Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the afflicted. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release for those who are bound, 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a faint spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord to display his beauty.Isaiah 61:1-3
George and Harriot have been married for 75 years. You can well imagine what their relationship was like. They finished each other’s sentences. They told the same stories. If George’s memory went blank, he would simply turn toward Harriot and say, “Who was that person?” and she would fill in the blanks. Harriot could tell you about every bump, bruise and broken bone in George’s history. He could tell you the before and after of any of Harriot’s surgeries. They enjoyed 75 years of marriage together since they knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, tastes and talents, wants and worries, hopes and fears. Of course none of this happened over night. It took years of communication and opening up to each other. Over the years they learned so much about each other and experienced life together.
By comparison….how long does it take to know Jesus? How long does it take for the sheep to know their Shepherd and follow him “Because they know his voice” (John 10:4). Thankfully, you don’t have to wait 75 years to know Jesus. Jesus introduced himself to you at your baptism. Then God used the village of people in your life so that you could know Jesus well by hearing his Word. That’s what Paul was talking about when he told Timothy,…. “that from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). We sit here today rejoicing that we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. But, at the same time, our need to get to know him better continues. There’s a constant need for the sheep not just to hear, but also to recognize better and better the voice of their Shepherd.
Today, Jesus shows himself to be the promised Messiah as he stands in the Jordan River with John and Baptist and receives his baptism of initiation. We hear the Father in heaven declare, “This is my Son whom I love!” Then the Holy Spirit descends as a dove and give us the sign, “This is the Anointed One!” The stage is all set for us to rejoice that Jesus is our Savior. It is time for us to:
Know Jesus—THE PREACHER
Thank Jesus for His Words of Freedom
The events that take place at Jesus’ baptism fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had declared 700 years earlier, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news….” Isaiah offers this quick introduction to Jesus so you can know exactly who he is—both his person and his purpose! Listen to Isaiah and look at what was recorded in the gospel witness accounts. First—This Jesus who stands in the Jordan is not just flesh and blood like you and I have. The “Spirit of the Sovereign Lord” is on him and “in him dwells all the fullness of God in the flesh!” Jesus is the promised Messiah promised by the Lord God who will “do great things in the fullness and power of the Spirit” that no other person—no other flesh and blood has done or can do. Second—The Lord has “anointed him” that is chosen him and sent him to be the fulfillment of his promise since The Fall into sin. The work he does is the work our gracious God started in the Garden of Eden, proclaimed and outlined through the Old Testament Prophets, and now is being carried out by Jesus. This is a divine mission Jesus fulfills. You know Jesus because you have been introduced to him through the pages of Scripture. You know his saving work—a work that pales to any job description, any task, any role or duty in this world. Indeed, Jesus’ work is “out of this world!” It is God’s work to save humanity for eternity.
Now, are you ready to learn more about this work? Are your ears open and your eyes of faith focused clearly on what Isaiah has to tell us today? Listen to these prophetic words and think about the work of Jesus. “the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the afflicted. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release for those who are bound….” Rejoice that you know Jesus and can recall the events of his life as you hear these prophecies. This was the task of Jesus: he’s a preacher! No, let me say this better: He’s THE preacher! He came and proclaimed forgiveness of sins for the world. He called people to trust in his gracious gift—that we are set free from the curse of sin, the power of the devil and the penalty of hell. Jesus was such a powerful preacher that his message continues today through the preaching of his Word and proper administration of the sacraments. Yes, Jesus’ preaching sets you free!
Now, before we go on, we must pause to realize what we just heard. The words, “Jesus sets us free” assumes we were once captive. Isaiah called us the “brokenhearted,” because we are living in a broken world. This condition can be easily seen in a conversation that Jesus had with some Jews who once believed in Jesus, but lost their faith and fell once again into the broken-hearted captivity of their own pride and self-righteous attitudes. This account comes from John 8:31-33: “31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples. 32 You will also know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 “We are Abraham’s descendants,” they answered, “and we have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” Don’t you wish you could have been there to answer their question, too? But, even Jesus’ answer was like throwing pearls before the pigs because his wonderful message of freedom was falling on deaf ears clogged with self-righteous pride. To clean out their spiritual ears and prepare their hearts for the proclamation of the Gospel, Jesus held up the mirror of God’s law so they could see they were rebelling against God’s holy will and deserved only his punishment. Jesus said, “Anyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Like a couple married for 75 years, God knew his people for thousands of years including their doubt, rebellion, fear, and unbelief and it broke his heart. And he knows us, too…..
