Advent 3B—December 14, 2014
Isaiah 61:1–3, 8–11
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
We’re in the season of Advent. Advent: He comes. The Lord comes. Jesus comes. It’s not just that He came, or that He’ll come again, though things are certainly true, but Advent: He comes, even now, in our very midst today—where He promises to be for you. How does He come, what do we expect from His coming? When we consider that He came, do we have or want our mangers full and our crosses empty? Would we rather think about infant baby Jesus, as if He didn’t grow up? When we consider that He comes now, do we expect a check-list? As if Jesus’ work, after saving us, is to give us the steps to make Him happy with us or to keep us as good Christians? When we consider His coming again, do we wonder if we’ll end up on the naughty or nice list? As if His coming is going to be for something else besides saving you.
Advent: He comes. Jesus, who is the Messiah, the Christ, comes. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me.” Jesus has been anointed with the Holy Spirit, He’s been set apart for something. That’s what our text from Isaiah 61 is all about: His coming and why. It can be summed up like this:
JESUS COMES TO DO MESSIAH’S WORK.
(I. His work is to set us free.)
So, what is Messiah’s work? First of all, His work is to set us free. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Jesus sets free “the poor,” that is, “the broken hearted,” “the captives,” “the bound.” But there’s more than that. Jesus sets free from the condemnation of the Law. Jesus was anointed, was the Messiah “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor…to comfort all who mourn.” He comes to say that the Law, the old burden “which neither we nor our fathers could bear,” as St. Peter puts it, is done away with. But He also comes, and we don’t want to miss this point, He comes to “proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.”
But all of this is for our good. Jesus comes to us now to do these things. He says to you, “No matter what struggles you face, no matter what’s broken your heart, you’re mine. I’ve bought you with my blood. If you are in Me and I in you, you’re free now. You’re mine no matter what. You’re free now, and you will be free forever. Whatever burdens you, cast on Me. I’ve taken it upon Myself already, nailed it to the cross, and left it in the tomb. You are mine.” This is what Jesus says to you, but what of this “ day of vengeance of our God.” God’s vengeance, the Father’s vengeance for your wrong doing, because, after all “I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong,” all that vengeance was on Jesus. If you’re in Jesus, baptized into Him, then that vengeance passes you over. But there is the Last Day which for you dear Christians isn’t vengeance, but yet another day of salvation. Only those who trust in their checklists will meet vengeance, not you. You’re in Jesus.
(II. His work is to build us up.)
We hear another work of Jesus, the Messiah in our text. His second work is to build us up. Listen to what else Isaiah prophesies about the Messiah. The Messiah comes, Jesus comes “to establish those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning…that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.” Because of Him “ancient ruins” will be “built up,” “former devastations” will be “raised up”, and “ruined cities” “repaired.”
So also us. Jesus builds us up. He did this by coming in our flesh, of course. But He builds us up now, we’ve already been built up. We’re built on the foundation of Jesus. As Paul says, “No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” You’ve been laid on that foundation. You’ve been bodied and blooded to it, like bricks are mortared together, at the Lord’s Supper. As 1 Peter says, “You, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” And so you are. Every bruised reed shall be bruised and shaking no more. Jesus does His work “that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD.” You’re baptized into Christ, and nothing, no one can take that away. You can’t be separated from Him. You’re built on Him, grafted into Him. Some days it may be all you’ve got, but you’ve got Jesus, and who else do you need? You have a “beautiful headdress instead of ashes,” you have it now, and Jesus promises it to you on the Last Day. Eternal joy will be yours in Jesus.
(III. His work is to clothe us with glory.)
This closely ties to Messiah Jesus’ third, and final work: His work is to clothe us with glory. This is His promise in Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me…to establish those who mourn in Zion—to give them…the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” This garment of praise more aptly means: “a praise-worthy garment,” a garment worthy of praise and glory. Isaiah knew this so he himself rejoices at the end of our text: “ I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Jesus also clothes you with salvation, with righteousness. You’re robed with Him. Can’t have a much more praise-worthy garment than that! Our spirits are faint sometimes, a lot of time, but we’re clothed with Jesus from font until eternity, and so Jesus promises: “The one who conquers will be clothed in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” You conquer because of Jesus: His death and resurrection. You conquer now because He’s clothed you with that. You have such a beautiful garment: it’s Jesus! He came to win it, comes to give it, will come to give it forever.
So, this is all Jesus’ work. It’s His work because it’s Messiah’s work, and Jesus is the Messiah. He works to free us, to build us up, and to clothe us with glory. When this happens, Isaiah says, “As the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.” The Lord’s garden of freed ones, built-up ones, and clothed ones extends to the ends of the earth. He sprouts up His righteousness even before us. It sprouts up here. It has to be because it’s Advent. Advent: He comes. The Lord comes. Jesus comes. It’s not just that He came, or that He’ll come again, but Advent: He comes, even now, in our very midst today—where He promises to be for you. Here He frees you, builds you up, and clothes you, and one day, the Last Day, He’ll come and do it forever.
INI + AMEN.