January 17, 2021 Shattering the Silence
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Why was Nathaniel SO excited when he met Jesus-of-Nazareth? I hope to answer that question. But first, Silence.
‘Silence is golden.’ Historically, the whole phrase is: ‘Speech is silver; silence is golden’. In literature, it first appeared in 1831; but that author had translated it from German into English, so it originated at some earlier time. Some say it goes back a thousand years. There are a couple of verses from Solomon’s Proverbs that talk about the value of holding our tongue at times. My mom used to say that phrase to us kids when she hinted that she wanted a little quiet. If you look it up on the internet, you’ll see this twist on that phrase: ‘Silence is golden; unless you have toddlers, then silence is very suspicious.’
When the prophet Malachi died, we say that the Word of the Lord fell silent. The written, Spirit-filled Word didn’t go away, but there was no longer a living prophet to proclaim any new word from the Lord. The Spirit of Yahweh had not come to rest upon a particular man after Malachi. God’s people had the scrolls, and had teachers; but the tongues of the living prophets were stilled; and the Lord was silent for 400 years. Silence is golden = they say.
*Is it? Let’s try it. (Pause here for a moment of silence—long enough for people to begin to feel uncomfortable.)
Silence is golden; … but too much silence can become uncomfortable. Be silent long enough, and people wonder what’s wrong; *what happened? /Did the microphone fail? /Did my internet quit? The organ isn’t playing, /did we lose electricity? The pastor’s not talking, /did he lose his place..(again)? We understand that there’s a good time for silence; but we don’t like silence when we expect to hear someone speaking. *How do you feel when you want an answer or guidance from the Lord and it seems He’s silent?
We can read in the OT how kings would call in the prophet-of-God when they wondered if they should go to war against an enemy; then for 400 years, there was no one to ask.
*What did they think? Since the time of Moses the Lord had provided a prophet; and after Malachi, it stopped. 400 years is almost twice as long as the United States has been a country. I imagine God’s people became uncomfortable, and wondered what was wrong.
*/Had they done something sinful? /Was God angry? /What was God telling them by remaining silent — and without a prophet, how would they get any answers? Maybe silence isn’t all that golden after all.
*What happens when you give someone ‘the silent treatment’? Sometimes quiet can be soothing; that’s why people use ‘noise canceling headphones.’ Silence can mean calm & peace. But *what if it goes on too long? Then our sinful nature will fill-in with its own noise. I mean, what happens =in this age of instant communication= when you call, and a person doesn’t answer = do you start to worry? You leave a voice message, & don’t hear back right away. Then you text, & get no response. We fill-in that silence, and think that somethings wrong. They’re angry; they’re hurt. Sometimes, silence is not golden. The Book of Proverbs advises wise communication; otherwise it will hurt your marriage, your friendships, & your career.
Silence was not what God’s people were used to; I’ll bet they didn’t like it much; & they worried: *Were God’s promises still reliable? Has He abandon us? Of course, many people ignored the prophets when they were around; the people didn’t always like the words they spoke; kings didn’t always listen to them; & often the prophets were put to death. So, I’m sure that this silence was uncomfortable. It wasn’t ‘golden’; … but it was ‘godly.’
Because then, at just the right time =God’s time= the voice was back. God shattered the silence. From out of the barren regions, the voice of a prophet came, just as Isaiah had foretold. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness….prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” (Is 40:3–4).
Even in the womb, John is anointed with the HSp for his prophetic office of proclaiming a new word from the Lord. It’s a word attached to a baptism of repentance & for the forgiveness of sins. His new message is that the Greater One -the Holy One- has arrived to gather the wheat and burn the chaff. He said, ‘the Lord’s Messiah is here, even now among you; the very One whom Moses & all the prophets foretold. Get ready to meet Him.
From now on, God will be speaking to you thru His very own Son.’ That was the Baptism-prophet’s good news. Whatever the prophets-of-the-past proclaimed, none had news like that.
They had all spoken God’s Word; but now God’s own mouth had come to the earth.
Yet, He was not coming with deserved ‘fire & brimstone’, but with ‘mercy & truth’.
