Several years ago during a visit with my husband’s cousin, she invited us to a banquet for school teachers. She was in leadership so we sat at a different table. We had rich conversation with the other guests, and I was part of it—until someone asked me where I got my teaching degree. When I told them I didn’t have one, it was as if I suddenly became invisible. Even though I could ‘talk the talk’ I let them down. No one said a word to me after that.
Credentials. People look for qualifiers, a stamp, a visible or tangible indication that someone fits their claims. While I didn’t claim to be a teacher, they assumed it by my conversation, but without the piece of paper, I was suddenly a person who could not meet their expectations. Remembering that incident still brings a chuckle, and reminds me of a greater rejection that is not amusing.
For the Jews, when God promised them a Messiah, they were certain He would be a conqueror who would free them from political bondage and grant them a strong and wealthy economy. He would be born into royalty. He would look like and act like a king.
Isaiah prophesied otherwise. He said of the coming Deliverer, “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
Jesus was ordinary. He was born in poverty, like most people of that time, and did not have the look of royalty. Apart from the miracles that gave Him a reputation, He would have been able to walk down the street without being noticed.
Isaiah added in his inspired words that Jesus would be “despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and when He came, “we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
In reading the New Testament, it seems Jesus had a large following, but in the end when He was dying on the cross, everyone abandoned Him. They thought this was not the right man, not the leader that God had appointed. God revealed to Isaiah that would happen: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Isaiah goes on to say that, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” yet most of the people then, including His disciples, didn’t get it. They thought He came to save them from Roman rule, not from the rule of sin. When He died, they figured Him a lost cause, not recognizing they were (and we are) the lost ones.
Credentials are connected to expectations. If a person is looking for a teacher, they might look for a teaching degree, or maybe just the ability to teach. If a person is looking for a Savior, they need to understand what they want to be saved from. Is it an oppressive boss? A husband who beats them? Poverty? Illness? Danger?
While Jesus can save us from all that and more, He told the people His reason for coming: “I came to seek and to save those who are lost.”
Isaiah gave them the same message 600 years prior: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
I was lost to life with God because of my sin. Jesus bore the punishment for my sin so I might be saved from its penalty. But there’s more. Paul wrote, “He (God) who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
By understanding and by believing that Jesus came to seek and to save me from my sin, I’ve access to the rest of His saving power; I can expect Him to be for me all that I need. And because He has all the necessary credentials, He always lives up to my expectations.