A sermon on Isaiah 61:1-6 for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, January 24/27, 2019.
Ed had been here before. It seemed like the new normal for his life. Ed would look across the desk. A doctor sat opposite him going over the file before them. For a moment the silence was deafening. Ed and his wife exchanged a nervous glance with each other. Their hands came together on the armrest of the chair. The doctor finally put the file down. In previous visits to various other doctors this was when they delivered the bad news. So many times Ed had left doctor’s offices without any answers only to deal with the recurring pain. This time though the doctor’s look differed from others. The couple, not wanting to get their hopes up, braced for more bad news.
This time was different. The doctor offered hope. A new treatment recently came out with some success. Ed would be the perfect candidate to receive this treatment. Their hearts started to revive. A twinkle came back to the couple’s eyes. For the first time in years they had hope. They had a plan. They could, perhaps, lead a normal life free from the daily strangle hold of pain. The doctor brought a message of good news. The doctor showed a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
The Messenger Brings Hope
- To revive the sinner
- To revive the soul
The nation of Judah dreamed of better days. The temple demolished. Their homes destroyed. Life changed forever from what they knew. They lived in Babylon. Their enemies brought them to this land to live as captives. These captives needed a sliver of hope. They needed something to pull them from the dark hole in which they lived. Isaiah’s prophecy provided hope. The Jews could lift their heads with eager anticipation.
The words from the anointed messenger painted a picture of freedom, rescue, and release. Hope flooded over the Jews sitting in Babylon. Not to be lost in all of this was something much greater. Isaiah’s prophecy pointed to someone much greater, who would bring the best news ever. Who was this person? So many worthy candidates rose up. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist all deserved consideration for this anointed position.
A congregation in Nazareth saw this messenger. He had grown up in this area. His parents brought him to this place many times as a child. Now, he came back to visit his hometown. The people wanted him to read from the Old Testament. He unrolled the scroll, which was from the very chapter of Isaiah before us today. After he read it, he proclaimed that those words had been fulfilled in their sight. These words pointed ahead to Jesus and the message he would bring for the world.
God’s message was not meant for the pious and godly. They would not need to hear the words of hope and freedom. Instead, “The 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” (Isaiah 61:1). Those who have no hope would benefit from the Savior’s words. Those who have their life all in pieces would be able to put their life back together with the words of this messenger.
These words come to people like you and me. We experience much hurt from our own doing in life. Selfishness pushes others out of our life. A short fuse with our anger will cause little things to escalate into big things. We hurt others with words. Others cause us pain and hurt as well. A broken home brings on feelings of guilt and shame. Friends tear us down. We struggle to fit in a world that only seeks to push us out.
For all those afflicted with troubles good news comes! The messenger brings hope. The news comes in three waves, news of binding, freedom, and release. Our hearts lie broken before God. Our Lord sees the sins infecting our life. Jesus comes to bind up our hearts. Our heart becomes whole again. Jesus frees us from all infection with his blood shed for us.
We are also free in our life. Whenever the Bible talks about freedom for the sinner, we might have a hard time understanding that. We live in a nation where we have freedoms. Most of us could probably not imagine what being a captive would be like. We cannot know the thoughts of the Jews sitting in Babylon.
We do live in the prison of sin. Sin keeps us captive from God. A sinner cannot stand in the presence of a holy God. Our hands are bound in chains leading us straight to hell. Then our heads lift up. We look behind us. The Lord’s anointed servant comes. He proclaims freedom. He releases our hands bound in the chains of sin. He suffered and died for us so that we might be free.
This good news gives new hope to the sinner. Our hearts jump for joy. The joyous message of hope rings out for all people to hear. No longer do our sins hold power over us. The guilt and shame of sin have been canceled by the innocent suffering and death of our Lord and Savior. It does not matter what we have done in the past. The only thing that does matter is all the things God has done for us. This brings us a message of hope that will revive the sinner. This message also revives the soul.
The message from God comes with both law and gospel. It has to speak of God’s vengeance upon the sinner while at the same time bringing hope for the sinner. “To proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to 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 61:2-3). The favor of the Lord rests upon us. He comes with his grace and mercy to revive our souls.
All of a sudden our lives change for the better. We no longer come with ashes on our head. Those ashes show sorrow. They show that we do not know where to turn for help and aid. We have a crown of beauty upon us. We no longer have to mourn over our sins for our God has taken them all away. The Lord brings favor upon us.
We no longer have to be faint in our spirit. The waves of trouble do not have to overtake us. The winds of temptations do not carry us away. Our spirits, or souls, remain strong. This does not come from our own power or might. It comes from the Means of Grace God uses to strengthen our faith. The precious message of the gospel and the power of the sacraments sustain us in our faith every day.
God’s Word also makes our life strong. We are like a tree planted by the Lord. All throughout Scripture God often uses trees and roots to describe the life of the believer. Our soul is planted upon God and his Word. We will not be moved.
We live in a world that tries to move us. The riches of this world tempt us to chase after them. The mindset of spirituality causes many people to wander from the church in search of something that makes sense to them. So many build up shallow roots that they easily blow over by the power of the devil.
We need to put down deep roots. We need to make use of the wonderful gifts that God has given to us. God blesses us with the opportunity to exercise our faith every time we come to church. We feast on his Word. We partake of the sacrament. Our roots grow deep. We come to study the Bible with others in Bible Class or at our school. The joy of hearing the news of Jesus and sins forgiven brings peace to our hurting souls. Our roots continue to grow deep.
When the troubles come in our life, we will not be moved. Our foundation is on firm ground. We build upon Christ as the sure foundation. We see him revealed to us as the messenger who brings freedom reviving our soul and heart.
The faces of the downcast turn. The message of hope comes. The sinner feels revived for the good news of freedom comes. Christ has done all the work for us. He roots us in his Word making us strong. Hope. Joy. Peace. Confidence. The messenger brings all of these to us. Amen.