the healing sign on the cross. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man must be lifted up” (John 3:14, ESV). The people of Israel saw the sign of the bronze serpent on the pole, and God healed them of the venom they had absorbed (Numbers 20:4-9). You have seen the sign of the God-Man on the cross, and God has healed you from the poison of the serpent, which you have inherited from Adam and Eve. There are others who have been bitten. The fangs of the ancient serpent have sunk deep into their flesh, and they will die unless they look upon the one whom they have crucified. Point them to the Sign of the crucified one so that they might repent and believe. He is your only salvation and theirs as well. Because the Day is coming when this Sign will appear in the sky and the nations will mourn because of His wrath. But the Church, bought with His blood, will rejoice because their salvation has finally come.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/01/07