God Sent Jesus to Preach Good Tidings!
O LORD God, our dear heavenly Father, You have sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior and to proclaim to us Your precious gospel message. He willingly offered Himself in our place, bearing our sins so that our guilt might be removed, and we might be freed from the control of Satan and the fear of death. Grant that as we worship this day Your Spirit might fill our hearts with a growing appreciation for Jesus, His work, and His gospel message. Help us always to remain faithful to Him as we look forward to His return. It is in His name that we pray. Amen.
The apostle Paul was sent to preach the gospel—something he did willingly and without charge. He became “a servant to all,” so that he might win as many people as possible for Christ!
John the Baptizer was sent by God to prepare the ways for Jesus. He did so by preaching a message of repentance and faith, urging all to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” in anticipation of the mighty One to come!
Text: Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11
[The promised Savior speaks] The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified…. [The penitent sinner responds] I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful 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 with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
In Christ Jesus, who was sent by God to proclaim a message of great joy, dear fellow redeemed:
When the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds on the first Christmas Eve, he proclaimed to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The “good tidings” he proclaimed were not confined to the news of the Savior’s birth, but certainly included the news of His work and the blessings that work would bring all people. The prophet Isaiah identified seven hundred years before that first Christmas what the blessings of that work would mean for each and every one of us. On the basis of Isaiah’s prophecy we can say without hesitation: GOD SENT JESUS TO PREACH GOOD TIDINGS! Good tidings, first of all, that deliver; and good tidings, secondly, that delight! Let us consider this morning those good tidings—the meaning and blessings of our Savior’s work of redemption.
In the first three verses of our text we find the promised Savior speaking. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
Jesus Christ, while attending a worship service in his hometown of Nazareth, stated that He was fulfilling these words through His ministry (cf. Luke 4:18). God sent Him “to preach good tidings.” Those good tidings centered on one blessing—deliverance! Jesus was sent to deliver us from spiritual poverty. He was sent to deliver us from hearts broken by sin and lives held captive by Satan. He was sent to deliver us from the bondage of fear, guilt, and shame. He was sent to deliver us from the judgment of hell. He was sent to deliver us from that sadness that can afflict our souls, and He was sent finally to deliver to us righteousness, joy, and hope!
My dear friends, let us spend a few moments this morning to consider how Jesus can and does deliver us as individuals living in this world and surrounded by the effects of sin. Jesus said that God sent Him “to heal the brokenhearted.” Do you have a broken heart? Have those who are closest to you been unfaithful to you? Have they betrayed your trust? Have they said or done things, which have hurt you physically or emotionally and left you reeling in uncertainty? Do you feel a loss of connection in the important relationships of life and a growing sense of isolation? If so, look to Jesus. Jesus is your dear Savior and Lord. When all other love fails, Jesus’ love flourishes. When all friends forsake you, Jesus finds you and wants to remind you, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus laid down His life for you. Now He holds you in His hands and promises that no one will ever, ever snatch you out of those hands (cf. John 10:28). When the thoughts of others cause you to grieve, think of God’s grace—that love none of us deserves and yet never quits. It is a love, which brings us God’s forgiveness every day and His promise to be with us as a present help, and which has secured for us a glorious future. Yes, God sent Jesus to help you and me see past the things of this world, which can break our hearts, to Him and His love. God sent Jesus to heal us by reminding us that He will never forsake us and will guide us into a future He has planned for us.
God sent Jesus “to proclaim liberty to the captives.” There are many things, which can hold us captive in this world, and which thereby prevent our spiritual growth and productivity. Are you being held captive physically by the misuse of alcohol and drugs, which in turn is having a negative impact on your own life and the lives of those you love? Are you being held captive intellectually by an addictive behavior? For instance, are you finding yourself drawn to spending an inordinate and unhealthy amount of time in front of a computer screen, while neglecting your other relationships and responsibilities? Are you addicted to pornographic materials? Are you finding yourself becoming involved in compulsive gambling? Are you being held captive emotionally by fits of uncontrollable anger or rage? Dear friends, if such is the case in your life, look to Jesus! The road to recovery from any addiction—physical, intellectual, or emotion—is begun on our knees before our loving and powerful Savior. Jesus assures us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The apostle Paul reminds us, “Whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Yes, it is when we weak sinners humble ourselves before our God through repentance and recognize that we are dependent upon His grace, that we are in a position for the mighty hand of God to lift us up, restore us, and empower us, so that we can say with absolute confidence, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (cf. 1 Peter 5:5-6; Philippians 4:13).
