Our text gives tells us about the mission of Christ. His mission was to reach out to the poor, to deliver the captives, to restore sight to the blind, and to lift up the downtrodden. This mission is as relevant today as it was then. We should commit ourselves to fulfilling His mission.
All of us are citizens of this world. Unfortunately, in this world millions of people suffer. They experience the devastation of war, the sorrows of oppression, the decimation of disease, the slow death of starvation, and the indignity of poverty. Beyond the physical conditions, millions of people live in spiritual darkness. They are crushed by a load of sin and habits that torment them. The light of truth has not yet dawned in their lives.
2. The Battle
While we are in this world, a battle rages for our spiritual allegiance. On the one hand, Satan and his allies vie for our attention and loyalty. On the other hand the body of Christ, led by our Lord, reaches out with love to all of us. The members of the body want others to be included. Through accepting Christ, we can become members of the Kingdom of God.
3. Our Text
In His first recorded sermon, Jesus gives some detail to the nature of His mission. He tells us why He came to earth. This sermon was delivered in the synagogue of Nazareth. Jesus stood to read in the synagogue, and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. It was from the Septuagint version, which was commonly read in the synagogues. Luke 4:16-21 records the scene for us.
I will read these verses from the New American Standard Version:
16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.
17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."
20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (NASU)
4. Broadly Speaking
Jesus was concerned about the Kingdom of God and our membership in it. According to Mark 1:15, He already had declared (Mark 1:15) "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
The Kingdom of God arrived, in some sense, in the presence of Jesus on earth. Jesus said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." The full power and presence of the Kingdom of God will not be realized until Jesus comes back. However, by the power of the Spirit, the influence and presence of the Kingdom of God is made known in our lives now.
5. The Mission
Our text gives us more details about the mission. The mission of Jesus was to reach out to the poor, to deliver the captives, to restore sight to the blind, and to lift up the downtrodden. This mission is as relevant today as it was then.
I. Preach the Gospel to the Poor
1. The Poor
Jesus is deeply concerned about poor people. Here, Jesus means those who are impoverished economically. Does this mean that He is not concerned about the wealthy or the common people who are not poor? No, it does not. He just did not have to express that concern here. His audience would have understood that a leader would be concerned about those who are better off. By focusing on the most needy, He includes all who have needs. Thus, He begins by expressing concern for those who were despised by others.
It would not be politically correct to speak against the poor today. Yet the actions of some people signal their contempt for them. If they only worked as hard as we do, they say, they would not be poor. We often are not eager to bring the poor to our services. They don't dress as well as we do. Even in a dress casual environment, their casual clothes are not of the designer type. Unspoken, yet this is a powerful silent testimony to a wrong attitude.
Jesus, anointed of the Spirit, would preach the gospel to them. Literally, he would "evangelize" [euaggelizo] them or "announce the good news" to them. The gospel [euangelion] is good news and it is for the poor as well as all others.
Jesus preached a message of salvation. It included repentance and faith. It included true righteousness and concern for the poor. It included deliverance from sin and sickness. It included the good news of the coming kingdom and of the final triumph of good. Fortunately, it was a comprehensive salvation and affected all aspects of life. There is no part of our lives left untouched by the gospel.
Was there an economic message to the poor? The answer is "yes," but we must be careful how we express it. We must not exalt either wealth or poverty.
There is no absolute correlation between either wealth or poverty and spiritual well being. We know people who are financially poor and spiritually rich as well as poor people who are spiritually poor. Also, we know wealthy people who are spiritually rich and other wealthy people who are spiritually poor
Nevertheless, we believe that God does love to bless His people economically. People who believe in Christ and follow His teachings often experience an increase in their economic well being. When we live for Christ, we simply do better in life. We have seen how poor people who find Christ begin to live better and to stabilize their economic lives. Ultimately, we know that we will be joint heirs with Christ. We will inherit the earth.
4. Your Life
What is your condition today? Are you living in poverty? Then Jesus speaks directly and simply to you. He wants you to believe and enjoy the benefits of salvation. Are you wealthy? Jesus loves you as well. Being His disciple is demanding. Your allegiance to Him must be stronger than to your possessions. But the spiritual benefits are abundant.
II. Proclaim Release to the Captives
1. The Captives
Jesus is concerned about captives. According to Robertson, the captives are those who have been captured at spear point. We can think of them as prisoners of war.
During His days on earth, Jesus was concerned primarily with those who were enslaved by Satan. They were prisoners of Satan in a spiritual war. Millions of people today are Satan's captives. They are under his influence. They may be captives of habits, attitudes, and lifestyles that they cannot control. You may be one of them.
The captives, however, are not limited to people who are in spiritual darkness. Some believers are captives of oppressive forces. This, too, is a form of enslavement by Satan, for the oppressors are the servants of Satan. Some researchers estimate that there are more persecuted Christians today than ever before in the history of the church.
The Spirit sent Christ to proclaim release to the captives. The Spirit would enable Christ to proclaim the message of deliverance and freedom. The Spirit is a bridge between the present and the future. Through the Spirit, the power of the Kingdom of God breaks in upon the earth.
During His ministry on earth, Christ encountered Satan many times. This aspect of His deliverance was instituted right away. He delivered people spiritually from all forms of Satan's oppression.
