Updated: Feb 3
Good morning. I am Josh Bishop, a pastor here at Grace. I am going to tell you how your baptism can free you to live as the real you.
What you do and the impact you have on the people around you are all a part who you are. So if someone were to introduce you, what would they say about you? What would your kids say about you? Your classmates? Your roommate? Your spouse? Your parents? Your family? Your friends? If they were to introduce you, how much of it would be true? How many know the real you?
There are a lot of ways we try hide who we really are inside. If others find out, they may not like or approve of you. There are constant pressures to be someone who the crowd wants you to be. There are things down deep you don’t want anyone else to know or see. There are regrets in your past that you wouldn’t want part of your introduction.
What would life look like if you could be free from all the pressures that were on you, you could be free from the things that drag you down, free from the sins that plague you and prevent you from being who you want to be? What would that be like? Baptism frees you because it connects you to the servant of the Lord.
I want to introduce that servant to you. Before I do, we will set the stage for the introduction. God will introduce one who will change the lives of many in Isaiah 42. First 4 verse are one of the many introductions of Jesus in Isaiah. This is 700 years before Jesus ever comes out from behind the curtain for humanity to lay their physical eyes on.
Israelites didn’t really get it yet. There weren’t in any physical trouble yet where they would need some hero to free them. Therefore they didn’t really know what they were needing rescue from. For the most part, life was good. But on the inside and with their relationship with God, it wasn’t good. God was about to send them into a 70-year confinement in Babylon. Isaiah was intended to be read then when they needed to be rescued. Most of Isaiah 1-39 was bad news because it revealed who the people really were inside. If who you are is identified by what you do and the impact it has, then what they were doing is whoring themselves out to the other gods and the impact it had was the perpetual disobedience of the people around them. So instead of drawing closer to God, the people were drifting further away. Isaiah 40 declared God's great compassion for his beloved people and his desire to be close to them. Isaiah 41 compared the futility of idols because they were empty pieces of wood that can't even make themselves.
So in comparison to lifeless statues, God is going to introduce someone who can do something. 1 “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. Justice is the theme word in these first four verse, we will return to it after we get the context. In this verse God gushes over this servant. This was fulfilled as we heard in the Gospel today. Jesus was baptized and the Spirit anointed him from on high in the form of a dove where also God declared his delight, his “I love you.”
But the introduction is only as good as what the servant will do. 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. There are four “nots” that can be summed up with this description: he is gentle, gentile in word and gentle in deed. What he does is who he is. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. Here we see the servant is dedicated. What he does is who he is.
What effect does that have? In his law the islands will put their hope.” What he does is who he is and what he does has an effect. The effect is that the “islands” (distant places = Gentiles) put their hope in him. Hope is positive.
So back to the theme word, justice. So the words “bring forth justice” or “establish justice” are probably better translated, “declare a just verdict.” Because if he were going to administer justice in all fairness, he would crush the bruised reed and douse the smoldering wick. Why? Because of how they treated God. Instead, he is going to declare a verdict that will make even the distant islands put their hope in him.
This is Jesus. He was gentle in his approach to people. He was not bombastic or forceful. Those who were overburdened with guilt, he forgave. Those who were marginalized and forgotten, he reached out in love. Those who were hurting, he lifted up. He was dedicated in establishing a just verdict to declare, one that God would declare after all his work of saving people from sin was accomplished. He didn’t hide who he was. God was so excited to introduce him to Israel that he prefaced his arrival 700 years early.
These last three verses include God receiving a small introduction and then having a talk with the Servant. 5 This is what God the Lord says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: Isaiah gives God’s credentials, namely his creating power and life-giving work.
After the credentials, he speaks. 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.
These words are sort of his commissioning. God commits himself to the servants work and then that work is detailed as a covenant – promise, a light – hope in the darkness, healing power demonstrated by opening up blind eyes, and freedom – something every person desires.
Now we know who Jesus is, what about us? Who am I? What would people say about me? Maybe you want to hide who you really are. Have you ever dressed up to impersonate someone else? We did as kids. We could pretend we were someone we wanted to be. We had a box of dress up cloths that we could use to transform into someone else. It was fun to dream but soon we were back in reality. It was much more fun to escape reality than to live it.
Perhaps that is why many in our age habitually binge watching tv, movies and sports. I need to experience some other reality than my own. Or some are stuck constantly swiping to see what happy news can drown out reality. Or why I am drawn to endless video games where I can be the winner when in reality, I feel far from it. Because we all want some escape, some freedom from reality. It comes from the stress and the sin; sin we endure that are committed by others and sin we commit. It would be nice to be someone else, guilt free and stress free.
In Baptism, that’s what God does for you. You need not escape your reality through all the garbage out there, you have Christ who freed you from sin. In baptism, there is a declaration of sins forgiven based on the verdict declared by the Servant. From behind the curtain, the Father introduces me as I am, not as sinful me but a new me. It is me who has been declared right, gentle, dedicated, and loving.
In Jesus’ baptism, that’s what he provides for us. John hindered Jesus from a sinner’s baptism because Jesus was no sinner. Yet Jesus stepped under the water in our stead because he did everything in our place to accomplish all righteousness. He put on our sinful reality so he could robe us in his perfection. Your baptism connects you to the Servant of the Lord.
So who are you? When you wake up, there is a new you. Live in your baptism. If baptism isn’t something you’ve ever done before, let us know and we can connect you to the saving work. If you know children or babies that haven’t been baptized yet, let us know because it connects them to the saving work of Christ. We love baptism here because baptism gives us an identity to be proud of. It connects us to the Servant of the Lord.