One aspect which makes Isaiah interesting is that we hear many voices. We hear Isaiah proclaim truth to his fellow countrymen. God speaks and declares sovereign control over creation.
Voices also speak from the future. For example, chapter 12 reveals words we say when living in heaven in the Lord’s city. Isaiah quotes the future Cyrus the Great, 200 years beforehand, as saying of Jerusalem, “She will be built” (Isaiah 44:28).
Another voice we hear in Isaiah is that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For those who have a red-letter Bible, which uses red ink for the words of Jesus in the New Testament, perhaps there should be red ink for when Jesus speaks in the Old Testament.
We have not heard Jesus’ voice since chapter 50. There He says the Lord GOD gives Him a tongue to sustain the weary. God awakens Him morning by morning. Jesus testifies of His obedience to God. Most strikingly, Jesus tells us that He gives His back to those who strike Him and His cheeks to those who pluck out His beard. He sets His face like flint to obey God. (Isa 50:4-7)
In chapter 61, Jesus speaks again. In the first three verses, the Messiah reveals His mission. He says He is sent for a purpose. Previous passages in Isaiah tell us of the job description of the Messiah. Isaiah writes over a 40 year period and often picks up topics and writes about them again, but always from a new perspective.
Let’s read the passage.
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
2 To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
The main idea of this passage is that we are to believe Jesus is the anointed Messiah sent to make us righteous for the glory of God.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus claims this passage is about Him. At that point in time, Jesus’ following is well established, and He is a respected teacher. It is almost a year after His baptism, and Jesus is welcome in synagogues as a teacher.
Luke writes that Jesus returns to His boyhood home of Nazareth. And, as is His custom, He enters His home synagogue. People there know Jesus as Joseph’s son. Jesus receives the Isaiah scroll from the attendant, stands, opens the scroll, finds and reads Isaiah 61:1-3. After reading, He returns the scroll, sits down, and all eyes in the synagogue are looking at Him.
While He has their attention, Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus might as well say, “I am anointed and sent by God. Isaiah writes about me.” It is a remarkable claim!
There are many things to explore in Luke’s account. It’s an exciting passage, and it is tempting to exposit what happens that day in Nazareth. But we don’t have time. The reason for referring to this account is to show Isaiah prophecies about Jesus. Jesus takes ownership of Isaiah 51:1-3 and proclaims He is the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Therefore, our main idea is that we are to believe Jesus is the anointed Messiah. He is the person speaking in Isaiah’s prophecy.
Jesus is Anointed by the Lord God
In Isaiah 61:1, Jesus begins by telling us the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him. Luke’s gospel is careful to note that, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Luke concurs Jesus has the Spirit of the Lord upon Him.
Isaiah prophecies in chapter 11, in a clear passage about Jesus, that the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Jesus, the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-2).
God’s Holy Spirit is always present when God is at work. The Spirit of the Lord is the person of the Trinity Who empowers people to do God’s work. He speaks, leads, convicts, teaches, reveals, gives life, regenerates, sanctifies, helps, indwells, and much more.
God’s Holy Spirit rests upon Jesus and gives Jesus strength, wisdom, and guidance for His ministry.
God anoints Jesus. In the Bible, being anointed is a symbolic act recognizing someone for significant work. Priests, prophets, and kings are anointed. God anoints Jesus and empowers Him with God’s Spirit. Jesus fulfills all three offices of priest, prophet, and king.
Jesus’ mission is not His own; He is God’s anointed. Jesus is sent by God. God says to His Son, “Go,” and the Son goes.
Sent to Bring Good News
Jesus is sent on a mission to bring good news. The good news is that God loves the world. God sees the hurt of people. He sees the pain. The good news is that God cares.
Every person suffers from a broken heart. We are hurt by someone we love or an event that goes wrong. Life is not always the way we would like. Our heart needs comfort. It needs mending.
Jesus is sent to bring good news, and bind the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1). Hearts are broken because of the ravages of sin. Sin wreaks havoc in the lives of people.
Sin causes all heartache and affliction. War, poverty, greed, sickness, divorce, pride, lust, lies, and any evil we may think of comes about because of sin.
The good news is Jesus conquers sin. He overcomes sin and all the damage sin causes. Jesus conquers sin by living a sinless life. He takes our sin upon Himself and nails it to the cross and buries it in a grave.
Jesus is sent to proclaim the news of salvation. But not everyone listens to the good news. Not everyone allows Jesus to heal their heart. Is Jesus sent to you? Have you let Jesus into your life? The evidence is that He is sent to you is that you hear and believe the good news of the gospel. You trust and believe Him.
