“When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)
Have you ever seen one of those makeover shows on TV? My daughter used to watch one. It was called “What Not to Wear.” The idea of the show was that they would select a woman whose wardrobe and appearance wasn’t that great. Then they would help her pick out some new clothes that would look better on her. They would give her a nice haircut and do up her makeup. So this woman, who at the start of the program was looking all drab and dowdy, by the end of the program was looking like a million bucks. And she would be absolutely delighted with the results. The makeover had made a big difference.
Well, today I want to tell you about an even better makeover. And the good news is, it’s for you. It’s for all of us. And it’s free of charge. This makeover will make the biggest difference in your life, and you will be absolutely delighted with the results. What I want to tell you about now is “When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover.”
When the Messiah gives you a makeover: That is what is described in the Old Testament reading for today, from Isaiah 61. First, we meet the Messiah. Second, we hear about the makeover he gives us. And third, we respond with rejoicing and exultation.
First, then, we meet the Messiah. I guess I should explain what is meant by that term. “Messiah,” or “Mashiach,” is a Hebrew word, and it means “Anointed.” In the Old Testament, when someone was anointed, that person literally had oil poured over their head. No, not motor oil, silly. No, it was some sort of fragrant olive oil, perhaps, and that was the anointing. Certain persons were anointed for a very specific reason: for instance, when God had chosen that person to hold an important office. Aaron was anointed when he was chosen by the Lord to be the first high priest. And of course David was anointed when the Lord chose him to be the king of Israel. The prophet Samuel came and poured oil over David’s head, and this signified that God’s favor, choice, power, and blessing–that God’s Spirit would rest upon just this one, David, to hold just this office, that of king. That was the point of the anointing.
Well, later on, when David was king, the Lord told David that one of his descendants would be an even greater king, who would have an everlasting kingdom. This Son of David to come, prophesied and promised by God, became known as the Messiah, the Anointed One. He hadn’t come yet, but Israel was looking forward to his coming.
That, then, is the context for our text in Isaiah 61. It is a prophecy of the coming Messiah. We meet the Messiah in this passage. We even hear him speak. He says: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,” and so on.
The Messiah is speaking! Listen to those wonderful words of his! First, he says that the Spirit of the Lord God is upon him. This is his anointing. He is saying that he is the Messiah, the Anointed One. Does this description fit anyone we know? Why, yes, of course. Think about when Jesus–who, by the way, was from the line of David–think about when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. What happened? The Holy Spirit came down out of heaven and rested upon him. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. And the Father’s voice affirmed his choice: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Clearly this was Jesus being anointed into his office as the Messiah.
And then early on in his ministry, at the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus stood up to read the lesson for that day, and he unrolled the scroll of Isaiah, and he read the very words of our text: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me,” etc., to do all the wonderful things Messiah would do. And when he read this, Jesus then said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
So Jesus is the Messiah. He’s the one Isaiah foresees in our text. By the way, the Greek equivalent for the word “Messiah” is “Christ.” “Christos” means “Anointed One.” So Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, who will do the great makeover on us.
Now let’s hear what that makeover will look like. This is our second point today. The Messiah tells us the makeover he will give us. He says: “to grant to those who mourn in Zion–to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” So there’s a “before” picture and an “after” picture. The “before” picture is kind of sad. We appear all sad and bedraggled and beat down. The miseries of life have taken their toll on us. We’re in a state of mourning. Ashes were a sign of mourning. We have a faint spirit, weak and worn down.
This is a picture of us, dear friends. We are those who mourn in Zion. We mourn over our own sins and sinfulness. They weigh us down. They afflict our conscience. And we mourn over the wear and tear that just living in this sin-fallen world takes on us. We mourn the death and loss of those we love. We sorrow over the sin and sadness we see all around us. It is a grievous thing. This world really is a vale of tears.
But then Messiah presents us with the “after” picture, after he will do his makeover on us. Now we see ourselves with a beautiful headdress on our heads. Christ is saying, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” Eternal life–that is a beautiful headdress indeed! And even now Jesus gives us the oil of gladness, to refresh our spirits as we travel through this dry and dusty wilderness. He clothes us with the garment of praise, praise to God, from whom all blessings flow.
The Messiah gives us this makeover free of charge. Free to us, but at great price to him. For to do this, to give us the crown of life, Jesus himself had to wear a crown of thorns. He was mocked with a scarlet robe, beaten and flogged. He was stripped of his garments, stripped of his dignity, and nailed to a cross. Jesus did this for you. This was the price he willingly paid for your salvation. This was the blessed exchange the Messiah undertook to give you your makeover. He took your sins and gives you his righteousness. He took your death and gives you his life, the same life that triumphed o’er the grave on Easter Day and now lives forevermore. What a makeover this is!
And so what is our response? We say yes to the dress! Faith is simply saying yes to the dress that Jesus so freely gives us. This is our third point: We respond to Messiah’s makeover with rejoicing and exultation. Listen now to what we say in our reading from Isaiah: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, in Holy Baptism you were clothed and covered with the robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” When God sees you now, he sees you righteous and radiant, pure and clean. All because of the Messiah’s makeover.
“As a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” When people get married, they are usually “dressed to the nines,” as the saying goes. The bridegroom is wearing some fancy duds. On his wedding day, at least, he really is a sharp-dressed man. And the bride? Whoa, the bride! Radiant, resplendent, gorgeous, beautiful, looking her loveliest! Well, that’s the kind of makeover Christ does for his church. The apostle Paul puts it like this in Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Friends, Christ has clothed you with the garments of salvation. This is our daily dress. Each new day, we put on Christ and live as his holy people. It changes the way we live. We take off the old, filthy clothes of sin and meanness and selfishness. That’s what not to wear. What to wear? We put on the new garments of love and kindness and forgiveness and generosity. Clothed with Christ, robed in baptismal newness of life, we live as God’s holy people. The Messiah’s makeover has this effect on us.
And so we rejoice. For all of these reasons, and more, we rejoice and exult. We say with Isaiah: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God.” “O bride of Christ, rejoice; exultant raise thy voice.” “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation.”
This king is the Messiah, the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, who is coming to us. He comes at Christmas to do his big makeover job. He will come again at the Last Day, when we will see with our eyes the glorious results of his mighty makeover. Until then, we see with the eyes of faith, saying yes to the dress our Messiah gives us. When the Messiah gives you a makeover, it really is something to rejoice in!