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John's imprisonment was Jesus' catalyst. One went down; the other sprang into public view. John was finished; Jesus was just beginning and here is his mission statement.
Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. When He had opened the book, He found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."Then He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
The eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Luke 4:14-21 NKJV, condensed
Look Who Came Home, Folks
Since leaving his hometown of Nazareth a short time ago, Jesus had been to the waters of the Jordan to experience the baptism of John. Then he embarked on a 40-day fast, searching for clarity and answers to some big questions. While in the wilderness of temptation he faced the devil himself. The fast left him weak in body but strongly victorious in spirit.
The homefolks had experienced none of the above and were totally unprepared to receive Jesus when he returned. His weak body had been repaired, but how would they accommodate the strength of his spirit! We get a glimpse into Jesus' heart when he reported back to them. In the synagogue on the Sabbath day, according to their tradition, Jesus stood to read the sacred writing from the scroll, then sat down to teach. He selected a passage from the prophet Isaiah.
This is what he read: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and liberty for the oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." He closed the book and sat down.
Everyone looked straight at Jesus, just as they always had done, expecting wisdom and instruction regarding the words he had just read. This time Jesus startled them! One sentence was all he uttered--Today right here, right now as you listen to me speak, this Scripture is fulfilled!
The people in the congregation were stunned. He had only been away from home for a brief time. What had happened to him? Who does he think he is! What did it all mean? The Scripture he read that day spoke volumes. It was a mission statement, explaining what Jesus intended to do with his life.
First and foremost, the spirit of God was upon him. Inside, before and behind, above and below, surrounding and filling him, through and through he felt the anointing of God. It was the fuel that would power his ministry. The concept of God's anointing was not new. High priests were always anointed. In ancient times, Samuel anointed both Saul and then David to be kings of Israel. Anointing was and is a responsibility to be humbly accepted, faithfully executed and gratefully acknowledged.
Jesus' mission was to preach, teach and heal. He would speak good news to the poor, the brokenhearted, the blind, to those bound and bruised. He would teach them to find the kingdom of heaven within themselves and in their wider world. He would heal bodies, minds, and spirits because this is the "acceptable year of the Lord." The time is now. This is it. If you believe, you will see it.
The "acceptable year of the Lord" refers to a custom from the days of Moses. Every 50th year was to be a Year of Jubilee, a year holy to the Lord when debts were forgiven, slaves freed, and land restored to its original owner. It was a year of trusting God in a very tangible way because no crops were planted and people lived off the natural bounty of God's earth.
The acceptable year of the Lord was a season of faith, hope, forgiveness, and restoration. Jesus would now take that Old Testament principle of God's blessing and justice and both proclaim it, and apply it, to his own day. He would set the record straight. Poverty, oppression and sickness are not God's wish for mankind..
Good tidings: God loves you; God hears your prayers; God wants to set you free. For the next three years, as people listened to this Good News, the poor in spirit became rich, hearts were healed, prison doors opened, the eyes of the blind glimpsed the wonderful mysteries of God, the minds of the oppressed were set free and God's dream of peace and goodwill for all was planted like seeds everywhere Jesus went.
If you believe, you will see it. But be forewarned. The price of freedom is never easy nor cheap.
The following questions can be used by groups or individuals, or they could serve as a basis for journaling.
Icebreaker: What is one thing you would like to accomplish before you die?
Do you have any stories to tell about leaving home? And returning home again?If you have grown children, what was it like for you when they left the nest? Or returned home again after being away?
There's an author known for the familiar line, "You can't go home again." Does that ring true for you? Why would it be difficult for homefolks to respond positively to this "new" Jesus?
Everything was fine at the synagogue that day until Jesus said he was actually going to do what the Scripture said! He would not leave the message there when he closed the book. He would take it with him and do what it said. Is this how people normally respond to the reading of Scripture? What has happened to you when you tried to take a particular Scripture passage and live by it?
Do have a passage of Scripture that has become your "mission statement"? If so, share the Scripture and how it has impacted your life. If not, I would challenge you to look for one.
Jesus was drawn to the poor. Why do you think that might have been? What are some images of poverty that stick in your mind? What words would be good news to the poor?
Jesus did physically heal people. But we don't read stories where Jesus lifted people literally out of poverty, or literally opened prison doors. And when Jesus died, the oppressed of his day were still oppressed. So how are we to understand what Jesus accomplished? Did (or does) Jesus actually have good news for the poor? Heal the broken? Set captives free? Or deliver the oppressed? Explain your answers.
Jesus spoke of the brokenhearted. There were times during his ministry that Jesus was brokenhearted What makes your heart break? How do you react when your heart is breaking? What word or healing does Jesus have for you?