Not your typical Savior

Isaiah 61:1-4

December 13th & 14th, 2008


            Political candidates like to make promises, and even make statements such as “when I come along it will no longer be politics as usual”.   Usually during the campaign a number of promises are put forward, but the reality of governing often if not more often than not makes the deliverance on these promises almost impossible.  When asked to read a section of the Bible in the synagogue, Jesus himself got up and read this section from Isaiah, and when he finished he said “today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21).  Look at some of these outstanding promises he mentioned that he himself would bring.  “He has sent me to bring good news to the poor.”   According to a recent government survey up to 2,300 people live below the poverty line in Clinton County, Illinois.  Obviously he is talking about more than just physically poor, but he speaks about this group too.   Jesus then speaks to the broken hearted.   In Clinton County alone in 2007 105 couples had their marriages come to an end.  Isaiah says about this Jesus “He was sent to bind up the broken hearted.”  That is to heal, to make whole, and complete again.  What an outstanding promise.  Can he do it?    According to 2007 government data,  the Centralia correctional center housed 1, 518 inmates last year.   Being captive is very real to many people who “unwillingly” make their home in this county.     Isaiah says about this Messiah “he proclaims liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”   Last year in Clinton County approximately 330 deaths occurred.   Think about how many relatives and friends were affected by these losses.  Yet, it is said about our Jesus here in Isaiah that “He will bring an oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit”.   These are amazing promises to a vulnerable people.  So is Jesus just another politician who promises and promises but when it comes right down to it cannot deliver? Or is he a Savior like no other? 

            Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  A Sunday of joy that is signified by the pink candle.  It is fitting then that our second reading from 1 Thessalonians 5 says  ‘”Rejoice always….”.  This makes sense, especially if the Messiah can actually deliver on his unbelievable promises.  However, doesn’t’ it   sound too good to be true.  I mean , come on,  “real and complete transformations for the mourning, poor, broken hearted, and imprisoned”?   Isn’t that a bit much to promise?   There was an image however, that did come to mind for the early readers of our text.  It is an image where some of this really did take place.    That image is of something called the year of Jubilee.  It is a year described in the book of Leviticus.  It occurs every 50 years.  During this year people’s debts were wiped out, the land was allowed to go fallow, property was restored to the original owners, and those who were enslaved got to go free.  Can you imagine the anticipation of such events in the 48th and even the 49th year?  To some this must have seemed too good to be true, but there it is….every fifty years freedom. 

            It sounded go good to be true.  Yet, isn’t this just carrying on what God had always done for his people.  The release from bondage to the Egyptians and yes even imprisonment occurred across the Great Red Sea.  The psalmist, maybe knowing this account prays “Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name.” (Psalm 142:7).  The Bible uses prison language to describe the bondage we all have in sin. “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22) .  Jesus also says “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32)   If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).   Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Pastor who lost his life at the end of WW2 in a Nazi Prison camp.  He wrote about his experiences in prison.  One such quote goes like this “How like being in a prison cell is the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We putter around inside our stone walls and iron bars, and we long to be free.  But the door is locked, and it can only be opened from the outside”.   He knows, you know, the bible proclaims, that the King is coming, and hold on those prison doors are opening up. 

            Jesus is not just another politician; he is not even your typical Savior, who only brings relief if we bring something in return.   People who are in mourning, people imprisoned by all sorts of things (whether locked up or not),  people brokenhearted, people who are affected adversely by the economic slump, Jesus really does have something to say and give to people in those situations.   We might be tempted to think but “it sure doesn’t seem that way”!   After all look at the life we live and look at the promises of the crucified and risen Savior, and on the outside it doesn’t add up.  This seeming contradiction to what Jesus says, and what our life is now like can be seen in the life of John the Baptist.  He was a man who had a mission placed in front of him before he was born, he lived an austere life, and yes he sacrificed much.  He prepared for the one whose shoes neither he nor anyone else was worthy to stoop down and unite.  He prepared for Jesus arrival, and what did it get him?  Well, a drunken king had him thrown in jail, and eventually he lost his life to this king.  When John was in jail, just prior to his death he asked if this Jesus was truly the one.   Jesus responded that indeed the blind receive sight, the lame walk, and those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is proclaimed to the poor.  In the midst of John’s life, Jesus was in the business of taking care of this world, delivering on his promises, even if from the outside it looked like John the Baptist was getting the opposite. 

            This is not your typical politician, and it certainly is not your typical Savior.  You see through faith, trust in his goodness, the reality of what he says is ours.  How can this be?  Well, he releases the captives by allowing himself to be captive to the nails on the cross.  Good news is proclaimed to be poor because our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that through his poverty we might become rich’. (2 Corinthians 8:9).      He emptied himself of all riches as he came to each one of us.  This is why he is justified to make such unbelievable claims and promises to a people who need what he offers. 

            In this week where we have seen that once again a politician stumbles, it is good to know that Jesus and his promises can be counted on.  He is not your typical Savior.  Thanks be to God for that!!!!!!