December 13, 2020

"Isaiah: Anointed and Sent"

Advent 3 :Scripture Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4 (John 1:29-34)

Today is the third Sunday in the season of Advent and the lighting of the Advent candle is a sign of hope against the darkness. We remember the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who comes not just to “save us from our sins”, but to set the whole world right. Throughout the Old Testament we meet those whose lived as lights that pointed forward to the coming of the Light of the world. We have seen this in the life of Jacob and Jonathan, and today we see it in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Seven hundred years later or so, Jesus would speak these same words from Isaiah and say in his first sermon in the gospel of Luke, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Questions:

Who are some of the prophets we hear from in the Bible?
Prophets declare the Word of God. How are the words we speak often cheap and meaningless?

Isaiah speaks to us a “Spirit-filled, prophetic Word”. This is the Holy Spirit of God who was there at the dawn of creation, hovering over the waters, bringing order out of disorder, and life where there was no life. This is the Spirit of God who blew the wind over the waters at the Exodus, providing a way to life and freedom for the people of God. This is the Spirit of God who rushed upon Saul and David and so many others when they were anointed leaders over God’s people for a certain time and place. In the fullness of time, John the baptizer looked at Jesus Christ and said, “I saw the Spirit of God come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.” “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” Therefore, Jesus can say in his sermon from the gospel of Luke, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Isaiah 61:1 has become a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered Word.

Questions:

What does it mean to be “anointed”?
What does John see come down from heaven and remain on Jesus?
Who are the “poor” in Isaiah 61:1?

So, what is the good news in our text? The Anointed One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rests is sent “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 and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion …” That’s a lot of activity attributed to the Anointed One. He is “to bind up”, “to proclaim”, “to comfort”, and “provide”, and all this activity is born out of that first activity which is “to preach good news.” In other words he is “to bring the gospel”.

The Anointed One is sent to “gospel the world” in all its activity with the good news of restoration. The image being used in the background of Isaiah 61, and by Jesus in Luke 4, is that of “the year of the Lord’s favor”. This is a reference to the “Year of Jubilee” (Leviticus 25). The Jubilee was to be a time of restoration for the people of God. Debts were cancelled, land was reclaimed, prisoners and those in debt were set free. Jubilee is “gospel” and the gospel is for all of life.

Questions:

What happens in the story of “Frosty the Snowman”? What was the symbol of his anointing?
Isaiah 61 proclaims a gospel that his for all of creation. What does John 3:17 say about that?
How does the “Anointed One of God” come into your life? In grace or vengeance?

The gospel is a powerful Word that can set your life right, or it can condemn you. God comes, God calls, God brings us home into his Kingdom, his New Creation. God come to those who know they are sinners in need of grace. In this Advent and Christmas season we are to be looking beyond the sights and sounds of the holiday season to the Anointed One who comes full of grace and truth. Christ has come and he is coming again. The bad news, the dead-end stories of this world will melt away, but God’s Word is forever.

In our lives we need to remember that we too have been anointed by God’s Spirit to “gospel the world” with good news. Don’t let your life melt away. We are living letters of a New Creation that has been born through the coming of the Word made flesh. Amen