Anointed to Preach the Good News

Sermon 1786 Isaiah 61.1-6 January 23, 2022

At the death of my father, my grandson had lots of questions. My dad died at the age of 91. The grandson in question, Bergen, is four.

“How do we get around in heaven if we don’t have legs?”

“I will like seeing the Baby Jesus.”

“I want to go see Great Grandpa, but it will be hard getting back.”

My son-in-law told him, “You should ask Grandpa Don those things.”

Bergen replied, “Why?”

I don’t think he knows what I do. And I don’t blame him. What their parents do is not all that important to small children. The folks leave in the morning, come home in the late afternoon. What did Charlie Brown’s parents do? Nobody ever saw them! It made me chuckle, then it made me think. What do I do?

Anointed to Preach the Good News

1. Comfort now for all who mourn (1-3).

2. Forever accomplishments for all who trust (4-6).

Isaiah is considered by many to be the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. Collecting his prophecies in the last days of King Hezekiah, Isaiah straddled two worlds. He preached repentance and warning to Judah and Jerusalem before Hezekiah became king. He preached temporal deliverance and the work of the Savior to come while Hezekiah was king, most notably when a huge enemy army was cut down overnight by an angel of the Lord. But after Isaiah had to rebuke Hezekiah for trusting in a foreign power who could only flatter him rather than trusting in the God who had saved him, Isaiah turned to the real king, the Savior, and what he would do for the people. Our text for today gives the Savior’s job description and the expected results from the Savior’s work. It was also famously Jesus’ sermon text when he preached in his hometown of Nazareth.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach 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, 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—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirt of despair (1-3a).”

Isaiah predicted the Lord would anoint the Savior. It was not a job he would set himself up for.

Lots of professionals do, you know. A kid gets out of law school. He can hang his shingle up in Las Vegas or Ely! Same with doctors. Sign up for a stint in Winnemucca or take a position with Southwest Medical here in town. But the Savior could not do that. Those who proclaim the good news can’t freelance. They are more like the police or governing officials. They serve the people on behalf of the people and must be inducted or sworn into office. They can’t just claim that authority themselves.

That’s why Jesus would wait thirty years before he started his public ministry. He had not yet been anointed by the Lord. As we have now seen, when Jesus was baptized by the Holy Spirit, that’s when the Lord anointed him to do his work and poured out his Holy Spirit upon Jesus to remain on Jesus. He would serve the people on behalf of God.

I couldn’t be a pastor until they ordained and installed me. That was God’s promise that what I had studied so long for, what I thought would be my life’s work, was really the Lord’s will and not just my crazy imagination.

Let’s look at that job description. Jesus would comfort those who mourned. There’s all sorts of reasons we mourn. Death. Disease. Our wishes not coming true. Oppression. Getting the short end of the stick. Most of these reasons can be summed up by sin, either our own sin (like unfulfilled lust, unsatisfied greed, uncontrolled envy) or the sin of others (Adam bringing death and disease into the world when he disobeyed God, the wicked making our lives miserable, the unwitting stepping on our toes). Jesus would come to comfort those who mourned because of sin, all and every sin.

Look at the adjectives Isaiah uses for sin. Sin makes us poor before God. We don’t have two righteous coins to rub together to buy our way into heaven. Sin breaks our heart when we keep shooting ourselves in the foot and ruining our relationships with others. Sin enslaves us to the devil so we succumb to his will. Sin imprisons us in a life cut off from the light of God.

Sin makes our lives miserable and we mourn, we repent. We fear where our sin has gotten us. We hate what it has done to us. We ask God for forgiveness, firmly believing that, for the sake of the Savior, he will forgive.

And he does. That’s the good news Jesus came to preach. He binds up the brokenhearted as he restores their lives with God. He frees us from the devil’s hold over us and releases us from the hell we were headed for. He comforts us, as a father comforts his children, as a mother consoles her baby.

That’s what Jesus did. To the woman caught in adultery he asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin (John 8.10-11).” To the paralyzed man lowered by his friends through the roof Jesus said, “Son, cheer up. Your sins are forgiven.” Then he healed him so he would take his mat and walk home. He drove out ten thousand demons from a man and told him to stay and tell his townspeople what great things God had done for him. He gave blind Bartimaeus sight so he could see Jesus as his Savior from sin.

That was Jesus’ job. That’s what he was sent into this world to do.

I was not sent to do miracles. Only God can perform them when and through whom he will. A lot of times it seems he reserves the miracles to the doctors and the worldly wise of this world so that his goodness might lead them to seek and to find God, though he is not far from each one of us. I was sent to preach the Good News, to tell those who mourn their sins are forgiven.

I’ve done that through the sermons you hear. Oh, to begin with I have to do a job I don’t like doing. God doesn’t like to do it either. Martin Luther called it “God’s alien work.” I have to preach the Law. I have to not only tell each one of us here today that we are sinners, but I have to prove it in ways the text indicates. When you agreed with me about the adjectives Isaiah uses for sin, that was a preaching of the Law to you and me.

