14th December 2012

Jesus, The Light Of The Nations

“Arise, shine, for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”
Isaiah 60:1 (NKJV)

The gospel writers stressed time after time that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one who would save the Jewish nation. Matthew in particular went to great pains to show that even obscure references to the Messiah were fulfilled in Christ. Every inkling that hinted about him, every “jot” and “tittle” would not be ignored “till all is fulfilled” in Christ Jesus (Matthew 5:18). Jesus would “save his people” – the Jews, as Matthew’s readers would have thought – “from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

But, what about the other nations, which the Jews called the Gentiles? Would their expectations of deliverance be fulfilled in Christ? Isaiah was not the only prophet to suggest that the hope of the Gentiles would also be accomplished by God’s divine intervention. In Isaiah 60 he describes how nations would come to God’s light, and kings to the brightness of his dawn (60:3).

The Gentiles had their own ideas about sacred scriptures and prophecies. A common thought was that, when something great was about to happen, there would be a sign in the skies at night. They would look to the stars and plot their movements to discover indications of the divine purpose. We are sceptical of such notions, and know that it is to the Bible we look for God’s guidance. God, however, met the Gentiles even in their misguided views. He sent a miraculous star to bring the wise men to the greatest event ever – the incarnation of the Son of God.

Jesus was to fulfil, not only the expectations of the Jews, but also the expectations of the Gentiles. The child was born so that the whole would be reconciled to God in him (see 2 Corinthians 5:19). Matthew wrote about the non-Jews in the celebration of Christ’s birth. Isaiah had recorded that they would “bring gold and incense, and shall proclaim the praises of the Lord” (60:6), which are echoed in the gifts and adoration of the wise men, when they opened their treasures and “fell down and worshipped” the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:11).

Through Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection everyone is included in God’s grace. The birth narratives of Jesus Christ remind us that God’s purpose was for Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus is the Light of the whole world.

Father, thank you for sending Jesus, the Light of the world, to all of humanity, and help us always, through his Spirit, to express his light in us wherever we go.  In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson

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