The Fruit from Jesse’s Tree
by The Rev. Jack King
Isaiah 11.1-9; Psalm 61, 62; Revelation 20.1-10; John 5.30-47
With the final Sunday of Advent complete, we have three days until we celebrate the nativity of Jesus. But these final days of waiting and preparation are essential to our faith. Our anticipation accelerates, but the arrival of Christmas morning tarries a few days more. To commemorate the final days of the Advent season, the Church sings the O Antiphons, ancient hymns to Jesus according to the names our Lord assumes from Isaiah’s prophecy. Here’s an excellent short video explaining how the O Antiphons prepare us this final week of Advent.
One of the Advent antiphons this final week is titled ‘O Rod of Jesse,’ which is derived from the Isaiah reading this morning. In the Spirit, Isaiah sees a stem springing forth from the stump of Jesse. Jesse is the father of David, who would receive the messianic promise that kings would remain with David’s line. But Isaiah prophesies that the rebellious sons of David, even though they suffer God’s judgment in exile, would yet produce God’s anointed son. From judgment (the stump), the promise of new life springs forth.
Isaiah sees that this stem will bear fruit and he names the fruits that will bud from this stem in Jesse’s tree. There will be:
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding;
the Spirit of counsel and might;
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Compare these prophesies with the life and ministry of Jesus and we see how our Lord fulfills these words spoken about him. In the Sermon on the Mount, he discloses the wisdom and understanding of the Lord. When tested by the Enemy in the wilderness, the Lord shows where the might of his counsel derives–the Word of the Lord. Before scribes and Pharisees who test him, he demonstrates his knowledge of the Scriptures so that they ‘dare not question him again.’ In the words from John’s Gospel, we see the fear of the Lord in his words, ‘I can nothing on my own.’
All these words of promise are revealed through Jesus. But the good news for us is that these are not the exclusive right of Jesus. God gives his Spirit to rest upon Jesus so that we may receive these very same gifts in our hearts. When we are baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we receive these same gifts that Isaiah prophesied on Jesus. This is a belief the Church has held for centuries. Just as Paul spoke about the fruit of the Spirit, so also we might see this connection with the Rod of Jesse. Through Jesus–and only through Jesus–we receive the gifts of wisdom and understanding; counsel and might; knowledge and the fear of the L0rd. But we cannot produce these fruits on our own. We must abide in Christ as He abides in the Father. Which means that we must wait for his fruit to be born in us. But this waiting will produce a mighty harvest of righteousness. Our destiny is to become a royal priesthood, born of the Spirit, heirs of David’s greatest Son.