Who Is Jesus?
Dear heavenly Father, You have so graciously responded to our desperate needs. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We deserve to experience Your eternal wrath and punishment. Yet, in Your love for us—a love we do not deserve, You sent Your Son to serve us, by placing Himself under Your law and giving Himself up upon the cross. Impress upon our hearts today that love, so that we might kneel before You with repentant hearts, listen to You with an eager mind, and then walk before You in humble obedience. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Peter proclaimed to the people gathered in Cornelius’ home that God had anointed Jesus with His Holy Spirit making Him “Lord of all!” We are to join Peter in preaching “peace through Jesus Christ” to all who with repentant hears fear God.
John the Baptizer proclaimed the coming of the Savior—a Savior who would “gather the wheat into His barn,” and burn the chaff “with unquenchable fire.” Jesus was that Savior, who was anointed at the time of His baptism by the Holy Spirit and declared by God to be His “beloved Son!”
Text: Isaiah 42:1-8
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gave breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.”
In Christ Jesus, Who is so much more than an example, dear fellow redeemed:
2004 is a Presidential Election Year. Already candidates for that office are crisscrossing our country attempting to persuade voters that they should be elected to lead our country for the next four years. That controversies will arise and debates be undertaken is a given. What has proven surprising, however, in the last weeks is that the name and person of Jesus Christ has become one of those controversies and debates. In a recent interview one of the Presidential candidates announced that he was a “committed believer in Jesus,” and that he planned to reference both Jesus and God frequently in his speeches as he campaigned in the South. He went on to say that he admired Jesus as “someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised—people who were left behind” and who fought against the “self-righteousness of people who had everything.” He concluded by saying that Jesus “was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years.”
Some national news reporters, who embrace the Christian faith, have questioned whether this candidate simply plans to use references to Jesus and God as a ploy to gain more political support. They also have questioned whether the candidate even has a correct understanding of who Jesus really is. Is He merely “an extraordinary example” for us to follow, or is He something more—the Son of God, our Savior, the Lord of our lives—as the Bible declares? Let us leave the political controversies and debates aside as we seek an answer to the very important question: WHO IS JESUS? Let us listen as Isaiah reveals the Man, His mission, and His method!
WHO IS JESUS? Isaiah begins by describing the Man. He calls Jesus “My Servant.” What an extraordinary title for the Lord Jesus! If Jesus is truly the Son of God and equal to God, how can He in any sense be called a “Servant”? This seeming contradiction is resolved when we understand Jesus’ dual role as our Savior. Yes, He was “Immanuel”—God with us (cf. Isaiah 7:14), as Isaiah had prophesied. He would sit “upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from this time forward, even forever” again as Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 9:7). Before His exaltation as an eternal King after His resurrection, however, God’s plan for our salvation called upon Jesus to “humble Himself,” as St. Paul would later say, “and become obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus would play two roles: first as the humble Servant of God and then as the exalted Sovereign God! During His earthly ministry Jesus explained that fact when He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). This fact is even more amazing than the fact that Jesus is the Father’s “Servant.” We are, after all, by nature sinful and unclean. We are an unthankful lot at times, and disobedient failing to love God as we ought and certainly not loving others as ourselves. Yet Jesus served us. This is the heart of God’s glorious gospel, for Jesus, God the Father’s “Servant,” came to serve and to save us in spite of our sin and our often open rebellion!
Isaiah goes on to say that Jesus is God’s “Elect One in whom My soul delights.” Jesus was God’s promised Christ—the One chosen and anointed to be our Savior. Jesus is the One promised to Adam and Eve, our first parents. He is the One about whose birth the angels sang; the One before whom the Wise Men bowed; the One about whom the Father announced at the time of His baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Isaiah, speaking as it were for God, says concerning Jesus, “I have put My Spirit upon Him.” As we know so very well from the Scriptures, the Spirit of God caused the Virgin Mary to conceive the Lord Jesus. Consequently, we can properly say that God placed His Spirit upon Jesus from the moment of His conception. However, at Jesus’ baptism when He was about to begin His public ministry on our behalf, God’s Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove for all to see. This visual descent of the Spirit upon Jesus was to confirm that fact that Jesus was indeed God’s Son and the anointed Christ, even as John the Baptizer testifies, “I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:33-34).
