In Luke 4 we find the following story,
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[e]
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The reading Jesus reads from Isa 61:1-2 starts by mentioning anointing. When someone in the ancient world was anointed it was to set them apart for a specific task or purpose. In the verses the follow that purpose is laid out very succinctly:
- Preach good news to the poor
- Proclaim freedom for the prisoners
- the recovery of sight for the blind
- to release the oppressed
- to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
Good news to the poor:
As Christians we know that Jesus’ mission is now our mission. We are also set aside for a purpose. We also have the Spirit of the Lord in our lives (does that mean we also have an anointing of sorts? Probably.). Jesus said he was to preach good news to the poor. What kind of good news? No more bills? Free money? No…not that kind of poor. Jesus has good news for those who are poor in spirit. In the beatitudes of Matthew 5 he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The good news is that the poor no longer have to be poor. They will be filled with an abundance of spiritual blessings. Eph 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” How do we treat those who have poor spiritual nutrition? Do we try to feed them like Jesus would?
Freedom for the Prisoners:
Is Jesus’ promise here only for those who are locked up and don’t have the key? Of course not. He is talking about those who appear free but on the inside are captive to a variety of things that dominate their lives and thinking. Galatians 4:8 says, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” Far too often we forget just how good the good news is. We are free from sin and death. I challenge you to say that with a smirk on your face or with a shrug of your shoulders. Let people know you are excited to be a Christian!
Recovery of sight for the blind:
Once again, not just those who are physically blind. Jesus came to help us see life and decisions for what they really are. He helps us see sin for sin, death for death, life for life, and righteousness for righteousness. Without Christ we are blind. Once you have seen clearly for a long time you forget how much a blessing it is to be able to do so and take for granted the blessing of spiritual vision.
To release the oppressed:
See above but see also the gospel of Luke in which Jesus reaches out to those who are social outcasts, victims, and the downtrodden. Jesus has a special interest in those society is least interested in.
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor:
Once again the mission requires proclamation. It requires action. Jesus could have sat in a dark room all by himself and spoke the most profound teachings but he didn’t he went out among the people and took action. Christians who are not committed to some form of action or involvement in kingdom business and kingdom living really just don’t get it. When you really understand what God has done for you, you will want to respond with action – sharing, proclaiming, giving, and serving.
How has your life been lived in response to the good news about Jesus? Have you made his mission your mission? Or are you still on the sidelines waiting for the right moment to act? James says our faith is made complete when it is paired with action. Why? Because a complete faith is one that expresses a loving response to the message of Christ through action rather than just mental assent. We can agree that Christ is good all day long and stay in our comfort zones and get fed in our Bible classes. But until we respond to the good news with action we just really don’t get it. Not because action is required or merits our salvation but because action is the natural response of a heart that is owned by God. Mission requires action. Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t spend his time on the sidelines!