And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”
Priorities for a Pandemic
What is Jesus’ agenda for a post Covid-19 world? Many governments are opening their cheque books and promising huge sums of money for support and recovery, but even as they admit they can’t help everyone, some people sadly will fall through the cracks.
What does Jesus Christ of Nazareth have to offer?
The answer comes in this very short sermon our Lord gave on a Sabbath in the synagogue in his hometown. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6 in such a way that people couldn’t help but be rooted to the spot with anticipation. What he said was earth shattering, surely the shortest and sharpest sermon ever (v21)!
He said that Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled in an ordinary unremarkable town, in the hearing of ordinary unremarkable people and on the lips of one who is truly man, one of us! In this passage Jesus is boldly setting out his stall for his ministry, but what is his agenda for the world and how does it affect our priorities today?
- Proclamation. Jesus was specially equipped with the Spirit of the Lord to proclaim good news. Moses had promised a prophet like himself (Dt.18:15-22), Isaiah had pointed to that prophet, and now he had come! Christianity isn’t a method or a myth: it’s a message about a real man who is God’s Son. Jesus didn’t write cheques, he preached good news, therefore let’s pray that Spirit-empowered proclamation is at the top of the agenda in the church’s response to this crisis.
- Poverty. The target of Jesus’ proclamation are the poor, those bound and blinded by Satan and oppressed by sin. Poverty is a key emphasis in Luke’s gospel, but it doesn’t mean there is anything saving in being poor, it does however mean that those who are falling through the cracks can be most aware of the reality of sin and their need for grace. Local churches are ideally placed to reach out to the marginalised and vulnerable. Let us pray for the poorest and neediest, even as this crisis reveals the spiritual captivity of our society.
- Power. Jesus’ proclamation was not empty words or promises. It was in power, and continues to be so today. Jesus’ Spirit empowered proclamation actually sets men and women, boys and girls, free from sin and captivity to Satan. Jesus’ good news gives sight to the blind and those who receive it by faith find the favour and love of God. Jesus’ miracles picture this, and His death and resurrection achieve this! Let the saving power of Christ fill us with joy and lets be mindful that even in a pandemic: ‘now is the favourable time; behold now is the day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).
The tragedy of this passage is that the hearers marvel at the wonderful things Jesus says but refuse to believe that He is the One who has fulfilled them (v 22-29). How about you?
Have you been to Jesus Christ for freedom and favour? If not, now is the time to do so. As the old hymns says:
“He speaks and listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.”
(Charles Wesley, ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing’)
Pete Campbell, Capel Fron