Main Idea: Jesus came to proclaim the good news, and we ought to proclaim Him as well.
My kids and I enjoy reading together several times per week. Before reading a couple chapters of the Bible, we’ll also read a chapter from whatever other book we’re reading at the time. This week, we finished reading two books together. We finished the book of Deuteronomy, and we finished the seventh book in the book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I’d like to read a portion of this book to you now.
On pages 21 and 22, it says:
Of all the ridiculous expressions people use – and people use a great many ridiculous expressions – one of the most ridiculous is ‘No news is good news.’ ‘No news is good news’ simply means that if you don’t hear from someone, everything is probably fine, and you can see at once why this expression makes such little sense, because everything being fine is only one of many reasons why someone may not contact you. Perhaps they are tied up. Maybe they are surrounded by fierce weasels, or perhaps they are wedged tightly between two refrigerators and cannot get themselves out. The expression might well be changed to ‘No news is bad news,’ except that people may not be able to contact you because they have just been crowned king or are competing in a gymnastics tournament. The point is that there is no way to know why someone has not contacted you, until they contact you and explain themselves. For this reason, the sensible expression would be ‘No news is no news,’ except that it is so obvious it is hardly an expression at all. (Lemony Snicket, The Hostile Hospital)
I love that. It just makes sense, right? And yet, we’ve probably all at some point used the expression, “No news is good news.” And I think the reason we’ve all used this expression is because we’ve all grown so accustomed to bad news being the norm, that we’d much rather have no news at all. Maybe in today’s cultural climate, that makes sense, but I hope that we can all agree that good news is far better than no news.
For the next few weeks, as we approach Christmas, we’re going to be talking about a few aspects of the gospel, which is literally translated, “good news.” To start, we’re going to look at Isaiah 61, which talks about someone who was anointed to bring good news to us all.
Please turn there with me. Isaiah 61.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)
Father, I pray that You would speak through me this morning, and that the good news would be clear to us all, so that we might all rest in Jesus. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
What’s the best thing you can imagine happening in the next few months? Maybe you can imagine getting another stimulus check. Maybe you can imagine celebrating Christmas with all your family with no limitations. Maybe you can imagine the person you voted for in the last election actually becoming President of the United States. Maybe. But maybe not.
But what if you could dream even bigger? What if you could dream about poverty and disease being eradicated? What if you could dream about all people being treated with dignity and respect, since everyone has been made in the image of God? What if we could all rejoice together in the grace of God? What’s the best news you could think of?
Now, imagine that it was your job to tell everyone that news. Would you be excited? Or maybe humbled? Maybe a little scared? I’d probably be all of those things, even a lot scared, because I’d be worried that people wouldn’t believe me, and that they would actually argue against the good news.
Our Scripture passage this morning talks about someone who was anointed by God to bring good news. When the prophet Isaiah originally wrote these words, he was talking about himself. God had anointed Isaiah to proclaim the good news of liberty to the Jews who were in exile. That was his job. His job was to preach good news. I mean, who wouldn’t want that job?
Well, apparently, Isaiah didn’t. When he was first appointed, Isaiah said in Isaiah 6:5:
Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. (Isaiah 6:5a)
Isaiah didn’t feel worthy. He didn’t feel worthy to preach good news. At least not until he was made worthy. Verse 6.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:6-8)
So even though Isaiah didn’t feel worthy to preach the good news, he was made worthy, and then he preached the good news with joy.
The truth is, none of us are worthy in and of ourselves to talk about God. We’ve all sinned. None of us are worthy to talk about God, to speak His name, or even to be in His presence.
The Old Testament describes how in the Jewish Temple, there was a curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, where God was said to dwell.
Nobody was ever allowed to just go into the Most Holy Place if they might want to, not even to take a peek, because nobody was worthy of entering into God’s presence because of their sin. But just once a year, the high priest was appointed by God to go into the Most Holy Place, behind the curtain, to make atonement for the people’s sins, offering the blood of animals.
But when Jesus died on the cross, at that very moment, the curtain was torn in two, from the top to the bottom. God tore it in two, because when Jesus paid the price for sin, it was once for all, and God is no longer separate from His people.
You see, we’re not worthy to be in God’s presence because of our sin, and yet, we’re made worthy by the blood of Jesus.
So the next time you feel unworthy, remember what Jesus did for you. The Bible calls you a child of God, for that is what you are. Jesus has separated your sin from you as far as the east is from the west. And there’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
So rise up. Rise up to walk a new life in Christ. Like Isaiah, don’t just believe the good news, but base your life on the good news, and share the good news with all the world.
