The Israelites’ original concept of the messiah was one who would restore the glory days of the Davidic dynasty. By Jesus’ day, many expected a mighty warrior king, like David, who would deliver them from Roman oppression. Jesus eschewed military overthrow of the Romans by his life style. His injunction to peter, “Put away your sword,” is a clear indication that Jesus was rejecting violence.
In the second part of Isaiah we see a shift in expectations. The messiah will be the Suffering Servant who will be bruised and striped. Wisdom (2:1a, 12-22) seems to pick up on this theme. The messiah will be the just one who calls people to task for injustice. The just man will suffer. His gentleness (nonviolence) will be put to the test. In the end, the just man who suffers for his witness will triumph because he trusts in God. God, according to the Psalmist, will save those who are crushed in spirit, the meek and the humble. Meekness and humility are at the core of our spirituality. “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . Blessed are the meek.” We know that we cannot trust in our own designs and efforts. Our only trust is in God.
Jesus, the country preacher from the backwaters of Galilee, has been avoiding Judea because he knows that the “Jews” are out to get him (Jn 7:1-2, 25-30). In spite of the danger, Jesus went up to the feast. The inhabitants of Jerusalem doubt that Jesus is the one who is to come. They know he is from Nazareth in Galilee. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph, the Carpenter?” Would the messiah be a carpenter from a rural backwater community?
Jesus cried out. He is frustrated. They do not understand him or his mission. Jesus reasserts his claim that Abba God sent him. He did not come on his own accord. He was sent by God.
Often, we do not recognize God in our midst. Mother Teresa reminded us that we find God in the distressing disguise of the poor. Can this be God present to me? I know where they come from and I feel uncomfortable around them. Their poverty and simple hope challenges me. They seem to have a relationship to God that escapes me and my grasp. They are the anawim Yahweh-the poor of God, the remnant that remains faithful in spite of poverty, illness and oppression. They live in hope. Their prayer is for deliverance from oppression and exploitation while my prayer is deliverance from the creature comfort consumerism that shackles them. Are we recognizing God in our midst? The disguise is often very distressing.