Sermon on Isaiah 61:1-3 | Wounded and Weary

Man in despair

Wounded and Weary (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Confession time: A couple weeks ago, I wasn’t so certain that I’d be preaching this morning; in fact, I wasn’t so sure I’d be in this world. I was swimming, and all of a sudden I was absolutely certain I was having a heart attack: my chest felt tight–tighter than it had ever felt before–my left arm became so painful that I couldn’t use it, the room started to spin, and I suddenly became very nauseous. I stopped swimming and got to the pool wall near where the lifeguards were. I thought that if I were to be having a heart attack I was in a good place to have it: a Carilion facility with people certified in CPR all around me. For a few minutes, I really did not know if I’d live or die.

I’ve had chest pain for several years now. My brother and I both have what’s called Prinzmetal’s angina. It’s caused by spasms in the coronary arteries; the spasms restrict blood flow to the heart. Therefore, the symptoms are extremely close to a heart attack. If the spasms are severe enough and last long enough, they can lead to an actual heart attack. Treatment is drugs that keep the arteries open.

I was diagnosed back in 2008, so when I’ve had chest pain, I’ve just waited for it to pass. However, for the past couple of weeks, the pain has been absolutely horrendous. Tammy and I spent a good part of Thursday at Roanoke Memorial in the ER, and I came away with a new cardiologist and some new meds.

Some of you have had greater health difficulties than most of us have even thought about having. Some of you have battled cancer; some of you battle chronic pain; some of you have chronic illnesses that wreak havoc with how you feel. Some of you have hovered between life and death and only God knows how you’re still in this world.

Physical illness is horrible and is absolutely no fun; however, I’d much rather face great physical challenges than to be spiritually sick. Scripture speaks of those who were ill spiritually. Isaiah 1:4-6. 1 Corinthians 11:29-31.

This morning’s text speaks of those who are spiritually sick and gives hope of One who would come to erase that sickness. “God anointed Jesus to bring healing.

This passage is clearly Messianic; as we’ll see, Jesus applied the text to Himself. However, there’s more to the text that a simple application to Jesus. I would liken this text to an onion: there are three layers we need to peel.

  • Layer One: What this text meant for the people of Isaiah’s day. The Book of Isaiah can easily be divided into three sections: (1) Chapters 1-39 speak to Isaiah’s day; (2) Chapters 40-55 deal with the Babylonian Exile; and (3) Chapters 56-66 deal with events during the return from the Exile. Isaiah’s message here is one of hope for the Jews rebuilding their homeland after 70 years of Babylonian Exile. The hope in this morning’s passage seems to have been: “Folks, YHWH has blessed us by allowing us to return from Babylon. But, a greater deliverance is coming. God’s own Son will come and redeem the world.”
  • Layer Two: What this text meant for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus applies the text to Himself: Mark 4:16-21. Therefore, we need to think about how the text applies to Him.
  • Layer Three: What this text means for us. Obviously, some of the ways this text applied to Jesus will impact our lives. However, we’re called to be like Jesus, and, therefore, we need to think about how we can carry out this passage in today’s world.

Let’s go to the text and see how “God anointed Jesus to bring healing” and think about how we can apply the text.

Scripture (Isaiah 61:1-3)

The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus, for God anointed Him. Jesus is the Anointed One. The importance of Jesus as the Anointed One is very evident: the term “Christ” means “Anointed One.” Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed in the Old Testament; Jesus fills all three offices.

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. That anointing took place at Jesus’ baptism (Matt 3:16-17). Jesus’ baptism is important: That was the point where God publicly proclaimed that Jesus is His Son and the point at which Jesus began His earthly ministry.

The rest of this text speaks about Jesus’ earthly ministry. The text speaks about Jesus’ earthly ministry in Hebrew poetry. We are used to poetry that rhymes, not so the Hebrews. They would use parallelism. One line would say something, and the next line would build on that idea in one of four ways. This text uses a great deal of synonymous parallelism; one line will declare a truth and the next line will repeat the same truth in a different way.

Jesus came to:

Be a Doctor (v 1b).

Jesus healed many in His earthly ministry; He even raised the dead, but God reveals a different truth here.

Jesus would be a doctor to the brokenhearted. In His ministry, the Lord healed the brokenhearted over and over. Remember the widow of Nain who was on the way to bury her son? Can you see the woman caught in adultery standing before Jesus and finding forgiveness in place of judgment? Remember how Peter denied the Lord while getting warm by the fire? Do you remember how Jesus lovingly took him aside after the Resurrection and gave him a ministry?

How would Jesus heal the brokenhearted? He would preach good tidings to the poor. He preached good tidings to Mary and Martha, not only by raising Lazarus from the dead, but by teaching them that He is the resurrection and the life. He preached good tidings in Simon’s house, not only by forgiving the prostitute who washed His feet, but by teaching Simon that those who are forgiven of great sin want to serve the Lord most of all.

Deliver (v 1c).

Jesus would proclaim liberty by opening the prison of those who were bound. I think it’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to understand how this would have touched the Israelites. Imagine another nation invading and subduing us, taking us away for 70 years, and then allowing us to return.

