Come to Me – Day 15
In 1741, an Englishman, Charles Jennens compiled an impressive list of scriptures telling the true story of the Christ child. To shape his story, Jennens selected 73 verses spanning both the Old and New Testaments. Twenty-two of those verses came from the book of Isaiah. Jennens then sent this collection of scriptures to his good friend, George Fredric Handel.
In an age when illiteracy was widespread and written copies of the Bible were expensive and rare, Handel became excited about Jennens’ list. Handel pioneered the “oratorio”, a musical composition designed to teach the scriptures by setting them to music. He understood how important such a composition about the life of Jesus might be, and he set to work on it right away. In just 24 days, he composed one of the most beloved and most revered oratorios in musical history. You might have heard it: Handel’s Messiah.
The book of Isaiah features prominently in Handel’s Messiah. Specifically, one chapter crops up again and again – Isaiah 53. Yet, Isaiah 53 is iconic for weightier reasons than Handel’s exalted music. Isaiah 53 is iconic because it foretells the suffering and death of the Messiah, God’s anointed servant.
Christ’s suffering and death on the cross is the crux of the gospel. It was our sins that caused Jesus to suffer and die, and through his suffering and death, we are healed. Because Jesus was willing to suffer and die for us, we have the forgiveness of sins. Because Jesus suffered and died for us, we are at peace with God. Because Jesus suffered and died, we have life, eternal life. For through his suffering and death, Jesus has reconciled us to God.
The story goes that after the first performance of Messiah, an enthusiastic member of the audience congratulated Handel for producing such a wonderful piece of “entertainment”. “Entertainment!” Handel replied, “My purpose was not to entertain, but to teach them something.”