When a text is from the Old Testament it’s often very difficult to get a handle on its link to the New Testament and the Gospel. In such situations, perhaps the best way to have the text speak a gospel message to the hearers is to look for some identifications; to see if we can identify with any of the people in the Old Testament text before us.
With whom might we identify? The females in this audience might identify quite easily with Esther. She was all that a beauty commercial model could be. In this book that bears her name we read that the king’s servants were to give her all of the finest cosmetics — the Estee Lauder and Clinique of her day — until she was even more beautiful. It would be rather a pleasant fantasy experience to identify with Esther.
Males perhaps would identify with King Xerxes. He seems to have had no financial problems. He had complete control over all his world at that time. He could say yea or nay to whatever he wished, he didn’t have to wait in lines, and he enjoyed himself completely. He exercised quite a bit of macho power.
It might be easy for all of us to identify with Mordecai. Now there’s someone we can identify with! Poor Mordecai was trying to do what was right. He was trying to honor God by not bowing to Haman, who had made the rule that every time he passed the people should bow and worship him.
Because of his resistance Haman had obtained a decree from the king that not only Mordecai but all of the Jewish people should be killed. Such tremendous injustice!
With that we can identify easily. How we suffer! What pain comes to us daily regardless of our station in life. Life is not always a happy experience. It’s easy to identify with the poor suffering Mordecai.
There’s one more important person in the story and his name is Haman. Is it easy also to identify with Haman? Perhaps not so easy because our innermost “good-guy” ego feelings say “no.” Better to identify with beauty; better to identify with power; better to identify with injustice than to identify with arrogant, sinful pride. We don’t identify with a person who sought to murder thousands of people because of his personal hate of another man and his religion.
Why? What was the root of his pride? Was it not that he thought more highly of himself than he ought to have thought?
So often that’s what happens to us also. Then what do we do? We fall into the Haman trap: pushing ourselves up by pushing others down. It happens just a little bit at a time but it happens, until one day we find ourselves exhibiting what is perhaps the most ugly of all sinful pride, religious pride.
We need a key to unlock that Good News lying hidden in this story from the book of Esther. It comes in a play on some words in the text and context: “What should be done for the man whom the king wishes to honour?”
Look first to the gallows that Haman had built. It was called a “tree” and it was about 80 feet high. Haman wanted Mordecai up there very high, so everyone could see Mordecai hanging on the “tree.” There is the key to why and how the King honors us!
The New Testament proclaims that the King is He who was honored by the Father by hanging on a tree. The Gospel irony is that He is the One who also wishes to honor us. It is King Jesus who puts on us the robes that are so beautiful! It doesn’t end there. There is another joyous picture which we see that has a link to our story as we leap into the book of Revelation, the words of the text still ringing in our ears: “What should be done for the man whom the king wishes to honour?”
He shall have the royal robe. Who are they who come? They are the ones whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb and on whose heads sit the crown of life. “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life.”
The Gospel offers us forgiveness for our sinful pride. It’s not what we do, it’s what God has done for us that changes our lives. That makes us people who repent of our sinful pride by the power of the Holy Spirit, who walk humbly among others, and who cling to the tree on which hung Him who had no robe that day so that we might have a robe of purity and life.