Isaiah 61:1-3, 10&11
Text: The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim 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 and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
Many times, Christmas seems to be caught up in commercialism. The stores put their decorations up earlier and earlier every year. People get wrapped up in getting presents for others, as they try to brave the crowds that fill the stores as Christmas approaches. Everywhere bright lights twinkle and Christmas carols fill the airwaves. Yet, in the midst of all of the celebration of Christmas, it seems that people seem to miss the true meaning of Christmas. They lose sight of the central figure of Christmas, that being Jesus. Christians have sought to reclaim the true meanings of Christmas by coming out with clever slogans. For example, perhaps you have heard this slogan: “Wise men still seek him.” Another is “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas.” This morning we will use another slogan as the theme for our sermon: CHRIST IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. 1. He Was Anointed To Do Certain Tasks. 2. We Praise Him For What He Has Done.
Who is speaking the words of our text? Perhaps we should start there. Is it Isaiah? While it is possible, it is unlikely. He did not do all of these things. For the answer to this question, we turn to Luke 4:16-21: “[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” Jesus tells us very plainly that these words were written about him. Isaiah was looking to the future and seeing what the promised Messiah would do. Let us look at what the tasks of the Messiah would do.
First of all, he says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me.” (Verse 1) When a person was anointed in the Old Testament, it meant that he was set apart for a special task. David was anointed to be king by the prophet Samuel. Aaron was anointed to be the first high priest. When these people were anointed, some oil would be poured upon their heads. They were set apart to do a specific duty. The speaker of our text was anointed. As a matter of fact, the word “Messiah” means “The Anointed One.” The Messiah was not anointed with oil, but by the “Spirit of the Sovereign LORD.” Remember when Jesus was baptized. As Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. There Jesus also showed himself to be the fulfillment of this prophecy by Isaiah.
What was the anointed one to do? Our text tells us, “The LORD has anointed me to proclaim 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.” (Verse 1) All of these tasks are couched in terms relating to the exile that Israel was facing. Yet, this prophecy goes far beyond the return of the exiled people from Babylon. Although its words are in exilic terms, they point to the work of the Messiah.
All of these tasks speak of some sort of help to those who are in need. He will bind up the broken hearted, that is to say, the Messiah will comfort those who are repentant for the many sins that they have committed. He proclaims freedom for the captive and release for the prisoner. This is not pointing to some sort of political freedom, although there are many people who would say so. They say that this portion of Scripture points to the fact that we are to help all those who are under any sort of political oppression. This is not the case at all. He proclaims freedom and release from the captors of sin, death, and the devil. All of these held us in their power, and we were unable to get out of their grasp. Jesus comes to us and tells us that we have been freed from these captors. We are no longer under their control.
This Anointed One will also proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor. This refers to the Old Testament festival called “The year of Jubilee.” This occurred every fifty years. This year was of special significance to the people of Israel. During this year, there was to be no planting, and the people of Israel were to trust in the Lord to provide for them. All land that was sold prior to this year was returned to the original owner. All debts were canceled. All slaves were set free. What a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us. We have been set free from the slavery of sin, death, and the devil. Our debt of sin has been canceled. Our slate has been wiped clean in God’s sight. Because of God’s love for us, we know that we can rely on him to take care of us. Jesus proclaims a Year of Jubilee that lasts forever.
How did Jesus accomplish all of these tasks? He did so by his perfect life here on this earth. He did so by taking the sins of the world upon himself and sacrificing his life for us. He showed that what he had done was acceptable in God’s sight when he was raised from the dead. Now he reigns in heaven making all things work out for our benefit. He has truly accomplished the tasks to which he was anointed. We praise him as we remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.
What shall our response be to Jesus’ accomplishment of his tasks be? We turn to verse 10 of our text, “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” We rejoice in what Jesus has done for us. We sing his praises.
Again, we are reminded of our reason for our great joy. He has given us garments of salvation and robes of righteousness. You and I had only filthy rags covering our bodies. Those filthy rags were all of the sins that we have committed. Surely we could not have appeared before God in these garments of sin and self-righteousness. We would have been thrown out of God’s sight forever. But, Jesus, through his suffering, death, and resurrection, has won garments of salvation that we put over our filthy rags. Now when we appear before God, he does not see our sinfulness. He sees Jesus’ holiness that has been given to us. Because of this robe of righteousness, we are welcomed into God’s sight. We say with the hymnist, “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness, My beauty are, my glorious dress.” Only because of the garment of salvation won for us by Jesus are we saved.
Because of these most precious garments given to us, what can our response be, except, “Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to come to this earth to be my Savior from sin.” How can we express this thankfulness? God presents us with many opportunities to produce fruits of our faith. We do good works when we do things that are pleasing to God. We have been freed from the demands of the Law, but now we use God’s Law as a guide to show us what is God pleasing and what is not. Let each of us strive to live in a manner that is a thankful response to what he has given us. We rejoice because of what Jesus has accomplished. May we renew our efforts day by day to do so.
This time of year many celebrations will be going on because it is Christmas time. So many of them have lost the true meaning of Christmas. May the same not be said of us. May each of us reflect on what Jesus was sent on earth to do, and let us rejoice. May each of us today and every day remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.
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