“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Every great leader has a mission and I believe that Jesus is no different. No, I’m not talking about Jesus CEO, I am talking about the focus of Jesus as he lived his life on the ground. And I believe as followers of Jesus, we are invited to join with Jesus in the mission.
Very often churches that are in decline have a singular focus that revolves around its own interests, its own needs and its own preferences and the mission is mostly lost. Churches in decline also tend to find themselves having their beliefs defined by a favorite news source that they perceive as “Christian” rather than the actual Bible. Often the church has become more like the world in the ways it colludes with power. And we lose our focus on the real mission of Jesus.
Needed is to recapture the story and mission of Jesus as he lived it on the ground.
Growing up in my Evangelical Church, sermons were mostly filled with scriptures and exegesis around the writings of Paul. As people of the Reformation, Paul was the guru of our faith and outside of discussing how Jesus died for our sins, we rarely mentioned Jesus life.
During the mid to late 90’s I and my family experienced the flame of the Spirit that came from the many revivals that were happening. We immersed ourselves in the flow of the Spirit, in worship and in discovery of the life of the Spirit. I remember one day while in prayer, I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Faith, my life mattered too.” Startled, I began to read the gospels almost as if I had never read them.
And I noticed the passage in Luke 4:18-19 which stood out to me like a mission.
What does it mean that Jesus preached good news to the poor?
The poor at the time were the ones with low status, those who were economically poor those who were humble, and those who were excluded. The good news had to do with the reign of the Messiah who had come to bring new life and the loving. healing reign of God. This reign would be just. This reign would bring wholeness. This reign would bring the flourishing of human beings. This reign would bring reconciliation with God and others. This reign would be of the heart under the influence of the Holy Spirit–not the reign of a powerful military kingdom.
What does it mean that prisoners are freed and captives liberated?
I believe this has a range of meanings. First, this involves liberty for those under Roman occupation. This liberty was not about liberty that would come as a result of a military over throw of Rome but a liberty that would come from communities of people living out the way of Jesus. And over time, as these communities grew, more and more people would begin to live the way of Jesus. The world would change from the underside of power through a new way of being human.
Second, I believe this has to do with the liberation that comes from placing our full allegiance with King Jesus and in some sense being healed from the attachments that keep us entangled with the kingdoms of this world. It’s very personal in our lives to receive the inner healing that comes through a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean that the blind see?
Again, I believe this has a range of meanings. It is literally physical healing for those who are blind. Real people who are blind are healed and can now see. However I believe this also is a spiritual reality. We can be blinded by power, blinded by nationalism, blinded with poor theology, blinded by unhealthy allegiances to people or destructive ideologies. Sight comes–insight comes as the Spirit begins to lead us into truth. This is often a progressive process that takes place over time.
For me, I believe this was triggered by the revivals we experienced and the new relationship with the Spirit. From that time on, the Spirit triggered a deconstruction process within which poor theology was relinquished and a reconstruction began as I embraced the life-giving good news. And I began to see Jesus and focus more on Jesus and the way of Jesus.
What does it mean that the oppressed are freed?
I believe this is largely about unjust systems–demonic systems. I think of racism or sexism–these are systems that diminish and dehumanize those God has created as image bearers. Sex trafficking is fueled by pornography which blatantly denigrates women exploiting them for both money and gratification. This is a demonic system that enslaves people–including perpetrator and victim. Slavery is a demonic system that has been abolished in one sense but remains in another sense. And we still see the dehumanizing dialogues scapegoating immigrants and African-Americans and other groups. The views of white supremacy remain like a blindness to the humanity of others.
I believe that within the reign of King Jesus, God’s people must address and abolish these systems. First by speaking truth to power and standing up to those who spout such dialogue.
I also believe this has to do with the inner healing that comes through relationship with God and the new community created by the Spirit. What kind of healing is needed for one battered and abused and beaten down emotionally and physically. What kind of healing is needed after serious trauma? What kind of healing do perpetrators need? How can they own their role and begin to see others as precious in the sight of God? This kind of freedom comes from the healing offered by Christ through the power of the Spirit.
We live between the time when the reign of King Jesus has come and the time when this reign comes in full. One day all things will be made right. One day, all tears will be wiped away. One day, we will again flourish together in the renewed garden. In the mean time, we continue to join Jesus in the mission to bring life to others. First receiving the forgiveness bought through the death of Jesus Christ and then in living in the Jesus way toward others.
And I think when the church joins in the mission of Jesus as outlined in Luke 4, we will find ourselves vitalized and growing once again as the church of Jesus Christ.
References Used for Luke 4:14-21: The Gospel of Luke (New Cambridge Bible Commentary) Dr. Ben Witherington III and Amy-Jill Livine; Luke For Everyone, N. T. Wright; The Gospel of Luke, Joel Green; Luke: Belief, A Theological Commentary on the Bible, Gusto L. Gonzalez