But ultimately, our passage this morning in Isaiah 61 doesn’t just refer to Isaiah, or to us, but to Jesus. You might remember that Jesus even read the first part of Isaiah 61 in a synagogue and told all of them that it was talking about Himself. Check it out. Luke 4, starting in verse 16.
And he [talking about Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
You see, more than Isaiah, who was appointed to proclaim good news to Israel, and more than the high priest, who was to offer a sacrifice every year behind the curtain, more than any preacher today who claims God’s anointing, Jesus is the anointed One of God.
So let’s look at what Jesus came to do.
In Isaiah 61:1, it says that He came to bring good news to the poor. Now, we could understand that literally, saying that the financially poor won’t be financially poor in eternity, because they’ll inherit the riches of heaven, and that’s true, or we could understand it spiritually, because of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:3.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
In that line of thought, we would say that it’s important to recognize that we are all spiritually bankrupt, and are only saved by the grace of God through Jesus’s death for us on the cross. But either way, whether you’re literally poor or spiritually poor, Jesus proclaims to you good news.
Also in verse 1, it says that He came to bind up the brokenhearted. He came to heal our hearts. Have you ever had a heavy heart? Have you been heartbroken? Jesus came to heal you.
And at the end of verse 1, it says that Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. The truth is, we’ve all been captive to our sin. But Jesus sets us free.
And this is a point that I think a lot of unbelievers and even believers don’t understand. When a lot of people look at the Bible, they see a book of rules, and they feel confined by those rules. They see the rules as limiting our freedom. And the Bible certainly contains a lot of rules, and often people today scoff at those rules and say they’re outdated. But understood rightly, the Bible’s rules don’t limit our freedom, but show us how we might enjoy true freedom in God’s kingdom.
It’s like water for a fish. Water actually allows fish to live and thrive. If a fish one day was intrigued by seeing a boat, and decided to live on the boat instead of in the water, the fish would die. The Bible is like that for us. It’s not meant to restrict our freedom or joy, but to actually show us what true freedom and joy looks like. True freedom and joy comes through resting and rejoicing in Jesus.
I think that’s why, in verse 2, it says that God’s anointed one came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God. Now this is interesting. When Jesus quoted this passage in the synagogue, He left that last part about vengeance off. He read about the year of favor, but not the day of vengeance. Most commentaries suggest that this is because Jesus’s first coming had to do with the Lord’s favor, and His second coming will have to do with God’s vengeance. And I think there’s something to that. But I think by not quoting the part about God’s vengeance, Jesus was actually bringing even more attention to it, because the Jews were familiar with the Scripture, and Jesus was in essence saying, “Be ready, because it’s coming soon.”
And at the end of His life, after preaching good news to the poor, and to the brokenhearted, and to the captives, all of whom were spiritually bankrupt, Jesus allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross for their sins, taking on Himself the Lord’s vengeance.
You see, when Jesus died on the cross, it displayed both God’s mercy and wrath. His judgment toward sin, and favor toward sinners.
And in doing that, as it says at the end of verse 2, Jesus came to comfort all who mourn. Have you ever mourned? Once again, we could look at this two ways. I think we’ve all mourned for the loss of loved ones. We’ve mourned because of circumstances that we’ve had to go through. But spiritually, have you ever mourned for the state of your soul? For the spiritual state of our world? Have you been so broken over your sin and the sins of the world that you just felt like entering into a deep depression?
The good news is that by grace, through faith in Jesus, our hearts will be healed. The good news is that we will be freed.
And check out what happens to us when that happens. Verses 3 and 4.
to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:3-4)
This is talking about the effect that Jesus ought to have on our lives. When your heart is healed, and when you’re freed from sin, you’ll be changed. You’ll change from a life of mourning to one of gladness. You’ll change from having a faint, depressed spirit, to having a spirit of praise to God. And it says that just as Jesus came to proclaim the good news to us, we’ll also become people who build up the ancient ruins. We’ll see others in their needs, and seek to meet their needs. We’ll become people who proclaim the good news to our neighbors who desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Church family, we’re given the good news not to hoard it for ourselves, but to tell it to all the world. No news is not good news. The good news is good news, and it’s for all the earth.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)
What do we mean when we say that the gospel is good news? Do we treat like it’s good news? This series will explore how the gospel truly is good news of great joy that shall be for all the people. Sermons: November 29, 2020: Anointed to Bring Good News (Isaiah 61:1-4) December 6, 2020: Good… (read more)