WHO IS JESUS? He is the Son of God, sent by God the Father as the world’s promised Savior, determined to serve us by fulfilling God’s eternal plan to save us. Before turning to Isaiah’s vision of His mission, however, let us consider the final words of our text, which likewise speak to Jesus’ person. Isaiah says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.” God declares that He will share His glory with no one else. Yet, we are told in John’s Gospel that “all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (5:23). Later in Philippians we are told concerning Jesus, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:10-11). Is Jesus merely an extraordinary example from the first century that we are now to follow in the twenty-first century? Not at all—He is the Son of God, the Father’s chosen Christ, our Savior, and our Lord!
WHO IS JESUS? Let us listen as Isaiah reveals the mission. He says concerning Jesus, “He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” What type of justice is Isaiah talking about? Is he saying that Jesus would come and right all of the wrongs perpetrated by sinful men in this world? Was Jesus coming to be a type of super lawyer or superior judge to make sure all debts were paid, all murders punished, and all libel silenced? No, the justice of which Isaiah speaks must be understood in the context of this entire text. Isaiah says, “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring our prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.”
The justice of which Isaiah speaks is divine justice. All human beings, including each and every one of us here today fall under the just condemnation of God’s law. We cannot claim that we are pretty good, or good most of the time, and so should escape the inevitable condemnation of any imperfection on our part by God’s law. “The soul who sins shall die!” (Ezekiel 18:4) That is the long and the short of it, and we are not just talking about physical death, so that we might yawn and respond, “Everyone eventually dies.” No, the death we by nature deserve in view of our sins is the eternal death suffered by those in hell. But God sent Jesus to redeem our souls from hell. He sent Jesus to die “for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). He has justified us—that is declared us righteous for Jesus’ sake.
The proclamation of this justice to a world of men, women, and children in desperate need of this news—to offer them salvation from damnation and hope for the future—is the mission of Jesus Christ and those who like ourselves claim His name. It is the gospel message of God’s love in Christ that can open eyes blinded by sin and spiritual ignorance. It is the gospel message of God’s reconciliation of the world that brings prisoners out of the darkness of Satan’s jail and frees them from the bondage of sin. There is so much despair out in the world—so much hopelessness, because people are weighed down by fear, guilt, shame, and confusion. WHO IS JESUS? He is God’s Son, the Savior of the world, our Lord whose mission is to bring God’s declaration of justice, declaring us sinners righteous for His work’s sake, to everyone who will listen!
WHO IS JESUS? Let us listen as Isaiah reveals the method by which Jesus fulfilled His mission? He writes, “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Even as Jesus did not come to be a super lawyer or a superior judge, neither did He use the method common to politics in our day. He did not join a political party or set out to increase the voter registration of his followers. He did not incite massive marches on the political capitals of His day to pressure for the legislation of His choice; neither did He organize armies to fight for what He believed to be right. No, Jesus’ methods were very, very different as He carried out His earthly ministry, even as our methods are to be very, very different as we carry out our ministry on His behalf.
Jesus went about His business quietly. Oh, yes, there were times when Jesus’ acted boldly and strongly, for instance when He cleansed the temple of the sellers of cattle and the changers of money. More often than not, however, He sought quietly to go about His business. He often withdrew to isolated areas to pray and to be able to instruct His disciples. He performed miracles, but quite often instructed those who were healed to say nothing to others, but rather to glorify God privately in connection with their blessing.
Jesus did not work a crowd, shaking everyone’s hand and kissing everyone’s baby. On one occasion, He did bless children brought by their mothers, reminding all who were present that it takes simple faith, like that of a child, to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mark 10:13-16). No, Jesus did not work the crowds, but rather He sought to deal with individual sinners and to meet their personal needs. Think of Jesus sitting at Jacob’s well talking privately to the Samaritan woman, who had divorced five husbands and who was living with a sixth man. He led her to repentance, faith, and then open confession of His name. Think of Jesus’ compassion for Jarius, his wife, and daughter—taking the time to go to their home and perform privately what the crowds outside their home scorned as impossible. Think of Jesus’ dealings with Nicodemus, who came to Him in the middle of the night, or Zacchaeus, who had climbed up into a tree. Jesus did not write off anyone, nor did He become discouraged. Rather, He served, He saved, and now through us He strives to proclaim the truth about our human condition and the solution God has provided.
WHO IS JESUS? He is not a mere example by any means. He is, as the Scriptures, proclaim, the Son of the living God, the promised Christ, our Savior, our dear Lord! Let us embrace Him, rejoice in Him, live for Him, and look forward to spending eternity with Him! Amen.
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting