The Shoot from the Stump of Jesse
Dr. Valson Abraham
A dead, dry tree stump lies forgotten and neglected in the corner of the yard, covered with weeds and snails. Someone cut down the tree long ago, but no one remembers (or cares) who cut it down or when it was cut down. But one day, a shoot begins to grow from the dead stump. It grows until it becomes a tree bigger than the original tree, and it bears much fruit.
For a tree to grow from a dead stump would be a miracle. But the prophet Isaiah wrote that such a miracle was coming: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).
The “stump of Jesse” refers to the father of King David and the line of Davidic kings that ruled Israel and its truncated remnant, the kingdom of Judah. With the Babylonian capture and destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, the kingdom came to a humiliating end. The royal line was cut off and became like a stump. The chosen people of God went into exile and lived subjugated to a succession of foreign and pagan tyrants.
Over the next 500+ years, the famed house of David, respected throughout the known world, declined into obscure village nobodies like Mary and Joseph. Who would expect universal greatness to spring from a young girl and a small-town carpenter? Everything looked so hopeless, even the high priests forgot about Isaiah’s prophecy.
Yet from that simple village girl, Mary, who descended from David, came the “shoot,” Jesus Christ. His life began in the stench of cows and sheep in the “nowhere” hamlet of Bethlehem. He grew up in an obscure town called Nazareth, and He lived a life like nameless others, subjected to harsh Roman masters. He died on a cross, a death so horrifying that no respectable person ever mentioned it.
Yet Jesus’ death, as frightening and cruel as it was, accomplished God’s purposes and won a spectacular victory that began a new humanity and will usher in a New Heaven and a New Earth. On the cross, He was stricken for the transgressions of the people (Isaiah 53:8), but in His death, He became the Branch that bore much fruit.
You and I are the fruit that comes from Jesus the Branch. Out of His cruel death came His resurrected life--and our own lives as members of His family. We, too, have become the spiritual seed of Abraham, Jesse and David. As Son of David, He establishes a Kingdom that never ends. He will reign forever as King of kings and Lord of lords, and we will reign with Him.
With Jesus, a new and greater David has come with a greater kingdom, with paradise to be restored, fulfilling the purpose of Israel’s people to bless all nations on earth.Like the ancient Jews, we are born and live fallen lives in a fallen and broken world. We are also dead stumps. But in Christ, and because of Him, we become shoots prepared to bear much fruit, called to bless the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus, the baby in the manger, and Jesus on the cross is also Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of God. He is the “first-born of many brothers [and sisters]” which includes you and me who have placed our hope in Him.
This is what Isaiah means when he writes in 11:10: “In that day, the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal for the peoples-of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” This last phrase implies a finality and completeness to Christ’s work, so perfect, fruitful and permanent that the best we can think or say about it can never fully grasp or express it. His fruit includes “the nations” which means all peoples, all ethnicities. Jesus Christ envisions His kingdom as a paradise restored for all peoples of all times and places.
That all the nations “inquire” after Him indicates, as Jesus said, that the “fields are ripe unto harvest.” Millions of people in the world today who do not know the name of Jesus lead restless lives because only the Good News will satisfy them, the Good News of Him who was born in a manger to conquer sin, redeem the world and restore all things.
In the end, the Great Commission is the underlying purpose of Christmas. The Gospel of Matthew begins with Jesus’ birth, and it ends with His ascent into heaven as he commands His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations [or peoples] that includes representatives of all 1,652 language groups of India.
As we end 2018 and enter 2019, let us remember that we bear the name of the Branch, and we point to Him of whom the nations inquire.
* * *
Father God, thank you for your miracle which you accomplished on that night in Bethlehem in a smelly manger. Thank you for your Son, for all He has accomplished through His birth, death and resurrection. Enable me through your Holy Spirit to bear much fruit in His Name, to do my part in bringing others into your kingdom and completing your Great Commission. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.