On Jan Markell’s Understanding the Times radio show last week, Michele Bachman (former member of the United States House of Representatives from Minnesota), shared how horrible the Iran Nuclear Agreement will be for the world in general. However, at the same time she also expressed her excitement over the support the UN Security Council gave to the Iran Nuclear Agreement. She believes it is a fulfillment of Zechariah 12:3 which says:
It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it (NASB).
Bachman stated: “All the nations of the world signed an agreement that slams the door against Israel and opened it up to enriching and empowering the leading state sponsor of terror in the world whose ultimate goal is the annihilation of the Jewish State.”
She's right about that and I've no doubt it will set in motion events that will lead to the end of the world as we know it. Christians have been seeing the signs of the Lord's return for a long time. Prophecies are being fulfilled. We know these things have to happen. We know it will get worse before it gets better. Scripture tells us, "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed" (Luke 17:26-30, NASB).
Christians know how bad it is going to get. We know Israel will be threatened from all sides and persecution will increase. So far, Congress hasn't approved the agreement but Ms. Bachman suggested that Christians should be very excited (rather than worried) about the possibility that Congress will approve it.
“I am really actually extremely excited because I think that we’re about to see if we believers act in concert, I believe that we can see the strong right arm of a holy God show to the world and prove to the world His power and His strength” (Michele Bachman, Understanding the Times Radio).
This bothers me more than I can say. I wonder if Ms. Bachman realizes just how nasty the "strong right arm of a holy God" will be? One only needs to read the book of Revelation to get an idea of what we are in for when God will finally act. No one should be excited and looking forward to the day when God will prove to the world His power and strength. No one should be looking forward to it at all! Because when that day comes that will be it - the end of all things. It will be a day of terror that the world has never before experienced. People will die in their sins on that day. Your unsaved neighbours, your friends, your family. Redemption for these lost souls, forgiveness of sins and a place in heaven for all eternity will be lost to them. They will have no more chances. Time will be up and they will have to give an account to the Lord Himself on why they rejected Him. All who rejected or mocked the Lord will be the ones feeling God's power and strength. So, no Michele, this is not something to get excited about. This is something we need to fear and this is something our preachers, leaders and teachers need to be expounding on from the pulpit. It's time to create an urgency in complacent Christians and to replace the "feel good" theatrical church performances we have on Sunday mornings with the knowledge of what is about to happen. Jesus is returning and when he comes back it won't be as a gentle shepherd leading and caring for his sheep, but as a mighty warrior, a king wielding justice for all those who said no to His offer to save them from God's wrath.
I get why Michele Bachman and others are excited about the prospects of Jesus returning soon. I get why people say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come." I myself say it from time to time, because quite frankly this world sucks! But then I stop myself, because of the implications it brings. Yes, we are tired of the evil and corruption in this world and we look forward to that day when Jesus comes again and makes everything right. But when I think about my neighbours or friends and family members who have rejected God and his promise of salvation, I can only weep.
In Luke 4:14-30 we read about the time Jesus announced in his home synagogue, to his friends and family, his purpose in life. He had just spent 40 days in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-2) being tempted by Satan and immediately after that, filled with the Spirit, he went to Galilee and began teaching (not preaching, there is a difference) in the synagogues there (Luke 4:14-15), and everyone who heard him praised him. But then he arrived in Nazareth. His hometown. It was here that he would reveal what God had called him to do. His purpose for living if you will. Scripture says it was Jesus' custom to be in synagogue every Sabbath. So it was normal for him to be there. He knew the people who attended and they knew him. At first they were receptive to Jesus' words and spoke well of him. Many of them were probably thinking, "Wow! When did our little Jesus become such a great teacher? He's Joseph's son, for crying out loud! He never had any formal training, but here he is speaking like a learned Rabbi." They were astounded that this carpenter's son was given such a gift from God. But then he hit them with a bigger announcement. You would think his friends, the people he'd known all his life, and his family would be supportive and excited for him. Two minutes ago they were shocked at his teaching gift, but then something happened and the tables turned and they were so angry at his announcement, that they tried to throw him off a cliff in order to kill him. Talk about overreacting! With friends like that, who needs enemies, right?
So what exactly did Jesus announce? Let's look at the five reasons he came to us in the first place and then we'll look at the "big announcement". You can find the five reasons in Luke 4:18-19, which I've printed out below. But since Jesus was reading from the scroll of Isaiah, I have printed out those verses as well, so you can have a better perspective.
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, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19, NASB).
The spirit of the L-rd GOD is upon me; because HaShem hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound. To proclaim the year of HaShem's good pleasure (Isaiah 61:1-2, JPS).
Reason #1: to preach the gospel to the poor
According to the New Testament version, the first reason Jesus came was to preach the gospel to the poor. In the Jewish Bible it was to bring good tidings to the humble. Three questions present themselves: what is the gospel, who are the poor and why does the New Testament version sound different from the Old Testament?
