“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight.”
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
The first statement was a prophecy, a message from God given to Isaiah. The second statement, from Matthew 3:13-17, was a message from God given verbally to any who could hear, proclaiming the prophecy’s fulfilment. God’s servant had come – and he was more than a servant: he was God’s Son.
The original prophecy seems to speak especially to Jews living in exile after the Babylonian conquest. They may have thought it referred to Cyrus, who conquered the Babylonian empire and allowed the captives to return to their native lands. Later on, some may have taken it to apply to the whole Jewish nation, seeing it as their responsibility as God’s people to teach the rest of the world God’s ways. But many Jews and Christians over the years have seen the prophecy as a message about the Messiah, the saviour-king who would bring peace and justice to the whole world. Cyrus did not really fulfil it, nor has anyone else – except Jesus.
Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in detail. He focused on doing the Father’s will and fulfilling the task given him. He did so without making a display of himself, and with gentle compassion towards all the ‘bruised reeds’ and ‘smouldering wicks’ he met. He is the Light of the World; he has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and is seated at the right hand of God while all his enemies are brought beneath his feet in defeat, the last enemy being death itself (1 Corinthians 15:25). The prophecy is still being worked out: we are still at the stage where he is not faltering or being discouraged while he establishes justice on earth (Isaiah 42:4).
God’s message at Jesus’ baptism encourages us to believe that Jesus really is the Messiah, the Lord and Saviour of the world. God’s designation of him as his Son was significant. The Servant of God was no slave, even though he accepted the role of a slave – ‘he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave’ (Philippians 2:7). A son was a person of status, and God’s son especially so – he was not just royal family, but divine family! Jesus was not only God’s chosen one, in whom he delighted, but also his beloved one, in whom he was already well pleased. That status and love would continue throughout his life and ministry, even through the cross and the cry, ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ The prophecy of Isaiah 42 is being fulfilled in a surprising manner and in overflowing measure.
It may surprise us also to realise that both statements – the prophecy and the voice from heaven – apply to some extent to us as well, who believe in Jesus. Jesus’ task is to bring many sons and daughters to glory (Hebrews 2:10). We follow him, not just as servants of God fulfilling God’s will, but as sons and daughters of God, members of God’s family, with a status to match. Because of Jesus’ death for us, God can love us and delight in us. Our faults and failings have already been dealt with! And in this confidence we can go on to serve God as Jesus did – not drawing attention to ourselves, not breaking bruised reeds or snuffing smouldering wicks, not faltering or stumbling as we seek to bring peace and justice to all.
1) His Heavenly Father’s affirmation and support must have meant a lot to Jesus. Whom can you affirm and support at the start of this new year?
2) Who are the ‘bruised reeds’ and ‘smouldering wicks’ around you? How might they be damaged, and how might they be strengthened?