The Baptism of Our Lord – January 12, 2020
God’s Anointed Servant
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text for The Baptism of Our Lord is from the Old Testament reading, the prophet Isaiah. Behold 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. Here ends our text.
Just who is this servant that God speaks of in our text today? Who is the servant of the Lord whom he has chosen, in whom God delights, upon whom God puts his Spirit, and who will bring justice to the nations? Is it someone in the past, someone in the present, or someone in the future?
In the past, God spoke of Abraham and Moses and David as being his servant. Each of them were someone whom God chose and in whom he delighted. Abraham was a priest who made sacrifices to God for his own household. Moses was a prophet who spoke the Word of the Lord. David was a king who ruled God’s people. God designated each of these offices of prophet, priest, and king by anointing with oil and the bestowal of his Spirit. And in their own way, each of these men brought justice to the nations by military conquest: Abraham who with his 300 men freed Lot from his captors; Moses who by the parting the Red Sea freed the Israelites from Pharaoh and drowned his army; David who led his people to victorious battles over other nations. But the Lord speaks of what his servant WILL do in the future. These three men were already dead and past. They wouldn’t be serving God from the grave.
Is God then speaking about a servant in the present who will soon do wondrous things? In just the previous chapter, the Lord speaks of the nation of Israel as being his servant. God says, “You, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you.’” But unfortunately, the Israelites weren’t faithful to the Lord. They hadn’t brought justice to the nations. Rather they’d chosen to worship other nation’s gods – gods who couldn’t foretell the future let alone bring it to pass. The Lord challenges their idols of wood and stone, “Declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods.” No, the nation of Israel couldn’t be the servant of whom God speaks. They’d broken God’s covenant at Sinai, “You shall have no other gods.” They’d given glory to other gods and their praise to idols. God was about to raise up other nations who by military conquest would break them in half like a bruised reed and quench their faintly burning wick. God certainly didn’t delight in them.
Then how about someone in our future? Traditional Jews of today are still hoping for a Messiah in the future, who will restore Israel’s glory in the Holy Land and rebuild the Temple. Reformed Jews have given up on a literal human figure for a Messiah. Some believe that the nation of Israel itself will fulfill the Messianic prophecies by ushering in an age of universal harmony and perfection. But world wars and acts of terrorism across the globe continue to dash their hopes.
No. None of these people, past, present, or future are the servant God speaks of. Rather God speaks of a servant who would come in Isaiah’s future, who would be in our past, and who is present with us today. This servant is most certainly God’s Son, Jesus Christ. How do we know for sure? Because God foretells through his prophet Isaiah exactly how to identify Jesus as the Christ and what he would do 700 years before it came to be. God shows that he is the God of heaven and earth, not a mere idol, by foretelling what would be and then making it happen. He says, “Behold the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” In today’s text God tells us of Jesus Christ his servant, who fulfills all the messianic prophecies in his earthly ministry and his heavenly reign.
Jesus began his earthly ministry at his baptism in the Jordan River. Here is where God chose him and set him apart for his special office. Jesus wasn’t anointed with oil like prophets, priests, and kings in the past. John the Baptist anointed him with water, and then God the Father anointed him with the Holy Spirit to be our prophet, priest, and king. The heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and came to rest on him. God the Father spoke his delight in his Son, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” All this fulfills our text today, Behold 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.
But just how would Jesus bring forth justice to the nations? Would he stand in the streets like the prophet Jonah stood in Nineveh and condemn their unrighteousness? “Forty days and this city will be destroyed.” Would Jesus rise up like the king of Babylon broke the nation of Judah and snuffed out their light because of their idolatry? No. Isaiah prophecies, “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” Jesus wouldn’t bring forth justice to the nations by condemning their unrighteousness, breaking them in two, or snuffing their wick, but by faithfully being righteous for them and forgiving their sin. John didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he was the one who was without sin. But Jesus said, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” How, then, would Jesus bring forth justice to the nations and fulfill all righteousness?
First, Jesus is righteous for us. God said of his Son, “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.” God’s servant Israel had failed to keep the covenant at Mt. Sinai. They hadn’t kept a single commandment. But God’s servant Jesus kept the covenant. He kept all Ten Commandments. God calls him in righteousness and actually gives him to be the covenant for the people. Jesus rightly taught God’s Law, and then he was a light to the nations in keeping that Law. Jesus keeps the covenant and is righteous for us.
Second, Jesus brings forth justice to the nations and fulfills all righteousness by taking the punishment for our sin. When Jesus went into those baptismal waters, he went in holy and righteous without sin, but he came out bearing the sins of the world. He bore all those sins to the cross, and there he died with them. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; smitten by God, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. During his trial, Jesus never lifted up his voice or cried out in the streets against this injustice. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Jesus silently takes our punishment for us.
Third, Jesus brings forth justice to the nations and fulfills all righteousness by taking our sin and giving us his righteousness in Holy Baptism. It’s the great exchange of sin and righteousness. For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. We go into those baptismal waters with all our sins, but we come out bearing Christ’s righteousness. We go into those baptismal waters spiritually blind, but we come out seeing and believing. We go into those baptismal waters imprisoned in death and darkness, but we come out free from sin, death, and the devil.
Here, today, Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy that the servant of the Lord would open the eyes that are blind and bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, those who sit in darkness. Here, today, we come before our Lord bruised by sin with the light of our faith faintly burning. But Jesus doesn’t break us or snuff out our life. A bruised reed he will not break and a faintly burning wick he will not quench. Here, today, our Lord takes us by the hand, puts his Spirit upon us, and strengthens our faith by his Word and Sacrament. God delights in us for his servant’s sake.
In all these ways, Jesus shows himself to be the servant of God. God proves it by prophesying these things in our past, fulfilling them in Isaiah’s future, and bringing them to pass for us today. Jesus is our anointed prophet, priest, and king who reigns now, not by military conquest, but actually by being our servant. He brings forth justice to the nations by justifying us before God. Jesus Christ is God’s anointed servant of all. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.