************ Sermon on Isaiah 61:1-3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 22, 2015
"The Anointed Servant"
Isaiah 61 is another of the Servant passages. So far in this season of Lent we have looked at the Compassionate Servant of Isaiah 42, the Discouraged Servant of Isaiah 49, the Obedient Servant of Isaiah 50. Good Friday we will look at the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Today we look at the Anointed Servant of Isaiah 61.
I The Servant's Anointing
A Our passage begins with one of the clearest Old Testament expressions of the Trinity: "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me ..." (Is 61:1). We see the Sovereign Lord -- the Creating Father Who demands our obedience, the first person of the triune Godhead. We see the Spirit -- the Sanctifier, the third person of the triune Godhead. "Me" can only refer to Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior, the second person of the triune Godhead.
This is affirmed by Jesus Himself in Luke 4. Do you remember what Jesus said at the beginning of His ministry in Nazareth? He said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me ..." (Lk 4:18). He is reading from Isaiah 61. Remember what Jesus said next? "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21). Jesus declares Himself to be the Anointed Servant of Isaiah 61. He is declaring Himself to be the Messiah. He is declaring Himself to be part of the triune Godhead.
B "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me ..." (Is 61:1).
The Servant stresses that He has been anointed. This is highly significant because the Hebrew word for "anointed" is "Messiah" and in the Greek the word is "Christ." So right away in His ministry, by talking about the fulfilment of Isaiah 61, Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed Servant.
The word "messiah" was used in the Old Testament for any person who was set apart by anointing with oil to serve as prophet, priest, or king.
The Jews understood from Scripture that someday there would come the Messiah; not just one more messiah among many, but the Messiah Who would be the ultimate prophet, priest, and king. He would be anointed not with oil but with the Spirit. In reading Isaiah 61, Jesus declares Himself to be this Messiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me ..." (Lk 4:18).
None of this is new to those who know the Heidelberg Catechism and recognize the teaching of Q & A 31 here:
Q & A 31Based upon the Bible, the Catechism declares Jesus to be the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. Therefore, it declares He has been anointed with the Spirit to be our prophet, priest, and king.
Why is he called "Christ," meaning "anointed"?
Because he has been ordained by God the Father
and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit
our chief prophet and teacher ...
our only high priest ...
and our eternal king ...
C We all know when Jesus was anointed. It happened at His baptism. As Jesus was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Lk 3:21-22).
We also know that Christ's baptism was not the first time Jesus received the Spirit. Remember what the angel said to Mary about Jesus' conception and birth?
(Lk 1:35) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.He was conceived by the Spirit. And, even as a boy He must have been filled with the Spirit because Scripture says He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him (Lk 2:40,52).
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me ..." (Is 61:1). We begin this morning with the confession that Jesus is the Anointed Servant. He is the Messiah. He is the Christ.
II The Servant's Mission - Part 1
A Being Spirit-filled and Spirit-anointed the Servant has a mission to perform. Listen now to the first part of the Servant's mission:
(Isa 61:1-2) The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (2) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor ...There is more to the Servant's mission but I stop here because this is where Jesus stops when He reads Isaiah 61 to the people in His hometown of Nazareth. Jesus actually stops in the middle of a sentence. Why?
We know the rest of the Isaiah 61 Servant passage applies to Jesus too. The Servant's next words about God's vengeance and comfort also find fulfilment in the ministry of Christ. So, Jesus did not stop His reading because the words of the Servant no longer applied to Him. So, why did Jesus stop where He did?
When Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and stopped in the middle of the sentence, He was showing that His work would be divided into two stages. In the first stage He did the things mentioned in verses 1 & 2a. In the second stage He did the things mentioned in verses 2b & 3.