When we trust Jesus, we believe only He can mend our broken heart. The world promises to bind our heart, but only Jesus has the answer. There is no other religion, or thing in this world, that can fix the human heart. Jesus is the only truth and the only way. Jesus brings good news.
Sent to Proclaim Liberty and freedom
Jesus is sent to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners (Isaiah 61:1). When Jesus speaks in Nazareth, He expands on 61:1 by including what Isaiah says about Him in Isaiah 42:6-7. Jesus says that He is sent to open blind eyes and set free the oppressed.
When Jesus reads this in Nazareth, the people are not in prison; they are in a synagogue. They are not captive. Jesus tells them that their freedom is fulfilled that day as they listen. Jesus is speaking about spiritual freedom.
Jesus is speaking about being set free from sin and darkness. All people of this world throughout human history, are born in spiritual darkness. Everyone is born into the prison of sin’s blindness. We cannot see or understand the truth of God. We are born slaves to sin.
Jesus is very powerful. He is God in the flesh. He speaks and commands the universe to obey. He speaks, and the wind and the waves heed His voice. He speaks, and demons run, the blind see, the lame walk, and Lazarus comes forth from the tomb. Our freedom from sin is achieved by proclamation!
Are you set free by Jesus? Evidence Jesus sets you free from the slavery of sin is that you are not a prisoner of sin. You fight against sin. You no longer live in the darkness of lies and deceit, but your eyes, and ears are open to God’s truth. Jesus says that His disciples live according to the Bible and the truth of His word sets them free (John 8:31-32).
Jesus sets many people free. I, and many others have been set free from addictions. I and others are set free from a mouth of cursing and anger. People are set free from bitterness and unforgiveness. People are set free from pornography. There are many ways Jesus sets people free.
Those who are set free by Jesus are set free so they may love and enjoy God. It is a great joy to be set free by Jesus. Jesus says that if He sets you free, you are free indeed (John 8:36).
Sent to Proclaim Jubilee
The next two proclamations are a contrast to one another. Jesus is sent to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and God’s day of vengeance. The first is very good; it is favorable. The second is very bad; it is God avenging His anger. Let’s talk about the first.
One way to interpret the verse is to read it as saying this is a favorable year because Jesus is now on earth. When Jesus reads the Isaiah scroll in Nazareth, He is around 30 years old. His ministry is underway. If it refers to the timing of Jesus ministry, it seems the more favorable year is either when Jesus is born or when He rises from the grave.
Many theologians believe Isaiah is referring to the year of Jubilee when He says, the favorable year of the Lord. I tend to agree. We can read about Jubilee in the book of Leviticus (Leviticus 25:9-10). It is a sabbatical year after seven cycles of seven years (49 years). Every 50 years, the Jews were to celebrate the year of Jubilee. The trumpet is blown, and liberty is proclaimed throughout the land.
In the year of Jubilee, prisoners and captives are set free, slaves are released, debts are forgiven, and the property is returned to its original owners. All labor is to cease for one year. The benefit of the Jubilee is that the people and the land rest. It is a sabbath year.
God gives us many pictures (shadows) of Jesus redemption and forgiveness in the Old Testament Law. Jubilee is a picture of undeserved grace. The Jubilee helps us understand the beauty of New Testament redemption and forgiveness. Jesus proclaims rest for the weary. We cease laboring to make ourselves acceptable to God by our works. In Christ, every day is a Sabbath. Jesus proclaims our debt of sin is forgiven. He pays the price of our redemption with His blood. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23). Our sin is nailed to the cross, and so is the certificate of the debt we owe God. Jesus cancels our debt and says, “your sins are forgiven.”
Are you redeemed? Are you at rest in your salvation? Jesus proclaims that we may enter His rest. The evidence that you receive Jesus is that you know your debt to God is canceled. You are not trying to do good works to earn your way to heaven. Your response to Jesus is a heart of gratitude and humility.
Sent to Proclaim Vengeance
At the same time, Jesus proclaims the acceptable year of the Lord, He proclaims the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:2). All the prophecy of God’s vengeance speaks of a literal one-day event.
Though it seems God is doing nothing about evil. Know with confidence, a day is coming when God’s patience of evil ends. There is a day of reckoning. The evil enemies of God will face His wrath.
People don’t want to think about God destroying the world. But, He will, and He must. God is not good, or holy if He allows rebellion, wickedness, and evil to exist without punishment.
