Women and the Aims of Jesus -- By: John E. Phelan, Jr.

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 18:1 (Winter 2004)
Article: Women and the Aims of Jesus
Author: John E. Phelan, Jr.


Women and the Aims of Jesus

John E. Phelan, Jr.

John E. Phelan, Jr., originally presented this article at CBE’s international conference in Orlando, Aug. 8-10, 2003, as a general session address. Phelan is the president and dean of North Park Theological Seminary

Isaiah prophesied, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them,” but Jesus did not usher in the sort of kingdom the Israelites were expecting.1

By the time Jesus came into Galilee preaching and healing, the Israelites had been in exile over six hundred years. Jeremiah had promised that it would only be seventy years. Seventy years away from the land. Seventy years without the temple. Seventy years to contemplate their sins and bemoan their losses. Seventy years to reconnect with their God. And they had gotten back to the land. They had rebuilt the temple. They made sacrifices. They celebrated holidays once again. But it wasn’t what they expected. The glorious prophecies of Isaiah concerning the return from exile seemed to mock their present reality. It seemed to many people in Israel that the exile had been extended from seventy to nearly seven hundred years. Some Jews had begun to wonder if it would ever end!

Others continued to look for Isaiah’s “shoot from the stump of Jesse,” who would possess the “Spirit of the Lord” like the prophets of old. They longed for this “shoot” to judge the poor righteously like Isaiah had promised, to strike the earth (or perhaps more particularly the Gentiles) with “the rod of his mouth.” When this happened, Isaiah told them, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. . . . They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (see Isaiah 11). The old hostilities would cease. There would be peace between human beings and among the animals. All creation would be redeemed. That is what they longed for during the long dreary years of exile. That is what they continued to long for.

It can still stir our hearts, can’t it? It can still move us to tears and hope. This was their hope, their longing: a reunified people under an ideal king in a peaceful land. This, I believe, is what they heard when Jesus came preaching, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” They heard him to say the exile was about to end; the peaceable kingdom was about to begin. The fierce hope of Israel was about to be realiz...

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