Summary: How God’s Ancient Announcement Delivers Contemporary Comfort
Well, the roster for the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team was announced last week. Not surprisingly hockey enthusiasts are debating the selection of athletes. It was a no-brainer of course to include Sydney Crosby on the team, but was it wise to leave off a veteran like Joe Thornton? In anticipation of questions like these the selection committee explained that, to make a run for the gold medal, it picked the “right” players rather than perhaps the “best” players this country has. Come end of February we’ll learn if the selection committee made the right choices.
Long before Tuesday’s introduction of the men’s Olympic hockey team, God made an important announcement of his own. He introduced to the world the one he had picked to be Messiah – that is the one appointed to secure the golden streets of heaven for sinners like us. The Israelites who were the first to hear this particular announcement given through the prophet Isaiah may have had some questions about God’s choice. The Messiah, as described in this announcement, didn’t sound tough enough to accomplish the mission. We know of course that he was. Jesus, the Messiah, is just the Savior we need. Today’s sermon text will help us appreciate that better, for as we take a close look at God’s ancient announcement, “Meet the Messiah!” we’ll see how it delivers contemporary comfort.
The strange thing about this ancient announcement is that God did not reveal the name of the Messiah. He simply called him “my servant” (Isaiah 42:1). Yet we know that God was speaking about Jesus because he said that he would put his Spirit on his servant (Isaiah 42:1). Think of how that happened in a dramatic way at Jesus’ baptism. After the heavens were opened and the Father said about Jesus, “This is my Son whom I love,” the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove. It was this mark that assured John the Baptist that Jesus was in fact that promised Messiah (John 1:33).
Filled with the Holy Spirit and having been marked as the Messiah, you would expect Jesus to start his ministry with a bang, like a Sydney Crosby hyped up for the gold medal game and ready to skate through his opponents to secure the victory. But what did Jesus do at the beginning of his mission? He wandered off alone into the wilderness for 40 days where he was continually tempted by Satan with no one to observe the contest except wild animals and the angels (Matthew 4)! Even when Jesus continued his ministry among the people, it was for the most part low key with most of his time spent in small towns. Imagine a breakout artist continuing to play gigs in Morinville and Stony Plain rather than in Toronto and Vancouver where the fame and money is. But this fits the description of the Messiah, for God said through Isaiah: “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets” (Isaiah 42:2).
Oh God was not saying that the Messiah would be totally invisible. Jesus made his presence known through the miracles he performed and through his powerful preaching. But through all that it was obvious that the Messiah was not only a servant of God, he was servant of sinners. Listen to how else God described that aspect of Jesus’ ministry. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3a).
According to God’s ancient announcement the Messiah would be kind and caring. He would not appear for the purpose of snapping in two the lives of those the rest of society considered broken – like the woman caught in adultery whom the Pharisees brought to Jesus for judgment (John 8). OK. Jesus treated that woman with kindness and offered her forgiveness when no one else did, but how do you explain the way in which Jesus treated the Canaanite woman who wanted him to drive out a demon from her daughter? (Matthew 15) At first Jesus ignored her and then called her a dog when he said it wasn’t right to take blessings meant for the Israelites and give them to the non-Jews. It seemed as if Jesus was trying to snuff out any little bit of faith that woman had! This woman may have come to Jesus as a smoldering wick, but she went away a blazing fire. By seemingly putting her off, Jesus was pressing her to hold more firmly to the promises she knew about the Messiah, that he had indeed also come for the non-Jews.
Jesus still treats us this way, doesn’t he? Your plans for retirement don’t pan out. Your health gets steadily worse. Friends and family treat you with contempt. You’ve prayed for Jesus to take all the pain and loneliness away but it just seems to keep piling up! “And I thought you wouldn’t snuff out a smoldering wick,” we cry. “Instead it feels like your trying your best to blow out my faith.” And then it hits us. How do you save a dying fire? You blow on it. You fan it. You feed it oxygen so that the fire will grow and spread. That’s how Jesus uses adversity in the lives of believers – not to snuff out faith, but to bring it to life by pushing us back to his promises. Friends, can I encourage you to commit to memory these words from Isaiah? “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3a). Say it with me. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3a). Hold on to those words as to a life preserver when adversity hits so that you never doubt that your Messiah is your friend.