Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
I Will Put My Spirit on Him - January 8, 2017 - Baptism of our Lord, 1st Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 42:1-9
Here it is the second Sunday of the New Year and our calendar is beginning to fill up, even our church calendar is beginning to fill up. Today is the first Sunday after the Epiphany of our Lord, which we celebrated last Friday. Friday we were again reminded that Epiphany is the time we celebrate the visit of the wise men, or the Magi to Jesus. The word “epiphany” literally means appearance, or to give light and is celebrated because this was the first appearance of our divine God in human flesh to someone other than an Israelite. This was the first appearance of our God to Gentiles. To us as Gentile Christians that means that this is God’s sign that we Gentiles have also been included as a part of His kingdom. Jesus was born as the Savior for all people, the Light of the world. Today we recognize as the second Sunday of the New Year, and the first Sunday after Epiphany. You may also have noticed that the reading from the Gospel is the account of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist some 28 years later. So, again, this morning is the first Sunday after the Epiphany, it is the second Sunday of the New Year and it is also the Baptism of our Lord Sunday.
Before we get into our text let me make a comment about all our lessons. The Gospel lesson is the account of Jesus’ baptism. The Epistle reading from Romans is Paul’s words of encouragement that because we are united with Christ in His death, through our own baptism, so we are also united with Him in His resurrection. The Old Testament reading is God’s plan prophesied way back in time and is what we read as being fulfilled in the Gospel and Epistle lessons.
So, getting to our text we begin at the first verse. We read, “1Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations’ (v. 1). There are two key words in this verse. The first is the word “servant.” This is not just an ordinary servant, one who serves coffee, tea, or biscuits. The servant that is talked about here is a suffering servant. The servant talked about here is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, was born as true man. In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells us about this servant when he says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).” Jesus Christ is true God and with that comes all glory, but He gave all that up and became a servant in order to save us. In the same way, Paul tells us that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s, that of a servant seeking to help others, seeking what is best for others rather than being self-seeking, looking out for number one.
The second key word in this verse is the word “justice.” Our God is a just God, a fair God. He demands that we keep His commandments, that we live perfect lives, that we make satisfaction for our sins. The problem is that we cannot do this, be perfect. We cannot keep His commandments, we cannot live perfect lives, we cannot make satisfaction for our sins. The good news is that His servant, Jesus Christ our Savior has brought us justice through His death and resurrection.
Moving to verse two we read, “2He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street” (v. 2). This is a reiteration, or an expansion, of the role of the servanthood of Christ. He humbled Himself. Isaiah expresses this later when he writes, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus humbly gave Himself over to death in our place.
Continuing on in verse three we read, “3a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (v. 3). The bruised reed and the smoldering wick are images of delicate things which require gentleness. Thus, we see this servant coming in gentleness. For those who are struggling in their faith, those who are unsure and are barely hanging on He comes in gentleness, nurturing and strengthening the faith that is there.
Isaiah continues, “He will faithfully bring forth justice.” This is not our faithfulness, but the Lord’s faithfulness. We are unfaithful people. Sure, we come to church on Sunday, at least once in a while, maybe we even attend a Bible class, at least once in a while, but when we leave the church grounds, when we get out of the parking lot we have a tendency to go right back to our daily grind. How often it is that when making a decision, we forget to take it to the Lord in prayer. How often it is that in a moment of anger we misuse the Lord’s name. How often it is that we murder our neighbor, not actually killing them, but hating them and killing them in our mind, or simply not helping them. How often it is that we lust after another person, or covet someone’s possession, devising ways to get this, that, or the other thing. How often it is that we defame someone, running them down rather than putting the best construction on everything and building them up. And the list goes on. We are not faithful, but our Lord is faithful. In His faithfulness He has remembered and continues to remember His promises and He keeps them. In faithfulness, in His faithfulness He brings forth justice.