Jesus speaks of hell more than any other person in the Bible. He warns people about God’s judgment. He often said, woe to you.
The Bible says, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)
The prophet Malachi says, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff, and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 4:1)
Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe His tongue has the power to forgive and condemn? If you do, the evidence of your belief is that you have a fear of His mighty power. You believe in heaven and hell. We fear Him who can cast our soul into hell.
One thing that ought to impress us when reading Scripture is that we may not read it and walk away thinking the writers have a casual, lackadaisical view of holiness. A fear of the Lord manifests a vigorous resistance to sin. Holiness is not a casual pursuit.
More evidence of saving faith is you warn others of God’s hatred of sin and of the wrath to come. Those who truly believe in Jesus do not consider matters of life and death as a casual conversation.
Sent to Comfort Those Who Mourn
Many people are familiar with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Indeed, Jesus is sent to comfort all who mourn.
Do you mourn over sin? Do you mourn over the devastation and destruction which sin brings? Jesus promises comfort.
Jesus goes beyond giving comfort by providing a replacement for our mourning. It is one thing to stop crying. It is yet another to go from crying to gladness, joy, and praise. True comfort requires substituting mourning with healing and restoration.
Jesus transforms ashes into a beautiful garland. He pours over us the oil of gladness. Jesus transforms a weak and faint heart into a strong heart full of joy and praise.
As Christ adorns us with a garland, oil, and a mantle, we are full of joy. Our joy doesn’t come from His gifts; it comes from His presence. The bride is radiant and joyful, not because of her wedding dress and gifts, but because she is in the presence of the bridegroom. Our mourning finds comfort in the presence of Christ.
The evidence that Jesus is sent to your life is a tongue of praise and a heart of comfort. Yes, life has challenges, but the challenges do not define you. Your comfort and peace come from within, not from having life in order. You have comfort during the storms of life because you savor the presence of Christ.
So That: God is glorified in Righteousness
God sending His Son on a mission is the most significant act in the universe. The death of the Son of God on the cross is a cataclysmic event in creation. It does not happen by chance. It is not a half-hearted, blip in time. It is a premeditated, planned earth-shattering event. It is an affair that rocks the foundation of time, matter, space, and energy. God doesn’t crush His beloved Son without purpose.
There is more to sending Jesus to bring good news, bind broken hearts, give liberty, cancel debts, and give comfort to those who mourn. God’s gifts of grace are part of a greater purpose. God lavishes upon us His grace and crushes His Son so that we may be made righteous. The purpose of sending Jesus is to transform us from being disobedient rebels and enemies of God and to make us adopted children of God.
God amazingly changes the hearts of people in a way that is counterintuitive to our nature. We try to change people by manipulation, force, deceit, bribery, blackmail, and all sorts of ways. When people rebel, we put them in jail. If groups of people don’t cooperate, we first stop sending them food, and then we drop bombs on their land.
God looks at sin, rebellion, wickedness, and evil and decides He is going to change hearts. What God does is send His beloved Son. God demonstrates His love by placing sin, rebellion, and wickedness onto His Son. God punishes His Son rather than punish people. The good news the Son proclaims is we may be righteous by faith. All who believe in Jesus, are made righteous.
God gets all the glory. Without Him, we are unable to be righteous.
John chapter 15 talks of how Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. Our righteousness is not a work we do; it is a planting of the Lord. God gets the glory because He is the One who changes us. God begins the work and completes what He starts.
Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8).
Notice the word prove. Another way to say this verse is, “The proof that you are My disciples is that you bear much fruit and glorify God.”
The proof we have saving faith is that we look like God’s children. We recognize children because they have their parents characteristics. God’s children reflect God’s characteristics. We are not completely transformed overnight, but we are continually changing. The child of God is never who they used to be. They are in the process of changing from one degree of glory to another. When we see Him face to face, we will be like Him.
Imagine being there that day when Jesus walks into the synagogue in Nazareth. He reads the scroll and declares He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-3. Jesus declares to the people of His hometown that He is willing to lay down His life for them and make them oaks of righteousness.
Perhaps, they see Jesus as being pompous. They see Jesus as Joseph’s son, not as the Messiah. We know just the opposite is true. Jesus is not a pompous man, but a humble God. He lays aside His privileges and divine glory, humbles Himself and becomes a man, He serves, and He obeys God to the point of death on a cross.
Jesus takes on the mission, so we may be set free, comforted, and made righteous. We have a glorious Savior. Believe Jesus is the anointed Messiah sent to make us righteous, for the glory of God.