With The Son comes God’s grace, not yet judgment. Man’s condemnation is delayed; He is bringing forgiveness. That long silence, and that new message, is why so many of Judea & Jerusalem were going out to John to be baptized in the Jordan River. John is sent to shatter the silence. And the new word from the Lord is: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
God’s people waited a long time to hear that sermon. John was sent to preach it, but he’s only around long enough to point to Jesus. The Father has sent His own Son with His own human mouth & tongue to speak ‘peace on earth,’ & good will toward men. The Savior comes with gentleness, healing, & teaching. With quiet confidence, The Rabbi choses & calls His disciples, and trains them as His witnesses. We see /righteous Jews respect Jesus; /gentiles inquire of Him; /little children are blessed by Him; /the sick seek His help, /& sinners seek His comfort. Just as was prophesied about Him, Jesus makes /the blind see, /the deaf hear, /the lame walk, /& the poor have the good news preached to them. As was promised, the Son came not be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for us on the cross.
We were not there to hear Isaiah speak of the One to come; /we were not there to wonder & worry over the 400 years of silence; /we were not there when John shattered the silence. But we ARE HERE to receive that new & fulfilled Word of the Lord = He is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of heaven; who took up our flesh, & took up our cross, & gives us forgiveness, hope & a future.
Physical aging, sickness, trouble & death are all signs that this earthly life is not complete. It’s broken, and has pain, sorrow & loss. The wickedness & violence of people, and our own selfish & bad behaviors teach us that all are sinful, and deserve nothing but punishment from our holy Creator. The right thing is for US to be silent before Him = silent as the grave.
That silence IS golden. (pause)
And then, every time the Gospel is heard, God shatters the silence again! Jesus was sent to speak up for you, and for me. This was always the real message from the voices of all the prophets.
So says the prophet Joel: ‘Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; abounding in patient mercy and love.’
Jesus arrives to prove that; Jesus is the final voice of God.
There were some people who had been quietly, faithfully, waiting in the hope of Messiah. In Mark 1, it had now been another 30 years since that story they heard about that old priest, Zechariah, who came out of the temple & couldn’t talk until his child was born; whatever happened to that kid he named ‘John?’ It had also been 30 years since people had heard about that strange event in Bethlehem; when the whole town was stirred-up by some shepherds who had seen & heard a multitude of angels talk about the Christ-child being born. And then there was that strange star that appeared; that was when king Herod sent his soldiers to kill all the boys 2 yrs old & under in the region. *What ever happened to that child =some wondered.
It was a quiet 30 years.
And then the silence was shattered as Jesus opens His mouth, & tells John to baptize him, and proclaims the time of God’s favor. John pointed Andrew toward Jesus, & Jesus invited Andrew to come with Him. Andrew told his brother Simon; when Jesus met him, he gave him a new name = Peter, & Peter followed Him. Going up into Galilee, Jesus chose Philip; Philip listened to His voice & followed. Philip had a friend, Nathanael, who was quietly & patiently waiting for ‘him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.’
*WHY was Nathanael so excited to meet this Jesus from Nazareth == just because this man claimed to have ‘x-ray vision’? No. But because God’s people had been waiting for 430 years to hear a new word from the Lord about their promised salvation. Nathanael believed that Jesus would be the One who would reign on King David’s throne forever.
The long silence was over; truly, the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
For Andrew, Simon, Philip & Nathanael this meant that the Light of the World had arrived. Sin, death, hell & the devil would not win. The old silence is shattered, and the new word from the Lord is proclaimed. That new word sounds like this: /Prepare the way for the Lord. /Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. /Follow me. /You will see greater things than these.
And *what did they see? All of Moses & the prophets were fulfilled in Jesus. The sick were healed, the dead were raised, & lowly sinners were forgiven, as the prophet Isaiah said. They saw Jesus submit himself to the cross to cover the cost of our rebellion, just as Isaiah had prophesied. They saw the Lord of Life take our place in the tomb so that our grave would not be the end for us. They saw the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea emptied -on the 3rd day- just as was illustrated by the prophet Jonah. So now death has no power over the risen Son of God. And Jesus promised them that one day they, and us, will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending & descending on the Son of Man; that day is coming, & now we are waiting.
So, *did we answer the question of why Nathanael was SO excited when he came face to face with Jesus? It’s true that he was skeptical at first, even sarcastic. But that’s because he was knowledgeable in the Scripture. The town of Nazareth is not mentioned in the OT at all among the prophets, much less associated with the Lord’s Messiah. Altho, the Messiah is associated with the word ‘nazarite,’ but that was a different word, & not a town.
So, Philip comes with a new word: “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael’s reaction is: ‘Phffff!’ ‘Can anything good come out of that non-prophetic place?’ But as soon as the God-in-the-flesh spoke to him, Nathanael’s waiting faith was more than ready to confess: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
You & I have also heard that new good news, which has broken the silence of our sin & unbelief. Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of the living God; and believing in and following Him, we have life in His name.