Then I get to do the job I was trained for, to preach the Gospel. Our former District President, when he heard what I did to his Ash Wednesday liturgy, said only I would be so insistent that the Gospel be preached. Instead of saying, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” when I made the mark of the cross on foreheads with the ashes of Ash Wednesday, I would say, “Receive this mark as a sign and token of repentance at the foot of the cross.” It just seemed like the Lutheran preacher thing to say. I was trained that way. Why wallow in regret when you can come clean with forgiveness? In the sermons, in the chapels, I tried to preach the Gospel in ways indicated by the text so we left church feeling so good about our loving and forgiving God that we could face a new week just knowing the devil was going to get whipped.

That’s what you will look for in your next pastor, whenever that day comes. He may lead by creating a consensus rather than by force of personality. He may teach more by example and equipping people than by confessing and challenging you. He may maintain more than expand. So what? Change might do you good. But he must preach and teach the Gospel. He must realize he is where he is so that those who mourn over their sins can hear the Good News, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Anointed to preach the Good News. Forever accomplishments for all who trust. Isaiah transitions from what the Savior will do to what he will accomplish.

“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor (3b).” Results will be due to the work of the Lord not because of the efforts of man. Results will give glory to God, not pad someone’s resume. These people display the results of God’s free and full forgiveness of sins.

“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast (4-6).”

If these words appeared in an earlier section of Isaiah, I would say Isaiah was talking about rebuilding Old Testament Jerusalem and Judah. After all, when your society comes to a screeching halt, the next year’s financial figures look really good by comparison. But these words of Isaiah are in the part of his book where he has given up all hope of earthly rulers and earthly kingdoms. There is only one kingdom that matters for all eternity, the kingdom of the Savior in heaven. So these words picture the success and accomplishments that will be ours in heaven.

People rebuild ruins and resettle abandoned areas because of population pressures. More people want their own homes and back yards. More people want their forty acre homesteads. In heaven no one will take our dwellings from us. Death cannot vacate our homes. Banks cannot foreclose. No constable will post an orange eviction notice on our rented front door. Our dwellings will be secure. We will be in heaven forever.

As for that part about aliens shepherding our flocks and foreigners working our fields, well, nobody is going to be an alien or a foreigner in heaven. It is picture language, something we Americans should immediately understand. A growing season is just around the corner in California. There will be lettuce and green beans, strawberries and peas to pick. Who is up for twelve hour days in the fields near Salinas? Already the citrus is ripe. Who is up for a trip to Bakersfield and long days pulling those clementines out of the trees? Who is ready to lug those bags filled with lemons to the bins?

If you think we have shortages now, think of what would happen if America was depending on you and me to get the harvest out of the fields and orchards! Others do the hard work so we can be free from that labor for other things. That’s a picture of heaven. There will be no hard work. It will all be done for every one of us. There will be no distinctions there. Every saved soul will live like a king in heaven.

That’s why Isaiah says we will be called priests of the Lord. Our work in heaven will be to praise and adore our God, to marvel at his ways and share them with each other. The best of everything will be ours. No moth will destroy it. Rust will not consume it. Robbers and thieves will not get their hands on it. It will all be ours.

That’s what Jesus accomplished by his earthly work as the Savior. That’s what the Holy Spirit accomplishes through every minister of the Gospel. Through the Gospel I have been preaching the Holy Spirit has saved souls. Through the washing of water and the Word I have been administering, the Holy Spirit not only washed all sin away, but created faith in the hearts of as many as were baptized. All who trust in that baptismal promise, all who trust in that Gospel grace, have forever accomplishments awaiting them in heaven. Those are the accomplishments you should expect the Lord to work through the next pastor at Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church. Many people can build buildings and start programs. Only the Lord working through the Gospel on the lips of a faithful minister can build heavenly forevers.

I guess that’s why my son-in-law told Bergen he should ask me those questions. But here’s a little secret. Jesus was anointed. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit. That’s what the word Christ means, the Anointed One. You and I were anointed, too. “God anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts (1 Corinthians 1.22).” You call me Pastor because of my ordination. But everyone calls you Christian because of your baptism and faith. And if Christ means the Anointed One, doesn’t Christian also mean those who, like Christ, have been anointed? Luther called you, me, every believer, “little Christs.” So if Christ came to preach the Good News and the pastors you seek to serve this congregation are to preach the Good News, you also are

Anointed to Preach the Good News

1. Comfort now for all who mourn (1-3).

2. Forever accomplishments for all who trust (4-6).

You can share God’s forgiveness with others. Your work in the Lord is not in vain.

I’m looking forward to that conversation with Bergen. I am sure you have lots of similar conversations waiting around the corner for you.

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