Mark 8:31 includes Jesus saying that he “must undergo” great suffering, and would die at the hands of the temple leaders. Still today, it is regularly debated in the church whether or not Jesus “had” to die. Perhaps this question is best answered in by asking the question in reverse: “Was it possible for Jesus to be 100% committed to God’s will for humanity without facing the burden of the Roman cross?”
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Their presence harkened back to the final text of the Old Testament, in which Malachi invites the faithful to remember the covenant made with Moses, and the to look forward to the return of Elijah. The Transfiguration solidifies what the disciples were longing for, the promise of the prophets made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, come to liberate them from the fear of death and the hatred of oppression.
Isaiah promises that the Messiah to come will come as a suffering servant. This would have been an unexpected and unwelcome announcement by those who desired a warrior-like king to redeem them from their enemies. Yet, as Jesus walked the Emmaus Road with the disciples, he likely not only identified himself as the suffering servant, he probably invited the disciples to consider how they might heed God’s call for the faithful to see themselves as freed from the powers of empires that we all might be servants of the Almighty.
Zechariah promises a humble king to come, making his entrance on the back of a the colt of a donkey. This is an unlikely king who comes to rule with the full strength of God’s peace. Make no doubt, it’s overpowering, but in God’s way, not the way of human empires.
Jesus uses the Hebrew Scriptures to point to himself as the Messiah. Looking at 2 Samuel 7, it seems that not only does Jesus hail from the line of David, not only is Jesus the one who is called the Son of God, not only is Jesus the one who calls God “Abba,” “Father,” but it is Jesus that proclaims the divine “but,” which refuses to give sin and death the final say.
In his use of the Hebrew Scriptures to point to his role as God’s Messiah, Jesus probably would have used Micah’s prophecy. Micah, like the other prophets, promises one who is to come who will not rule through militaristic adventures and war mongering. He promises one to come who will be Savior, who will reign with peace and offer a new way to salvation.
What did Christ say to the disciples while walking the Emmaus Road? I wonder if the disciples walking down the path were bemoaning Christ’s absence and failure to fulfill their hoped-for vision of a Messiah, much like many of us as the faithful do today, lamenting that God hasn’t granted us what we expected or wanted in the Messiah. And yet, this is God-in-flesh.
The birth of Christ is disruptive to the devastating pain of human frailty. The gift of God in Christ flips all of the societal expectations upside down, and whether shepherds who come in lowliness, or Magi who come bringing valuable gifts, the incarnation invites us as one humanity to join in the noise making. For in Christ, God has won out. The promise of new life is declared, not just possible, but a realized truth.
Pastor Kathy Escobar says that when hope is running low, sometimes the best thing we can do is borrow hope from one another. In the Magnificat, Mary provides more than enough hope for us all to borrow, offered in the assured promise of who Christ is and will be.
The paradox of Advent is that even in the darkness, there is a light. Even in our brokenness, there is healing. Even in our weariness, there is rest. The Advent promise is that the gift of God comes to offer light in the midst of our weary world.