Only in the Gospel can Christ be Seen

Advent 2 Friday

Romans 15:12

“And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, and he will arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles will hope.””

This verse is found in Isaiah 11:10. In Hebrew it says, “And it will come about at the time that the root of Jesse which stands as a sign for the nations–the Gentiles will ask for him, and his rest will be honor.” The meaning of this verse is clear: The Gentiles shall have Christ and be subject to him. But St. Paul changes the words a bit and follows the old translators who had translated the bible into Greek. Yet the meaning is the same. The root of Jesse should not be understood to mean here the stem of Jesse, as the painters paint a tree from Jesse, the father of David, with many branches, as people also sing about Mary, “The root of Jesse produced”…͟These are all strained interpretations. Christ himself, and no one else, is this stem or root, as this verse from Isaiah clearly constrains by saying that the Gentiles shall
hope in this stem or root of Jesse who rules over the nations, etc. This cannot be said about the natural Jesse or Mary. Yet Christ is called “root of Jesse” because he is a descendant of Jesse’s family via David, but in him the physical birth has come to an end. By his suffering, he was buried in the earth and was hidden in the world as a shapeless root, but out of him the beautiful tree of the Christian church has grown, spread all over the world. This would be a proper painting of the root of Jesse if it depicted Christ’s suffering and its fruits. Yet when Paul says: “and he will arise to rule over the nations,” this is equivalent to the Hebrew “who stands as a sign of the nations.” For Christ’s government is thereby shown to be of a spiritual nature. He is raised up throughout the world by the gospel to a sign which people are to see, and to which they are to cling, by faith. People cannot see him bodily, but only in the sign, in the gospel. And, thus, he also rules over the people by the gospel, in the sign, and not by being physically present. Yet when he says, the Gentiles will hope in him, this means also nothing other than what the Hebrew text says, “And the Gentiles will ask for him,” that is, they will look to him and cling to him alone, placing all their comfort, hope, and faithfulness in him. They will not ask or desire anything but him alone. Yet when our Latin translation in Isaiah 11:10 says, “And his grave will be honest,” which the apostle omits, it is clear that St. Jerome did not translate this well, thinking that Isaiah was writing about Christ’s splendid grave. What Isaiah really meant was that his rest is praise, that is, his death or dying is not like the dying of other people who have their praise while they live, but who have nothing when they are dead. Yet the praise of this root of Jesse first arose in death. For after his death, he first rose to the true life, power, praise, and honor, to a sign and ruler of the Gentiles–in fact, to a Lord over all things, seated at the right hand of God.

St. Louis ed., 12:50-52.

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