Midweek of the First Sunday in Lent
“I will give you as a covenant for the people.”
Note: It is beneficial to read the above texts before reading the sermon.
From the moment Eden fell into chaos,
God had begun to speak His promise of redemption and salvation.
From Adam and Eve, to Abraham and Moses, from generation to generation,
In time and space, in history, He gave glimpses of how that salvation would play out:
In the sacrifice of an animal to cover the naked couple;
In the delivery through the great flood;
In the crossing of the Red Sea;
In the binding of Isaac;
In the fall and rise of Joseph, and on and on throughout history.
Tonight, though, He paints us a picture of our salvation in words.
Tonight, God speaks through His prophet Isaiah to let us in on His plan;
To give us a glimpse of our Messiah, our Rescuer.
“Behold, 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.”
Whoever this Servant is, He will not come against His will.
He comes because He is a true Servant, even as He is a true Son;
And as a true Son, His will is in perfect accord with that of His Father.
Neither will He come alone.
In just the first verse read from Isaiah’s scroll, we see the whole Trinity present.
The Father sending and delighting;
The Son going and delivering;
The Spirit proceeding and anointing.
We were given a great picture of that not long ago in Epiphany at the Baptism of Our Lord.
That day the Spirit descended and consecrated;
That day the Son came to soak up God’s justice in Jordan’s stream;
That day the Father spoke of His delight and pleasure in His Servant Son.
As we continue to read Isaiah’s scroll, though,
We come to that part about bringing forth justice to the nations.
When we consider what God’s justice demands of us, His unworthy servants,
Whose will is anything but aligned with the will of our Father,
The idea of divine justice being dispensed at the hands of His Worthy Servant is not a comfort. We all, on some level, know what justice means.
So what will it be like when justice comes?
“He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice.”
God’s Servant isn’t going to force Himself on anybody.
He will receive blessings from the woman at Bethany,
Even as He will receive betrayal from Judas in Gethsemane.
He will be welcomed into the home of an anonymous household manager,
Where He will institute the gift of His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
All in all, Jesus will come as Gift – as Grace, as Joy: quietly, simply, gently, and mercifully.
He’s not going to make a ruckus about it, or beat you over the head.
You’ll have Him or you won’t.
The justice of the earth, which God’s Servant will bring,
Is not established in a courtroom, or with revolt, but by cross and obedience.
Those can be your two watchwords for Lent: Cross and obedience.
What we learn tonight from Isaiah is this:
God’s justice is not merely a judgment.
God’s justice is a Person.
In verse six, God speaks:
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations…”
These words are not only about Jesus; but they are for Jesus.
The “You” there is His Servant. It’s Jesus.
Which means that the people are…you.
So, knowing that, go back and read verse six again.
God’s justice is not merely brought by His Servant.
But Isaiah writes that God’s justice is His Servant.
On the cross Jesus endures what divine justice demands.
And with the sins of the world on His willing shoulders,
Jesus shows Himself to be not only the LORD’s Servant, but also your Servant.
But if that is true, the question may be “How am I served?”
“I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,
To open the eyes that are blind,
To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from those who sit in darkness.”
This Christ has done for you. This is how He serves you.
In Holy Baptism you, like the disciples at the Mount of Transfiguration, were given eyes to see Jesus only.
At the proclamation of His Gospel, of His Absolution, His forgiving Word, your ears are opened to hear Jesus only.
What you hear and what you see is the one story Scripture tells again and again.
It is the story of darkness to light, from death to life, from covenant broken to covenant restored and fulfilled.
“Behold, I will give you as a covenant for the people.”
As the writer to Hebrews says, “In many and various ways, God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. But now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.”
His Son. The LORD’s Servant and yours.
He says things like, “Take, eat; this is My Body.”
“Drink of it, all of you, for this is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
The Blood of Christ, which flows from the cross into our chalice every Sunday,
Is the covenant of which God speaks because it nothing else than is His Servant Son.
It is enough to strengthen weary people who are barely a week into Lent,
That in this place we receive the fulfillment of God’s promise, and peace in the New Covenant of Jesus’ Body and Blood.
It’s the only reason we can sing with confidence about the last words Jesus speaks in this evening’s text, when He talks about life in His Father’s Kingdom.
“One day all the Church will capture that bright vision glorious, and Your saints will know the rapture that Your heart desired for us, When the longed for peace and union of the Greatest and the least meet in joyous, blest communion in You never ending feast.” (LSB 445, S5)