God sent Jesus to open “the prison” for those who are “bound.” Are you suffering from depression? Many people are and for a variety of reasons. Depression has many causes ranging from the loss of a loved one, to problems within a marriage, to changes of employment, to the side-effects of certain medications, to justified or unjustified feelings of guilt. Individuals who are depressed, however, might well describe their emotional state as one where they feel themselves bound and imprisoned with little or no hope of ever being freed. Dear friends, if you feel this way look to Jesus. Oh, yes, you may well need to have a physical to see whether those dark feelings you are experiencing are being caused in part by a physiological imbalance in your body, or you may need to talk to a Christian friend or counselor to sort through some of the reasons for the thoughts which dominate your thinking, but by turning to Jesus you are embracing your good Shepherd. He has pledged to lead you “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). He has promised to come with “a strong hand” to help you, but while doing so to “gently lead” you out of the prison of depression into the joys of His presence (cf. Isaiah 40:10-11). Yes, GOD SENT JESUS TO PREACH GOOD TIDINGS—good tidings that deliver, and…
Good tidings, secondly, that delight! The penitent sinner responses to his Savior in the final verses of our text: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful 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 with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”
The primary message that God sent Jesus to bring to us penitent sinners is one of a God-given salvation leading to a God-pleasing sanctification, a dual message in which God takes the primary and active role. Notice how the penitent sinner, who has come to understand his powerless state, rejoices in the “LORD”—the God who knows him personally and loves him intimately! In God alone will the penitent sinner find true joy, but He alone can provide the solution for sin and the security desired by the sinner. Why is this the case? It is the case, because it is God Himself who provides us with “the garments of salvation!” It is He Himself who covers us with “the robe of righteousness.” By nature we stand before God in the rags of our own righteousness (cf. Isaiah 64:6). We cannot please God on our own, much less earn His favor. He demands perfection (cf. Matthew 5:48), something we could never produce. But when He gives us perfection—the perfection of His own Son, our dear Lord Jesus—when we are led by the Holy Spirit to embrace Jesus by faith, then it is as if He clothes us with the very finest of wedding apparel. So we sing: “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress; midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I life up my head!” (The Lutheran Hymnal, 371:1) Yes, God takes us poor sinners and prepares us for an eternal relationship with His Son, Jesus. We are to be His bride. He describes us as individuals called to an eternal wedding feast and adorned with exquisite tuxedos and gowns made up of the righteousness of Christ!
In May the first of my three daughters will be married. Over Thanksgiving she was fitted for her wedding dress. Upon seeing her in that dress, I can tell you that I was moved by her beauty and my eyes clouded over with tears due both to the upcoming pain of separation—a daughter leaving our home, but even more so of joy—knowing she will begin a life-long relationship with the one she loves. Our God comes to us using this very picture to describe His actions on our behalf. Only His actions will involve no pain, but only joy and each of us is ushered into Christ’s presence covered with the flowing robes of His righteousness to begin an eternity of life in His family and within His presence.
As we await that glorious future, the penitent sinner in our text recognizes with delight as well, that while we are here in this world, God will be at work within our hearts to cause our lives to produce fruits of faith, which will bring blessing into our own lives and the lives of others, while also bringing glory to God! The penitent sinner compares this work of God the Holy Spirit—our God-pleasing sanctification—to the work of a garden, its soil and God’s sunlight, in producing the fruits and vegetables that bring such joy and satisfaction to our lives.
At times we may become impatient with ourselves or with others, when we fail to see the fruits we desire in the amounts we expect. Such impatience reduces our joy, for any and all fruit is a blessing of our God. Let us pray for the gift of patience as well as productivity as our Lord plants His gospel seeds in our respective lives, as He waters those seeds with His word on a daily basis, and as He warms them with the sunshine of His grace. As the apostle Paul assures us, it is “God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). It is God who also deserves the glory!
As we pass the midpoint of this Advent Season and quickly approach the Festival of Christmas, may we rejoice in the fact that GOD SENT JESUS TO PREACH GOOD TIDINGS—good tidings that deliver and good tidings that delight! Amen.
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting