The Servant of the LORD Has Accomplished His Mission
Isaiah 42:1-9 Easter 2
The Servant of the LORD Has Accomplished His Mission
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouragedtill he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” 5 This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. 8 “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
When Easter arrives each year you might celebrate it with a special outfit, or some chocolate bunnies, or jelly beans, or Easter baskets and brightly colored eggs. You might gather with family members and friends for a special meal. But we know that Easter is much more than all that. Easter is our celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. And Christ’s resurrection is God’s guarantee for us.
The empty tomb on Easter morning is God’s guarantee that Jesus is the One he claimed to be, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The empty tomb is God’s guarantee that all his promises are true and that because Jesus lives we too shall live.
On the Second Sunday of Easter, let’s focus in on one more of God’s guarantees connected to Christ’s empty tomb. The empty tomb assures us that the Servant of the LORD has accomplished his mission.
I. He has brought justice to the nations
Isaiah penned this prophecy about seven centuries before the birth of Christ. It was a dark time in the history of God’s Old Testament people. Their rebellious unbelief would lead them into captivity in a foreign nation. For seventy years they would be separated from the symbol of the LORD’s presence in Jerusalem. Yet, even as their sin separated them from their God, the LORD would not abandon them. In mercy he held out the hope that their captivity would come to an end. He would raise up Cyrus, King of Persia, who would defeat the enemy and allow God’s people to return to the Promised Land.
Isaiah’s prophecy, however, wasn’t just talking about King Cyrus and the hope of a physical restoration for the people of Judah. With Isaiah’s prophecy, the LORD was pointing ahead to a much greater King and a much greater deliverance. He was pointing ahead to the coming Messiah.
The LORD introduced the Messiah in these verses as his Servant and described him as being entirely different from any other king or conqueror. Worldly kings and would-be conquerors often make a show of themselves and their strength. They might attempt to use their military might and political prestige to manipulate people. By wheeling and dealing, by threat and by force, they exercise authority to get what they want. We have seen this happening in our world over the last few weeks, haven’t we? Would-be conquerors often like to make sure everyone hears what they have to say, and their rhetoric is unending. But the Servant of the LORD would operate in an entirely different manner. The LORD says: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight… He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”
Enemies would attack the Servant of the LORD. They would imagine that because of his gentle and humble manner, they would be able to destroy him. But the Servant of the LORD wouldn’t be a pushover. Nothing would be able to stop him from carrying out his mission. And what is his mission? The LORD explains: In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. The LORD would send his Servant to “bring justice to the nations.”
What is this justice? When a person is accused of a crime, we want justice. We want the court to hand down a fair sentence. If the person is guilty, the court should give proper punishment. If the person is innocent, the court should acquit the person and let him go free. God’s justice falls along the same lines and remains true for all people everywhere and of all time. If a person does not do what is right in God’s sight but breaks God’s law, he will be condemned. If a person does what is right in God’s sight and obeys God’s law, he will be acquitted. But we all know the problem. The problem is not with God’s law. God’s law is holy, just and good. The problem is with every person who has inherited the sin of Adam. The problem is with each of us. We fail to do what is right in God’s sight, and we deserve the just sentence for our lawlessness. But this is why the LORD promised to send his Servant. This would be the Servant’s mission, to receive for each of us the sentence that we deserve, and to provide for us the righteousness we need to stand with God in his kingdom. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.”
Now recall what happened at Jesus’ baptism. The Spirit of God descended like a dove and God spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased.” After Pentecost the apostle Peter spoke about this event and “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power…” (Acts 10:38).
The manner in which Jesus carried out his work also is the manner of the Servant whom Isaiah described. Consider how Jesus carried out his earthly ministry. Think of how he gently dealt with people who were at their breaking point, like Mary as she sat weeing in front of the tomb. Think of how he strengthened those whose faith was flickering, like Thomas who doubted that Jesus could have risen from the dead. Think about the leper Jesus touched and healed, or the paralyzed man whose sins Jesus forgave and then whose legs he strengthened.
Although these kinds of miracles made Jesus popular, his aim was not to make a show of himself. He didn’t quarrel with people or cry out in the streets to promote himself. In fact, Matthew quotes Isaiah’s prophecy after describing an event during Jesus’ ministry when Jesus had been healing many people and Jesus told them not to broadcast who he was. The Pharisees were plotting against him, but the time for him to die had not yet come. He didn’t want them to prevent him from carrying out his mission.
Jesus’ enemies were constantly looking to attack him. Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, Satan came at him with a series of temptations. Later Jesus’ own countrymen called for his execution. Suffering and death stared him in the face. But Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross. Nothing was able to stop him from carrying out his mission. After living a completely right life as the Substitute for every sinner of every nation, Jesus took the penalty as the Substitute for every sinner of every nation, including you and me.
II. The LORD sustained Him
But how was he able to do it? The simplest answer might be that Jesus was the Son of God. That’s true. Another answer is that the LORD put his Spirit on Jesus. The Holy Spirit enabled and equipped Jesus to carry out his work. That’s true too. But Isaiah’s prophecy gives us even more insight.
Did you notice that there’s a change in the middle of Isaiah’s prophecy? In the first half, the LORD God was speaking to God’s people about his Servant. But in the second half, the LORD is speaking directly to his Servant: 5 This is what God the Lord says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
In chapter 41 the LORD told the people of Israel that they didn’t need to be afraid because he was holding their hand. In these verses the LORD says the same thing to his Servant: “I have called you…I will take hold of your hand… I will keep you…” The Servant of the LORD would accomplish his mission because the LORD would sustain him.
Again, recall some of the events of Jesus’ life. When Jesus was still a child, the LORD sent his angel to warn Joseph about King Herod’s plot to murder the child. The LORD protected his Servant. At the start of Jesus’ ministry, the LORD’s Word enabled Jesus to fight off the devil’s attacks and do what God wanted him to do. On the cross, even when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God’s promise sustained him. Jesus knew that his Father would not abandon him in the grave. He knew that God would not let his Holy One see decay (Psalm 16).
The LORD God held Jesus up and sustained him so firmly that nothing was able to deter him from what he came to do. Not Herod. Not Satan. Not death itself. And once Jesus did what he came to do, God confirmed it. He raised Jesus from the dead and seated him as his right hand. Mission accomplished.
So Easter is much more than brightly colored eggs or dinner with family. It’s much more than “Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail.” Easter is our celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We continue to celebrate Easter this morning because Jesus’ empty tomb means something for us. It means that we have a certain hope. It means that Christ has accomplished his mission for us, that our sins are forgiven, and that you and I are free to live in God’s kingdom, now and into eternity. Amen.