Continuing with verse four we read, “4He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law” (v. 4). Our Lord will not be discouraged. Sure, He has a lot about which to be discouraged, but He is not discouraged. This is what makes it seem like our Lord is a long time in His returning to take us to heaven. Our Lord is a patient, loving God who wants everyone to be saved. In that desire He is giving all people every opportunity to hear His Word and to come to faith. Our Lord is not discouraged, but is patiently waiting, allowing sufficient time for all people to hear His Word and put their hope in Him.
Picking up at verse five we read, “5Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6‘I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness’” (v. 5-7). Who created the heavens and spread out the earth? It is the Lord God, the Lord Almighty who created the heavens and the earth. He said, “let there be,” and it was.
Who gives breath to its people, life to those who walk on the earth? He says, “I am the Lord,” the one who called you in righteousness. “I am the Lord,” the one who has given you life at your birth, physical life, but not only physical life, also new life, spiritual life through our baptism. It is the Lord who makes us righteous. It is the Lord who brings us back into a right relationship with Himself.
Our Lord says, “I will take you by the hand and keep you. I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.” Our Lord is speaking specifically to the Israelites. He says that He will work the salvation of the world through them. The problem was that they were sinners. This does not give us any reason to look down on them as if we are any better than they are, rather it makes us even more responsible because now the Lord has made us to be His witnesses and we too are sinners. The Lord’s solution, which ties this back to our first verse, is that He sent His servant, to be the embodiment of Israel. In other words, the Lord made His covenant with the children of Israel, that He would save the world through them. They were to keep His commandments and live according to His laws. Because they were unable to do these things He sent Jesus to be Israel. Jesus fulfilled all the Lord’s commandments and lived according to all His laws. Jesus did what all of Israel and for that matter, what we, all of us and all people cannot do, He lived perfectly. He fulfilled all the Lord’s commands perfectly, in our place. He obeyed His parents perfectly for us. He worshiped only the Lord and never misused His name for us. He obeyed all the Lord’s commandments and laws perfectly for us, in our place, as our substitute.
Jesus is the one who opened the eyes of the blind. He freed the captives. His healing, casting out demons, and miracles were all signs that He was who He said He was, God’s own Son, born in human flesh. Thanks be to God for this prophecy and for its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Our text concludes, “8I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. 9Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (v. 8, 9). It is the Lord who does and gives and we are done to and given to. This is indeed good news. We touched on this point a little, earlier when we made note that the Lord had intended to save the world through His covenant people, Israel. We made note that although they failed, the Lord worked salvation through His people who were embodied in Jesus Christ. Today we are included as a part of God’s people through faith in Jesus Christ. Again, our Lord intends to get the good news out to the world through His people, through us. So how are we doing?
It is exciting to see new Christians, how excited they are about their new found faith, they cannot help it, they have to go out and tell everyone the good news they have heard. How about us “old” Christians, does our faith still excite us? Or are we more afraid of saying the wrong thing or being made fun of or the like? Or is our excitement still the desire to share the good news of Jesus with others so they too might have a part in His kingdom?
We may not always know what to say to someone, or how to tell them the good news, but let me assure you, we are all personal witness of the good news, whether we say something or not. We are witnesses in word and in deed. We do not have to say anything to bear witness of the good news. Simply because we wear the name “Christian” we show through our actions what that means to us. The good news about this is that no matter how bad a witness we might think we are, God can and does use our witness for good. With that in mind, I would encourage you, do not be afraid to talk to your neighbor. You do not have to talk about religion. You might simply want to invite them to come to church or to any church sponsored activity. If you know of someone you think would be receptive to hearing the Gospel, if nothing else, tell me and if they are interested, I will be happy to speak to them.
As we are now in the countdown to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, as Lutheran Christians we have the purity of the Gospel, the right understanding of Justification, why would we want to keep that to ourselves. As we hear our family and friends speak a confusion of Law and Gospel and seek to be saved by pointing to themselves, how can we not point them to Jesus who is the One who saves us. Just as our text points us to Jesus, so we point others to Jesus as we have been pointed to Jesus. And the joy is, that Jesus will do His work, when and where He pleases. And we are left to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.