Beckett: Sermon – Salvation Extended to All

Date: January 15, 2023
Festival: 2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Text: Isaiah 49:1-7
Preaching Occasion: Zion Lutheran Church, Mt. Pleasant, MI, and CTKLC
Appointed Scriptures: Isaiah 49:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42a
Sermon Hymn: LSB #402 The Only Son from Heaven

Exegetical Statement: Isaiah prophesies of the Servant who will bring salvation to the ends of the earth. He does this by the use of typology. He speaks of servant Israel who is called and named from his mother’s womb (v. 1), in whom Yahweh is glorified (v. 3), who will be the light of salvation for all nations (v. 6), and who will yet be abhorred by the nation (v. 7). The odd thing is that this calling “is too light a thing” that Israel should be Yahweh’s servant (v. 6), meaning the calling of Israel’s people is not enough and therefore the call must extend to all the nations. Yet this is beyond the ability of Servant Israel; he can’t even gather his own people to himself, let alone the entire world. Therefore, Christ is the antitype—the equal yet greater Servant Israel. He was called and named from His mother’s womb (Matthew 1:21), God the Father is glorified in Him (John 17:1), He is the Light of the world (John 1:1-9; 8:12), and He is the one abhorred by all the nations—even Israel—in His exaltation on the cross. It is here that “Israel might be gathered to Him” (Isaiah 49:5), indeed, where Christ draws all people (all nations) to Himself, just as He Himself foretold (John 12:32). The text therefore comforts the hearer, who might be living in darkness, with the hope of the Light of the world who is to come again in glory. Just as Israel waited for the Servant to whom they would be gathered, so we Gentiles from all nations wait for this same Servant before whom peoples from every nation will stand before the throne of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Revelation 7:9; John 1:29).

Focus Statement: God has sent His Servant Christ (Israel) to extend His salvation to the ends of the earth.

Function Statement: That my hearers might receive the salvation of Christ in their hearing and in the Lord’s Supper.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Who are our greatest heroes? Type into Google “American heroes,” and you’ll get a few notable names: Martin Luther King Jr., hero of the Civil Rights Movement; Frederick Douglass, hero of abolitionism in America; General Douglas MacArthur, hero of WWII who accepted Japan’s surrender aboard the USS Missouri. Some of us might also be inspired by fictitious heroes, like Batman, hero of Gotham City; or Spider-Man, hero of New York City. Or maybe you have a personal hero, like a parent, or grandparent, or police officer, or doctor, or nurse. What do all these heroes—real or fantasy—have in common? They’re fighters, whether literally or figuratively. All of them are leaders fighting on the frontlines. Mostly this: they’re loved by all.

Jesus, though, is a different kind of hero. Although He is King of the universe, Jesus doesn’t come to us as we would expect a king to come; He doesn’t come as a prince born in a castle, but as a baby, and not in a crib, but in a manger—a food trough animals eat from. And neither did He come arrayed in battle armour with His legion of angels when He grew into a man, but rather He came as a servant. Imagine if Jesus hadn’t come yet in our day, and everyone was expecting the Messiah to come as a great senator or presidential candidate, but instead He comes as a waiter, or a teacher (a rabbi). Nobody would believe He’s the Messiah, let alone God.

Jesus does what earthly kings do not do: the King comes to serve His subjects. He also doesn’t put Himself on the frontlines of the spiritual battlefield or ally Himself with celebrities, kings, and nobles (in fact, they become His enemies). Instead, He goes to lowly places—to the marginalised of society because He comes as one of them. And He is most certainly not loved by all; instead, He becomes hated by all. The people who shouted, “Hosanna in the highest” when Jesus entered Jerusalem were the same people who shouted, “Crucify Him!” In our stories, we like to depict our heroes as mighty, brave warriors to come and save their people from a looming threat or an impenetrable villain. Yet through Isaiah, God promises not a mighty warrior but a servant who will bring salvation.

The words from Isaiah this morning are spoken to the people of Israel before they are exiled in the far coastlands of Babylon for their constant rebellion against God. Yet God promises that just as He gathered His people out from under the hand of Egypt’s oppression in the exodus to bring them to Mt. Sinai where He will be their God and they will be His people [Ex. 6:7], so again He will gather His people out from under Babylon’s heavy hand and bring them back to Himself to be His people [Is. 49:5].