Right now Jesus is in the first stage of the Servant's work. Right now it is the mission of Jesus, as the Anointed Servant, to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
B What is this last part: "the year of the Lord's favor" (Is 61:2; Lk 4:19). Isaiah -- and Jesus -- are talking about the "Year of Jubilee" described in Leviticus 25. Every seven years, the Jews were supposed to observe a "sabbatical year" and allow the land to rest; in that year there was to be no sowing or reaping; everyone was free to go through the fields, groves, and vineyards of Israel and live off the fruit of the land. After seven sabbaticals, or forty-nine years, the people were to celebrate the fiftieth year as the "Year of Jubilee." During that year, all debts were canceled, all land was returned to the original owners, slaves were freed, and everyone was given a fresh new beginning.
If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you are living today in a spiritual "Year of Jubilee." That is, you have been set free from your bondage to sin and Satan. Your spiritual debt to the Lord has been paid in full. As someone born-again by the Spirit of Christ you are given a fresh new beginning.
So let me ask, do you believe in Jesus? Only those who believe in Jesus experience Jubilee. Only those who believe in Jesus are free from the bondage of sin and Satan. Only those who believe in Jesus have their spiritual debt paid in full. Only those who believe in Jesus are born-again.
I invite you, congregation, to come to Jesus -- the Anointed Servant of the Lord -- and experience Jubilee. Come to Jesus and experience salvation from sin and healing of the soul.
III The Servant's Mission - Part 2
A The Anointed Servant, the Messiah, also has a second mission. He will come again to proclaim "the day of vengeance of our God, and to comfort all who mourn" (Is 61:2). The Apostles' Creed puts it this way: He comes again "to judge the living and the dead."
The Messiah, the Anointed Servant, is coming a second time. The first time He came as Savior. The second time He comes as Judge.
The story is told of a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon.
The child who was saved grew up to become a wicked man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before, had saved his life; so he begged for mercy. "You saved me once," he said. "Can't you save me again?" But the judge said, "Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged."
Congregation, right now, today, Jesus is Savior. But when you die and when He comes again He is Judge. So, right now, today, is the day of salvation. So, right now, today, is the day you need to believe in the Lord. So, right now, today, you need to give your heart to Jesus. Because tomorrow may be too late. Tomorrow you may die. Or, tomorrow Jesus may return.
B Jesus has already come as Savior. Someday He is going to return as Judge. On that day you will either experience vengeance or comfort. So let me ask, will you be given a crown of beauty or a crown of ashes? Will you be covered with the oil of gladness or the oil of mourning? Will you be wearing a garment of praise or a spirit of despair? Will you be called an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor (cf Is 61:3)? It all depends on your relationship with Jesus. It all depends on whether or not you are right with God.
C There are those who believe death is the end. There are those who believe in soul sleep. There are those who believe death results in the annihilation of the soul. There are those who believe everyone is saved in Christ just like all are lost in Adam. But that is not what the Bible teaches.
When you die and when Jesus returns, you either experience comfort or vengeance.
I want you to be scared, congregation. I want you to be scared of the prospect of God's vengeance. Those who don't believe in Jesus are walking on a slippery slope: the only thing that keeps them out of hell at this very moment is the patience of God.
We cannot know exactly what hell looks like. Two common descriptions we find in the Bible are fire and darkness. The "fire" is a picture of the wrath of God that is experienced by unbelievers in hell. "Outer darkness" pictures the alienation from God's love, mercy, and grace. Hell is a terrible, terrifying place. The most terrifying aspect of hell is its duration. The suffering is eternal. It has no end. For us, here and now, the concept of hell should drive us to the cross of Christ. It is only by repentance and faith in Christ that we can be saved from the wrath to come.
Hell is a place of unending suffering and torment from which there is no escape. Therefore, now is the day of salvation. Now is the day for all to repent and believe the gospel. Now is the day for us to proclaim the good news that Christ has come to save sinners who trust in Him for forgiveness. Those who look to Christ now will be saved from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me ..." (Is 61:1). "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).
Do you remember the response? Some praised Jesus and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips (Lk 4:14,22). The people of Jesus' hometown, however, were furious -- furious enough to form a lynch mob in order to throw Him to His death from a cliff.
It is always this twofold response, even today. It should not surprise us that some believe this message and are comforted and forgiven and set free. Others, however, refuse to believe and their hearts are hardened.
In which group are you?
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