By Amber Noel
A Reading from Isaiah 63:1-5
“Who is this that comes from Edom,
from Bozrah in garments stained crimson?
Who is this so splendidly robed,
marching in his great might?”
“It is I, announcing vindication,
mighty to save.”
2 “Why are your robes red,
and your garments like theirs who tread the wine press?”
3 “I have trodden the wine press alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their juice spattered on my garments,
and stained all my robes.
4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and the year for my redeeming work had come.
5 I looked, but there was no helper;
I stared, but there was no one to sustain me;
so my own arm brought me victory,
and my wrath sustained me.”
Here, a victorious warrior-king approaches, clothes stained with so much blood it looks like he’s been knee-high in a grape vat. He has trampled his enemies among “the peoples.” This bold figure, startling as it is, can be seen as Christ, whose salvation of the nations and authority over them are two sides of the same coin. So let us ask the question: what are we to make of this? Is Jesus a violent Lord?
First, we hear he has “trodden the winepress alone.” Only the perfect Son of the Father, full of grace and truth, can release particular (and particularly severe, as we see in today’s reading from Revelation) kinds of judgment in the earth. Only goodness and holiness can cleanse all that is not good or holy; and, in the end, it will. His judgment is a “redeeming work,” a rescue mission, even when it is drawn in the large and startling figures of allowing us to receive the wages of our sin.
We know there is also another sense in which he has trodden the winepress alone — the largest and most startling figure of all. The wine of God’s wrath is also an image of his own shed blood, his fearful mercy that covers sin. No wonder Paul warns about drinking of the cup unworthily.
But here’s one more thing: in Revelation 2:26, Jesus tells his Church that he will share his “authority over the nations” with “those who conquer.” Christians (like other people) have typically wanted to conquer, to gain authority their own way. But we will know Christ’s conquering, his authority, by its fruit. His warriors have emptied themselves — tread the winepresses of their own hearts — and conformed their lives to his. Like Christ they have died, and been made alive by God’s good Spirit. And so approaching the work of justice, they are as filled with grace and truth as they are with boldness.
Amber Noel, M.Div., is Associate Editor at the Living Church and Associate Director of The Living Church Institute. Off the clock, she is the author of short fiction, book and culture reviews, and work for the stage.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Adelaide (Australia)
St. Joseph of Arimathea, Hendersonville, Tenn.