Soon after speaking in Nazareth, went down to Capernaum. There He encountered a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon. Luke writes (Luke 4:33-35:
33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,
34 "Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are -- the Holy One of God!"
35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. NASU
While he was on earth, Jesus did not empty the jails. He did not get involved in political affairs and set prisoners of war free. If I were unjustly in prison, I would be praying that Christ would set me free. However, the ultimate fulfillment of this promise will be when Christ returns to earth. All oppressive regimes will be put under His power and authority. Moreover, prisons will not be needed because crime will exist no more.
3. Your Life
What is your condition today? Are you enslaved by habits, by thoughts that you cannot control, by circumstances that overpower you?
We are building an Internet ministry. The Internet can be a powerful force for good. When you put a message on the Internet, it is available to people everywhere. We have never before had a tool that can reach out globally as quickly as this one.
Unfortunately, evil messages can be as quickly distributed. Anyone can learn to build a bomb, for example, and explode it in a schoolhouse or some other public place. We sometimes receive evil invitations via email. We must ask the Lord to guard us and keep us from evil. Some Internet users will be trapped and enslaved by this. We must be on our guard at all times.
We have good news for you. Jesus came, anointed of the Spirit, to set you free. Through the Word and the Spirit, He still speaks to you today. You can turn to Him and be delivered. You can live in the liberty of the truth applied to your life.
III. Proclaim Recovery of Sight to the Blind
1. The Blind
Jesus is concerned about blind people. The primary reference no doubt was to people who were physically blind. However, we cannot overlook the spiritually blind. When you sit and listen to the commentators of the world, the talk shows, you know that millions are spiritually blind. They have not idea of spiritual truth. The eyes of their souls cannot see. They live in darkness.
The mission of Christ was to proclaim to all who were blind that their sight could be recovered. Once again, this proclamation is made in the power of the Spirit. The power of the Spirit brings the power of the Kingdom of God into our lives now.
Christ opened the eyes of the spiritually blind. Many came to faith in Him and followed Him. In addition He healed people who were physically blind. Thus, both literally and spiritually, this proclamation was fulfilled during the days of Christ on earth.
John the Baptist was in prison wanting reassurance that Jesus was the Son of God. He sent a messenger to Jesus asking (Mt. 11:3), "Are you the expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" Jesus reassured John by sending his messenger back with this report (Mt. 11:5): "the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM." NASU the evidence was both powerful and plentiful!
3. Your Life
Today, Christ is present to heal. The recovery of sight simply meant that the person who was blind could now see. While we seldom see people healed of physical blindness now, it does happen. Moreover, we know that in the long run, all physically blind people will see! Moreover, tens of thousands of people who have been spiritually blind are being set free. Jesus opens their eyes.
What is your condition today? Have you come with skepticism? Have you closed your eyes to the truth? Do you feel a need for someone outside of you to help you see? Cry out to Jesus. He is here to minister to you!
IV. Set Free the Downtrodden
1. The Downtrodden
Jesus is concerned about the downtrodden. Who are they? They are the ones who have been bruised by life. The Greek verb means to break into pieces. The bruising can be both in body and in spirit. Many are broken and crushed spiritually and physically.
Here, Jesus refers primarily to being downtrodden and bruised by others. We are broken by their oppression and, in a sense, are enslaved by them. What they have done to us captures us and our attention. We must be set free from the oppresssion and the oppressors.
Once again, the Spirit empowers Jesus to bring the benefits of the Kingdom of God into life on earth. Jesus was set apart and sent by the Spirit to set at liberty those who are downtrodden and bruised. While He was on the earth, He delivered men and women from the oppression of their spirits and bodies.
Sometimes the deliverance comes by a change of attitude in our own hearts. Jesus challenges us deeply with these words in Mt. 5:10-12:
10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. NASU
3. Your Life
How many times have you felt downtrodden and broken? The circumstances of life have taken their toll. You don't know whether or not you can get up and go again. Just remember that Jesus identifies with you in every moment of brokenness. He understands.
There is a chorus that we used to sing which expresses the concern of Jesus. It goes like this:
"And Jesus said, 'Come to the water, Stand by my side. I know you are thirsty, You won't be denied. I've felt every tear drop, when in darkness you've cried. And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died.'"
1. Favorable Year
Verse 19 will provide our conclusion. Jesus was anointed to "proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
It may be that Lev. 25:8-13 provides the Old Testament precedent for what Jesus would do. In Old Testament times, every fiftieth year was a year of jubilee. A trumpet was blown. Throughout the whole land, the liberty of Hebrew slaves, the canceling of debts, and the restoration of possession to their original owners was proclaimed. No doubt this was a favorable year of the Lord.
Whether or not the fiftieth year is meant, the phrase "the acceptable year" means the time when it would be acceptable to God to proclaim such a message of deliverance. The gospel assures us that now is the time when men may come to God, be delivered from their sins, and be redeemed.
2. Good News
The good news is that we are still in the "favorable year" of the Lord. Jesus is still fulfilling His mission. He has anointed us with the Spirit to bring the message of good news to you. Now, we are helping fulfill the mission of Christ.
3. Your Life
The good news is for you now. The gospel is being preached to the poor, the captives are being set free, the blind are seeing, and the downtrodden are set at liberty. Will you believe and receive?