The ubiquitous to-do lists on our desks and kitchen counters give us concrete goals for the day’s work. In fact, making a detailed to-do list may actually cause us to be more productive. According to a study from Wake Forest University, “When participants were allowed to make and note down concrete plans . . . [their] performance on the next task substantially improved.”
Of course, we are seldom able to finish everything on our list for the day, but Jesus Christ always accomplishes exactly what He intends to do, as today’s passage shows us. Isaiah begins this “servant song” with an acknowledgment that the gospel does not always appear to have much success in people’s hearts. “Who has believed our message?” (v. 1) is the poignant cry of a prophet-evangelist who longs to see evidence of faith in many hearts but sees only indifference.
To Isaiah’s hearers, and also to many who hear our message, Christ Himself appears unworthy of attention. He was not outwardly beautiful or powerful. He came from an unknown woman and an out-of-the-way town (see John 1:46). During His life on earth, He received few accolades and plenty of criticism. He died the death of a criminal.
This is one perspective. But, reorienting our view for a moment, Isaiah shows us what the death of the Nazarene carpenter looks like from the throne of God. Jesus, who looks so unremarkable, is seen from heaven as the substitutionary Lamb, the One whose death gives life to many. And His death accomplishes exactly what He intended. Christ died by the will of the triune Lord (v. 10), and His death and resurrection bring many to salvation. As He looks at His finished work on the cross, Jesus is satisfied (v. 11).
Even when you feel like your efforts in evangelism are incomplete, even when you know there is so much more that you could do to share God’s love, remember that Christ always accomplishes His task! Thank the Lord today that the to-do list is ultimately His, and He will be faithful to complete His good work.