What is the gospel Jesus came to preach? The word gospel literally means "to bring or announce glad or good tidings." In Greek it is the word euaggelizō which comes from the adverb eu, meaning "well, well done, or good" and aggelos, meaning "angel or messenger". So we see right away that the old is not so very different from the new and also the first thing Jesus is telling us here is that God has anointed him to bring good news, to be his messenger. Usually this job of bringing good news fell to angels, like the ones who announced Jesus' birth to the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:8-20). But according to the NT, Jesus' good news was for the poor. Does this mean rich people would not benefit from his good news? Not at all! Jesus wasn't talking about those who were poor monetarily. He was speaking of those who were meek, humble or more accurately, poor in spirit. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In other words, those who recognize their need for God are poor or humble in spirit. They see their sin and depravity and long for God to make them whole. The good news, is that Jesus came specifically for those people who recognize they need saving.
reason #2: to bind up the brokenhearted
You will notice that the NASB doesn't include this verse. In fact, many Bibles omit it in Luke 4:18-19, but since Jesus was handed the scroll from Isaiah which clearly has this verse, I am stumped as to why translators would do this. Even the original Greek texts (which you can find online) include "to heal the brokenhearted."
So, who are the brokenhearted and why do they need to be bound? The word "bind" in Hebrew is chabash and literally means to tie, bind, bind on, bind up, saddle, restrain, bandage or govern." In Greek it is translated as iaomai, which means to "cure, heal or make whole." In other words, Jesus is saying that he has come to heal (cure, bind, bandage) those who are brokenhearted (without hope). Strong's G4937 says brokenhearted literally means, "ones having been crushed." So Jesus' second reason for coming to us is to take our broken lives, heal them and make us whole.
reason #3: to proclaim liberty to the captives
Have you started to notice how each reason flows into the next? Jesus' third reason for coming to us was to "proclaim liberty" or "release" to the captives. The word "release" in Greek is aphesis and has two meanings, "release from bondage or imprisonment" and "forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty." Jesus third reason for coming, was to forgive us of our sins and set us free from the penalty of death (Romans 6:23).
Reason #4: sight for the blind
Who are the blind? The Greek word for blind is typhlos which comes from the root word typhoō, which means "to be proud, lifted up with pride or to be high-minded." The Old Testament translates this part of the verse as "the opening of the eyes to them that are bound." I like the KJV translation best because it really gets the point across. It reads - "the opening of the prison to them that are bound." So the fourth reason Jesus came to us, was to open the eyes of those who are held captive to sin, but don't see it. For example, before I believed in Jesus and accepted his gift of salvation, I did not acknowledge that I was a sinner. I knew the basics of what was right and what was wrong (don't steal, don't kill, etc.) but I was blind to my need of a relationship with God. I was blind to what displeased God. I was still in Satan's camp, so to speak. I didn't worry about eternal life or life after death. My perception of "being good" was based on my own values and not on the Lord's. So what I believed was good, God frowned on. But I didn't know that because I was blind to my sin. The song Amazing Grace has it right, "I once was blind but now I see." Only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring a person to a place in their life, where they question their mortality and their need for God. And Jesus came to make that relationship with God possible through his death on the cross. He is our bridge to God, because as a sinner I could never approach a Holy God, but as someone saved through the blood of Christ, I can now go freely before Him. I am no longer blind to my sin. I am no longer bound to my former way of life, but free in Christ Jesus! So the fourth reason Jesus came was to open the eyes of sinners, so they may see their sinful state and seek forgiveness and be granted it because of Jesus' sacrifice.
reason #5: to proclaim the year of God's pleasure
One of the amazing things about these verses and why Jesus quoted them was where he stopped when reading them. Do you know that he didn't even finish the rest of the last verse? It actually reads:
To proclaim the year of HaShem's good pleasure, and the day of vengeance of our G-d. (Isaiah 61:2, JPS).
How interesting that he omitted speaking of the vengeance of God. Luke 4:20-21 goes on to say that after Jesus stopped reading "the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him." They were fixed on Him because they knew he hadn't finished the verse. They were waiting for an explanation. So Jesus gave them one and said,“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And everyone in the synagogue was impressed by his gracious words and marvelled that Joseph's son could speak so eloquently. Jesus had just announced that God had sent him for a specific mission - to bring the good news that God had a plan of salvation for them and that Jesus would be the one to proclaim that good news starting that very year. It was a "feel good" message and everyone loved it! But then Jesus hit them with his "big announcement." He told them that they (meaning his own people) would not accept him and that this "feel good" message he had just announced wasn't meant for them. Why wasn't Jesus' good news for the people in his hometown? Because he knew their hearts. He knew they would reject him and because of their anger at being compared to lepers they tried to kill him.
But Jesus' big announcement had a broader connotation to it, he used his hometown as a metaphor to make a point about how some people would accept him and some would reject him. The Jews in particular had a hard time (and still do) accepting Jesus' gift of salvation. Some (not all) would ultimately reject him and his good news of salvation and we know what happened after that - Jesus was crucified. But praise the Lord, He rose again! And he left his disciples with this commandment, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Mark 16:15). And in Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commanded his disciples to, make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all he commanded them.
Our mission therefore is clear - to share the good news and baptize and teach those who receive that good news, which is this - Jesus came for those who recognize they are sinners, to heal them, forgive them and set them free from condemnation. When you share that message you are being an obedient disciple of Christ. Don't demand someone make a "commitment" to God right then and there. Don't pressure them to say a "sinners prayer" (FYI - that's not even biblical). Just share the good news and let the Holy Spirit take it from there.