In Luke 4:14-30, Jesus made it very clear that He was the Messiah that the great prophet Isaiah predicted would come. As He opened His ministry He read from Isaiah 61:1 in His home town and declared that the prophecy was fulfilled in the very reading of Scripture.
“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 recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2)
This prophecy predicted that the Messiah would indeed proclaim “good news” for the world and would fulfill a fourfold agenda of spiritual and eternal blessings! Many misinterpret this text relegating the Messiah’s blessings to physical rather than spiritual blessings! It is short-sighted to think that the purpose of the first coming of Jesus was to overturn social injustice. While we would all agree that social injustices are historically & presently real, it is clear that Jesus had no intention of overturning those injustices at His first coming. The ministry of Jesus was not primarily political, but spiritual in nature. Jesus came to break down spiritual strongholds.
It is true that as the Church infiltrates the culture, social injustices will be overturned, but not ultimately. We are called to walk righteously on this earth. It will not be until the second coming of Christ until all social injustices are overturned when He reigns on the earth with a rod of iron and judges the nations (Ps 2:9, Rev 2:27, Isaiah 2:4).
The prophecies quoted by Jesus succinctly summarize the Messiah’s ministries. Four metaphors depict the desperate condition of needy sinners whom God seeks to rescue from hell. These metaphors graphically depict man’s utter helplessness to relieve themselves from their deadly dilemma. While they may appear to be somewhat physical in nature, it is clear that these descriptions are actually spiritual.
For the Poor: Good News!
The gospel is preached to the poor. Poor here means extreme deprivation which often leads people to begging. It is clear that the economically poor are not in view here, but rather the spiritually poor! It is the spiritually poor who recognize that they have nothing to offer to commend themselves to God (Matt 5:3). They acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy that all of their righteous deeds are nothing but filthy garments (Is 64:6). As a result of this bankruptcy these who are “poor in spirit” have a broken and contrite heart (Luke 18:13). As a result these poor souls naturally cry out to God for His grace. They are indeed open to receiving the good news of the Gospel.
For the Captive: Forgiveness!
The second ministry of Jesus is to set free the captive. Lost sinners think of themselves as free, but the Scripture is clear. Sinners are not free, but are in bondage to sin and Satan. The lost are “held captive” by Satan to do his will (2 Tim 2:26) and are slaves to sin (Rom 6:6, 16-20). Furthermore, the lost owe a huge debt to God having broken all of His laws. The mission of Jesus is to set these captives free from bondage & debt. To “release” them is analogous to forgiveness (Eph 1:7, Col 1:14). Jesus came to die for sinners so that their sins can be forgiven. Christ paid the debt that sinners could not pay, so that God would no longer be hostile toward them, but set them free. Christ’s work on the cross paid the debt & broke the power of sin and Satan for those who will receive His marvelous gift.
For the Blind: Recovery of Sight
The third ministry of Jesus is to provide recovery of sight to the blind. All of fallen mankind is spiritually blind so that they do not understand the gospel, nor do they do anything but walk in darkness (Ps 82:5). They have eyes but do not see (Jer 5:21). But Jesus came to “open blind eyes.” This is certainly NOT physical eyes, but spiritual eyes to the truth of who Jesus is and the Gospel. Paul was sent to the Gentiles “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Jesus].” (Acts 26:18)
For the Oppressed: Set Free
The last ministry of Jesus is to set free those who are spiritually oppressed, people who are overwhelmed with life’s painful circumstances, especially the wearying burden of sin and the inability to keep God’s Law. Jesus promises that all who come to him who are weary and heavy-laden can find rest for their souls (Matt 11:28-30).
Our mission is none other than Jesus’ mission. We must remain focused on the spiritual needs of those who are lost. The Church is not called to overturn social injustice. We should not turn a blind eye to what is clearly unrighteous, but we must also must not be distracted from our greatest mission. And we should help those who are hurting when possible. But the main mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel to sinners, to those who are poor in spirit, those who are captive to sin and Satan, those who are blind and oppressed spiritually. As we preach the good news, Jesus Himself will do the work! He is the Good Shepherd who will call out His own from the darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
We are thankful that Luke Raleigh from World Impact Ministries was here to preach to us last Sunday, March 17, 2019. If you missed his sermon, you can watch here.