A Sermon for Series A 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany 2017 “The Second Servant”

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 49:1-7

Second Lesson  1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Gospel Lesson  John 1:29-42 

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Old Testament lesson just read.  [Isaiah 49:1-7]

Can you imagine what it feels like to be the backup quarterback, the second quarterback?  You watch the quarterback, the one called first, as he executes the plays sent in by the offensive coordinator and the head coach.  They aren’t even his plays, but the success of the team rests in him and all you get to do is watch.

Well, unless you’re Dak Prescott on the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo gets injured.  In the case of the Cowboys, the coach puts the second quarterback in the game because he has confidence in him.  And the second quarterback is called to do what the first quarterback could never do.  And he does.

God chose Israel to be his first Servant.  He chose them to bring glory to him in everything they did.  By their example, the nations, the Gentiles, would be drawn to God.  The nation’s curiosity would get the best of them and they would come to find out how Israel did it.  How was Israel so successful?  What did they have that other nations didn’t have?

As God’s Servant, Israel would be poised to answer all who asked.  God’s Servant would tell all who came near, the wonders, the glory, of the one true God; denouncing other gods as false and, by their righteous living and by the blessings the nations would see showering down on them from heaven, the life of God’s Servant would make an unmistakable witness to him, and the nations would know how glorious the Holy One of Israel really was.  They would know YAHWEH as the one true God.

That was the plan.  That’s the task God chose his Servant, Israel, to do.  That’s what it meant to be God’s Servant.  But we all know what really happened.  It’s written with painstaking detail in Holy Scripture.

Israel did not remain faithful to YAHWEH.  God’s Servant abandoned God and worshipped false gods.  Try as God might, to get his Servant to return to him, the Servant refused.  Now the Servant trusted in others.  Now the Servant paid attention to others and wanted to fit in with the others.  Now the Servant rejected God in favor of idols made with human hands.

The Servant failed to complete the task to which he’d been called.  Even worse, the Servant had denied the One who called him.  He’d quit.  He’d walked away.  But within God’s Servant, Israel, there were yet some who remained faithful; the remnant that trusted in YAHWEH above all else.

And so, God promised his faithful people that he would raise up a second Servant, a second Israel, and this second Servant would be what the first Servant could never be.  This second Servant would come to rescue his faithful people; and to rescue other people, people of the nations, who trusted in the promises they heard in his holy Word.

And given the gift of faith through that holy Word, these other people would believe, through that faith alone, that the second Servant was their Savior as surely as he was the Savior of the remnant of Israel.

It’s this second Servant we hear speaking in the Old Testament lesson today, saying:    Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.  He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.  And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”  But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”  And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him,  for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength—  he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

This is the Savior of the nations!  This is God’s own Son; the Son who came from heaven to earth and put on flesh, serving his Father.  Putting on flesh as one formed in the womb; formed to be his Servant, formed to be the Savior of all who believe in him.  This is the true Israel, the Second Servant who comes to save the true followers of YAHWEH.

Like ancient Israel, God chose us.  God calls us to serve him.  And like ancient Israel, we fail.  In our sin we abandon God.  In our sin we turn away from him, putting our trust in other things, in other gods.  But like the faithful remnant of ancient Israel who also sinned, sin does not rule in our lives.  Sin does not rule in us because, like the remnant, we trust in the second Servant.

Through his Holy Word, our heavenly Father has made his second Servant known to us, the One who is what we could never be.  We struggle to do our Father’s will, but the second Servant’s will is so perfectly aligned with the Father’s will that he could remain co-equal with the Father in every way, and yet submit to his Father’s will.

In fulfilling that will, he lived the perfect life, for us; and yet, although he was perfect, he was punished for the sins of all.  Your sins, my sins, the sins of believers and unbelievers, all credited to him, the sinless Servant.

This Second Servant, who is the author of all life, who is Life itself, willingly submitted to death in order to conquer death for you.  The Second Servant, whom Death couldn’t hold, rose on the third day proclaiming victory over sin, death, and the devil; not for himself, but for those he came to serve, those he came to save; you and me and all believers.

He came as a servant, but he came to be what we could never be.  Although he is the Second Servant, he never came to stand on the sidelines.  From the beginning he knew his place.  From the beginning he knew his purpose; and although he knew it would cost him his life, he came.

We serve him, not because we have the understanding or the ability to know how to serve, but because he chose us to serve.  He chose to lead us, to guide us, to equip us to serve in unique ways we call vocations.  He molded us so that in our uniqueness, we fit in to a much larger, single organism that is his body, the church.

He creates us to be servants of one another, and in our serving to bring glory to him.  He is our Servant King, and our service is done according to the King’s plan and according to his will.  He came to serve us … and he did, and he does … He came to be what we can never be.  He came to be our Savior, and although he came as the second Servant, there’s nothing second about him.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle