Certain days in the Christian calendar teach us important truths about Jesus. The Baptism of our Lord, is one such festival. This day, like few others, gives us great insight into the relationship of Jesus with God the Father, the character of this Messiah, and what His accomplishments will be. And one of the clearest ways to see all these things is to look at the Old testament reading from Isaiah assigned to this festival day. Our reading from Isaiah 42 is the very first of Isaiah’s four servant songs, divine (and shocking) prophecies of the coming Messiah. In the prophecy of Isaiah we behold Jesus, God’s servant baptized this day to be our Saviour.
1Behold 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. The long-promised Messiah is obviously God’s chosen and authorized envoy, but it is not merely an official relationship Isaiah tells us. It is a warm and personal one too. God delights in Jesus. Jesus shares the same intimacy with the Holy Spirit that the Father does, for the Father puts His spirit upon Jesus. We see it happen in the form of the dove this day at the Jordan. 6“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; Make note of the very protective and caring nature of God toward His chosen one; He will hold His hand and keep Him. And in turn the Messiah will demonstrate the very righteousness of God Himself. The Father and the Son, God and His chosen Messiah work hand-in-hand for our salvation.
2He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. Here Isaiah shows us the nature of this servant of the Father. The Messiah’s character is gentle, courteous and evangelical. He is not loud and brash nor a braggart. He does not push himself aggressively on anyone. So how does he get His message across if He won’t be all up in people’s faces? By the way He lives His life, and by how He treats all people. You see, His every action will make clear that all things and all people are precious in His sight. Even that which would be esteemed as of very little value is treated with utmost care by this Servant.
What does that practically mean for us? It means that no matter how big the bad decisions of your life have been, there is acceptance and forgiveness in Jesus. Have you lied, cheated, ignored others in need? Have you taken credit for things not of your doing? Do you have a history that still haunts you to this day? Do you find yourself less than faithful right now, barely able to muster up the Christian attitude you are sure you should have? Behold, even the faintest of smoldering wicks are safe in His hands.
The character of our Messiah means that no matter how small the seeming hurt, there is compassion and concern in His heart for you. Doubts, fears, anxiety? Aches and pains in heart, mind or body? Grief, either new and sharp or long and dull? There is no life, no concern, no hurt, so small that it escapes His notice or His compassion. Behold, no reed no matter how bruised is in danger of being broken or discarded in His kingdom.
4He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Compassionate and caring, yet the nature of this Messiah is also such that He is never a push-over. He is persistent … what He came to do, He will do. You can count on Him. He will speak and do all truth in love. Though He may become weak and exhausted by the anguish of His soul, He will not give up the struggle. He will emerge from the waters of the Jordan to face testing in the wilderness, opposition in Galilee and death in Jerusalem. He will not be turned aside. He cannot be stopped. Not until every flame of faith is reignited in His Word and every bent and bruised life is brought healing in His cross.
For that is the very reason this Servant of God most High has come! 1he will bring forth justice to the nations … 4till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Behold, your Messiah has come to us with a lot to accomplish. He will establish justice on earth through the blood of the cross. And not just for a select few, but for the many sins of every single man, woman and child – Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor. 6I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, He will do more than just display God’s righteousness – He will provide it for His people! He will be this world’s righteousness!
7to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. Behold the servant of God, your Messiah. He has come to enlighten and liberate people – spiritually, morally, mentally, physically. Through the gifts of His Word and Sacraments we are given this Light of the World, the life of Christ Himself. We are brought into the new covenant in which Jesus himself is the light that opens our eyes to the reality, and the riches of God’s love and mercy to this fallen world … and to us failed sinners.
In this light of life we are freed from the prison of sin and death and granted the freedom of being heirs of God’s kingdom of light. Freed, because He himself will serve and the payment of our debts. Free, because in Holy Baptism this servant takes our place under the law that we might be given His place in the eternal kingdom. Free because in this gentle and compassionate Messiah we are no longer slaves to our old sinful nature, but now able (and sometimes even willing) to live as God’s servants ourselves. Free because we know we are no longer bound to earn our place before God, His beloved servant Jesus has given it to us of His own grace and kindness.
And so, dear friends, on this Day of the Baptism of our Lord, Behold God’s Servant, Jesus! He is the beloved and chosen Son of the Father. He is the tender and compassionate servant who establishes a new covenant to save the nations. He is the dogged Saviour who will not falter in the task laid out before Him. Behold this Jesus Christ fulfilling all prophecy on your behalf. Behold the One who frees you from your sins by His righteousness alone. Behold God’s Servant, your Saviour and Redeemer!