As great as the physical deliverance would be, Jesus came to deliver us spiritually. Sin, Jesus says, will hold us captive (Jn 8:34); however, He says:

  • “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:32).
  • “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn 8:36).

Jesus also came to release us from the fear of death. Jesus came to “release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:15). Jesus took care of death in two ways:

  1. He raised people from the dead in His ministry.
  2. He Himself conquered death when He walked out of that tomb on the first day of the week.

Bring a New Day (v 2a-b).

Jesus would proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. Isaiah speaks of the Jubilee; the Jubilee occurred every fifty years (Lev 25:8ff). During that year, servants were released (Lev 25:47-55); surely Isaiah mentions the release of prisoners and the Year of Jubilee so tightly together for that reason.

Jesus also brings “the day of vengeance of our God.” When He read in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus stopped reading at “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” More than likely, Jesus did not read “the day of vengeance of our God” because Jesus did not come to bring God’s vengeance. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:17).

The next time He comes? Well, that’s a different story! “The Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:7-8).

Reading this in context how can the acceptable year of the Lord include a day of God’s vengeance? Remember that Isaiah is giving hope to the Jews in the midst of the Exile. The idea that God would visit vengeance on their enemies would certainly comfort God’s people.

Bring Delight (vv 2c-3)

This verse would easily apply to the Hebrews concerning their return from the Exile; they would be comforted and have joy when they returned to the Promised Land.

Jesus would bring great joy. Can you imagine how joyful the woman caught in adultery had to be? She had committed a crime punishable by death, yet she finds forgiveness at the feet of the Great Forgiver. Can you imagine the joy of Mary and Martha when they saw their beloved brother walk out of that tomb? Can you imagine the joy of the Disciples when Jesus came and stood in their midst after He had been crucified?


God anointed Jesus to bring healing.” Therefore:

One: Take your cares to Jesus.

This world is full of despair. Pick up a newspaper or flip on the evening news, and you will see suffering: Families devastated because of natural disasters, students at UVA abducted and murdered, protestors and looters running amok in American cities.

But, it doesn’t take a newspaper for you to know despair. Many among us are facing serious health challenges. Some here, I’m confident, are struggling with sins that no one else knows. Some of us may be keeping our families together by the thinnest of threads.

Jesus came to this earth to take away our despair. What is in your heart this morning? What black hole of despair do you see? You need to take that despair to Jesus, for He–and He alone–can remove it:

Go to His Word to find the strength you need.

See how the Lord of all creation took care of people in their great despair. See how He rescued the Israelites at the Red Sea, see how He walked on the water and calmed the storm, see how He forgave the vilest of sinners, see how He conquered death. If that doesn’t fill you with hope to face tomorrow, I don’t know what will!

See the promises God has made.

Throughout Scripture, God has made great promises to His people. Are you worried about death? Remember that “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54). Are you worried that you have committed sin that even God Himself could not forgive? Remember how He, not only forgave Saul of Tarsus, but sent him as a missionary throughout the world. Are you worried because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel? Remember He who says that all things work out for good (Rom 8:28).

Pray to the Lord up in heaven.

Cast “all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7). Spend time this week pouring your heart out to God about the anxieties you’re facing.

Two: Be Jesus in this world.

I love this text, and I wrote a sermon from it many, many years ago. I love that sermon, and I’ve always thought it was one of my best. The title of that sermon is “What Can Jesus Do for Me?” We’ve talked a good deal this morning about what blessings we can have from the Lord.

However, we also need to go to Scripture to see what we can give. We need to be like Jesus. “Be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Eph 5:1-2). “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 Jn 2:6).

In the New Testament, we find the idea that the church is the body of Christ. In 1 Cor 12, Paul talks about how we can be eyes, ears, feet, and noses. I understand the context there, but I don’t think we can ignore the fact that we are the only feet and eyes and hands the Lord has in this world. We’re called forth to minister in a dark and dying world.

Spend some time thinking about how you can minister in a Christ-like way.

Jesus came as a “Doctor” to heal the brokenhearted. Who around you is suffering? What prayer might you pray? What word might you speak? Could you sit and hold a hand while the tears flow?

Jesus came to “Deliver” those in bondage. Are there people in your circle of influence who are in bondage to the devil? What might you be able to do to help him/her be delivered from that bondage? Could you study the Bible? Could you pray? Could you invite to worship?

Jesus came to bring a new “Day” by announcing the acceptable year of the Lord. Part of that new day, as we noticed, is the promise that judgment is coming. Whom might you be able to warn that judgment is coming? Some people get nervous when we start talking about judgment; they believe we should only preach good things that make people feel good.

The problem is that people who think like that forgot to tell Spirit-inspired people not to preach that way. John the Baptizer preached about coming judgment: Matthew 3:12. So did the Apostle Paul: “As [Paul] reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid” (Acts 24:25). Who in your circle of influence needs to be afraid of “the judgment to come”?

Jesus came to bring “Delight.” Who in your circle of influence needs joy in place of sorrow? How might you, as an instrument of God, bring delight to that individual? Do you need to minister in some way? Do you need to pray a special prayer? Do you need to laugh, to cry, or to pray with someone?

How can you serve the Lord?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.

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