A Reflection by Chris King

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners…”

Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)

After a year of physical separation and perpetual anxiety, many of us have felt our sense of hope and security fading away. As Christians, we should be among the most hopeful people on earth. Jesus’ reassurance of God’s daily provision in our lives (Matthew 6:25-27) should be sufficient to quell our fears. Yet, I more often relate to the disciples shaking Jesus amidst the storm and pleading, “Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).

In a Lenten sermon by Dr. Jeff Ebert, he noted Isaiah 61 might be the most hopeful passage in all of Scripture. We are given a foretaste of what Jesus will proclaim, when the prophet says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the captives…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty” (Isaiah 61:1-3). 

A Christian, derived from the Greek word Christianos, is a “little Christ.” Jesus is The Anointed One, and through our transformation in Baptism, we too, become God’s anointed followers. We inherit the same Spirit to proclaim hope to a broken world. 

Jesus knows the task of spreading hope is not an easy one. After spending 40 days in the wilderness tempted to turn away from God, Jesus returns to Nazareth, His childhood home. In Luke’s Gospel, the first words of Jesus’ adult ministry are delivered to publicly affirm Isaiah 61 in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-19). Jesus asserts that He is the fulfillment of the law, and is He then heralded as God’s Son? No, He is scorned, driven out of town, and taken to the top of a hill to be thrown off the cliff (Luke 4:29). Imagine if the Gospel ended there!

As “little Christs,” we are called to offer hope to others. That work is much easier when you have seen the transformative love of Christ in action. For the past 19 years, my hope in the Sovereign Lord has been renewed through regular visits to Amistad Mission in Bolivia. Amistad is a Christian community that raises biological siblings from infancy through young adulthood. These children have experienced abuse and abandonment from a young age and have every reason to be resentful. Yet, their capacity to love feels limitless. As a U.S. visitor entering their home, I am enveloped with hugs and smiling faces that convey their hope and sense of security. They know the Captain of the Storm and are not bent by the winds of struggle and uncertainty. 

Amistad Mission in Cochabamba, Bolivia

As much as I would like to be the one sowing hope in these precious children who have endured early traumas, they are the ones who provide sustenance to a materially rich and spiritually poor man. In them, hope produces perseverance and confidence. Their eyes reflect the gaze of the Savior. My worried mind is calmed in their presence, as I think of an old hymn.  

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."
(Helen Howarth Lemmel, "The Heavenly Vision," 1922)

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A Reflection by Forsyth White

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:6

How many times have I “turned to my own way?”  So many times a day it is hard to count! Why do I continually forget that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6)? Why isn’t my first thought – go to Jesus with “this?”  Why do I think I ever know better?  Why do I try on my own before going to the One who wants me to give Him my burdens? 

Because I am a sheep. I actually find it comforting that the Bible compares us to sheep, not only here in Isaiah, but all throughout the Bible (Jeremiah 50:6, Luke 15: 5-7,  Matthew 10:16). Sheep are vulnerable, defenseless and have no sense of direction. They also have herd mentality and definitely are not meant to carry a burden!  Without a shepherd they (like me) would be lost. I would be wandering around with a heavy burden without Jesus.  

Of all of the verses in Isaiah 53 – this one makes me feel okay for not having it all together or knowing exactly what I am supposed to be doing all the time. It is nice that the Lord knows I will try to go my own way – and He already had a plan for that.

God knew that we will forget we need a Shepherd. 

And Isaiah 53:6 says that the Lord has [purposefully] laid on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all [me included]. 

It doesn’t say “The Lord has laid on each of us our own iniquities…”

It doesn’t say “Because you are all sheep and have gone your own way – you will pay.” 

This verse is full of grace! Undeserved merit! “The Lord laid on Him” what we should have received!  

Isaiah was written 700+ years before Jesus’ birth, but it was God’s plan from the beginning of time to forgive our iniquities through Jesus. He described His own character in Exodus when He says, “… Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,”  Exodus 34:7

Although we, sheep, continually go astray – we are also forgiven! (1 John 1:9)

Jesus is our Shepherd AND our Lamb: (John 1:29) “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” He is the One who shows us the way – and He is the way.  He is our Protector as the Shepherd and our Savior as the Lamb. 

As a sheep – I am eternally thankful for the Lamb. The Lamb who seeks us and pulls us back to Him as our Shepherd.  He knows I will wander but He also seeks me out! Praise God that I am not left to my own devices, carrying my own burdens. 

My favorite poem is by Annie Flint – My favorite part: “When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun…”

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Lord, thank You for seeing us so perfectly that You knew before the beginning of time that we would need a Savior. Thank You for being a God I can give my burdens to and fully trust to lead me and guide me in Your way. Thank You for forgiving all of my sins and iniquities. You are the Lord Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and yet You still see me and love me. Out of Your infinite riches in Jesus You “giveth and giveth and giveth again.”  Thank You, Lord. 

*Photo credit: Forsyth Tynes White

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