Yet it is more than exile that oppresses Israel’s people [5:13]. They are darkened by idolatry, greed, and injustice. They fear, love, and trust in their wealth rather than God [2:7; 5:12]. They worship the false gods of other nations [2:8]. They are filled with drunkenness [5:11, 22]. They call evil good and good evil [5:20]. And they are unjust toward orphans, widows, and the poor [1:17; 10:2], seeking to use their poverty for their own gain. When people need such desperate saving, a warrior is sent—a hero.

But a warrior is not being sent to bring Israel’s people back to God. Rather, a servant is coming, whose name, Isaiah says, is Israel [49:3]. This Israel is far different than the saviours, or judges, in the Book of Judges. These saviours came and destroyed the nations as mighty military leaders—like Jael who hammered a tent peg through Heber’s skull and delivered her people from the Canaanites, Gideon whose 300 men defeated 120,000 men of Midian, and Samson who collapsed two pillars with nothing but the strength God had given him and destroyed 3,000 Philistines. Yet this Saviour is coming as a Servant; He will not be a destroyer of nations, but “a light for the nations” [v. 5]. Servant Israel’s task, therefore, is more profound and more difficult than that of Moses and the Judges. He is coming not to free peoples’ hands and feet from chains and political oppression, but to free peoples’ hearts from sin and from the devil who oppresses them.

Because of this, we shouldn’t be so surprised that Servant Israel expresses frustration. His Word, though forged like a sharpened sword, seems incapable of penetrating the people’s hardened hearts. “I have laboured in vain,” He says. “I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity” [v. 4]. Whereas Samson’s strength was enough to deliver Israel’s people from the Philistines, Servant Israel’s strength only seems to fall short. So, what’s His solution? Pack His things and give up? Go on the offensive and whip His people into shape? No. His solution is both perplexing and remarkable. He says, “It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” [v. 6].

Despite Servant Israel’s failure to gather his people to himself, God expands the Servant’s mission—He will be a guiding light not just for His people, but for all the nations! That doesn’t seem the logical thing to do! If Israel can’t even save his own people, why expand the mission to the entire world? It’s because the darkness of sin and rebellion has not just fallen upon Israel’s people but also the rest of the world. Therefore, He is calling Israel to be the beacon for the nations.

How is it that this failure becomes the catalyst for an even greater work of salvation? Surprisingly and even more perplexing, it is manifested in deep hatred of the Servant, “to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation” [v. 7]. The people of Israel might see themselves as the Servant abhorred by the nation. They will go into exile in Babylon. When they return to their homeland afterwards, they will suffer Roman occupation. Thousands of years later, they will suffer the Holocaust, and today there is perpetual war between Israel and Palestine. But Servant Israel is not the State of Israel, because he failed! Therefore, God has decided not just Israel’s people, but the entire world needs a greater Israel. And His name is Jesus the Christ.

Jesus was called from the womb of His mother, Mary, and from her womb He was given His name, which means, “He will save His people from their sins” [Matt. 1:21]. He is the Light of the world, of whom John the Baptiser bore witness. He is the Servant Israel in whom Yahweh is glorified [Is. 49:3], just as He said before His crucifixion, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You” [John 17:1]. Jesus is Israel abhorred by all the nations on the cross, and it is there that He shines the brightest. It is there where Christ was deeply despised and abhorred even by His own nation Israel, where it seemed His mission failed, yet it was there that His mission truly began its greatest expansion and success. Yahweh promised He would “bing Jacob back to Him… that Israel might be gathered to Him” [Is. 49:5]. Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself” [John 12:32]. Not just Israel, but all people—all nations, all Gentiles, like you and me.

Jesus is the greater Servant Israel who has come to free your heart from sin. Just as the people of Israel were darkened by idolatry, greed, and oppression, which of these hold you captive? What might you fear, love, and trust more than God? What greed never seems to satiate your appetite? Or do you have an oppressor who never seems to leave you alone?

Fear not, for {motion the altar} behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world [John 1:29]—who takes away your sin! Here is where the Servant Christ has gathered you, a people from all nations, to Himself! Here is where you lay your idols and your greed and exchange them for the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation! Here is where Christ removes the heavy hand of your oppressor and exchanges it for the light yoke of His grace [Matt. 11:28-30]! For here, Christ your King comes as your Servant to serve you the heavenly banquet of His body and blood to nourish your bodies and souls unto life everlasting. To Christ be all the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


1 thought on “Beckett: Sermon – Salvation Extended to All

  1. This was once again great! Everytime I read of Jael pounding the peg in Heber’s skull I cringe. She had to do what she did to deliver her people. Jesus is definely our Saviot.


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