While we love to hear Jesus the preacher proclaim his glorious forgiveness to us, we also need to remember the perfection still demanded by our God. For you see, first, if we don’t detect the sin that breaks our lives then we’re not going to think we’re captive to it. Secondly, if we don’t recognize our sin and how it destroys our relationship with God, then we will not hate sin as God hates sin. We can so easily stay so busy flattering ourselves that our hearts don’t condemn us. Sometimes it sounds like this: “Hey Jesus, thanks for that great sermon on forgiveness you preached to everyone today, but sin really isn’t on my radar right now. Do you have something else for me, you know, something practical that I can apply to my daily life?” Let’s be clear. The more we don’t recognize our own sin, the more we won’t appreciate Jesus the Preacher’s Good News. But, the more we know God’s will, understand his demands, realize our broken condition apart from Jesus, the more we will grow, praise and worship and thank Jesus when we hear his gospel Words that have set us free. Then we will be all the more eager to Listen to Jesus—THE PREACHER and
Thank Jesus for Lifting the Burden
Isaiah served God’s people a long time as their prophet. Like a couple married a long time, he had seen and learned much about God’s Chosen People and the burdens they were carrying. Just like a Christian spouse is called to observe and lovingly correct bad behavior, so God sent his prophet to proclaim the clear message of the Lord. “3to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a faint spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord to display his beauty.” We know the bitterness and burden that came to God’s people during the Babylonian Captivity. In the wake of Jerusalem falling we can easily imagine the crying and weeping, mourning, and faint hearts. Surely they mourned over the loss of their homeland, or a family member who died by the sword, or the ropes of slavery that rubbed their wrists red, or that everything had gone so wrong! But, there was a worse pain. That was the guilt fired up in their hearts that caused the heavy burden of regret and remorse of sin against their God.
The application of Isaiah’s words come all to easily for us. There are thousands of sad consequences in our lives that have come as a result of sin. We might mention a few: Think of the damage of divorce or hatred or lying? You can tell the stories of drug and alcohol abuse. Think of the shame and destroyed reputations caused by a lose tongue of gossip. Recall the sadness and physical pain, the tears and the crying because evil got out of his cage and haunted your family. These are the burdens we carry. The worry of family, job situations, health and all that drags us down. God’s law then drags us into God’s courtroom where Satan is shouting his threats against sin exposed. The burden is great, and I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but because I know myself I know the burden of our hearts won’t go quietly or let you forget.
That’s when we want to run. So, come on and run with me. Let’s run to a synagogue at Nazareth and look into the window. Look! There is Jesus unrolling the scroll of Isaiah the prophet. Can you hear what he just said? “Today this Word is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Would you like to hear the Words Jesus read right before he said this? Listen: “18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus read Isaiah 61! Do you hear the sermon Jesus is preaching? It’s relief for those who are poor in spirit due to their sins. It’s freedom for those who were once captive by their sins. It’s sight to see Jesus as Savior for those once blinded by unbelief. It’s the promise of life in heaven free from the burdens of living in this broken world. It’s the Good News from Jesus THE PREACHER who knows you so well.
You may not live long enough to enjoy your 75th wedding anniversary, but you’ve probably lived long enough to know plenty of people that you could finish their sentences, know all about their bumps and bruises, broken bones and surgeries, strengths and weaknesses. But, we’ll never know anyone as well as God knows us. The gracious Lord knows us perfectly and so loves us that he proclaims the truth of his Word to us all through Jesus—The Preacher! Having heard his Word, you—his sheep, rejoice at hearing his voice. Then grace upon grace, the Lord then uses us to proclaim his love and forgiveness to others. Let us be eager to encourage each other with this Good News. To rejoice in Jesus—The Preacher with his Words of Freedom that lifts the burden of sin and grants us life with him forever. Amen!