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.
Yesterday, I went to see the movie Do You Believe? and I can honestly say that it is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time - and I saw Cinderella last weekend (which was great, but in a different way). The movie involves twelve different lives and proceeds to show how God weaves their lives together in a profound and amazing way. It starts with an old man (society would call him a vagrant - actually they would call him a crazy vagrant), who is carrying a huge cross throughout his town. He issues a challenge to man who is stopped in his car - "Do you believe?" The man answers, "I'm a Pastor, so of course I believe." The old man stares him down and continues, "So what are you going to do about it?" In other words, do your words match your faith?
Throughout the movie all the characters come to that defining moment in their lives - Do you believe? From a doctor with a God complex (played by Sean Astin) to a young man on the wrong side of the law, to a Pastor (Ted McGinley) questioning what he is going to do about his faith, to a homeless mother (Mira Sorvino) and her child, who wonder where God is, to an ex-con living out his faith, to an EMT worker who shared his faith with a dying man and was sued for it. All these stories (and more) in one way or another will move you. Why? Because they all speak to humanity and beg us to answer the questions - do you believe and if so what are you going to do about it?
I cried a lot during this movie, for a number of reasons. For those of you who know me, you know I used to have a singing ministry. It was my passion, my life - the one way I could go out and share God with the world. Then my world came crashing down and I lost my singing voice. Then I became partially disabled after falling down a flight of stairs and then I was diagnosed with an incurable disease and I was literally "stuck" behind a computer, in my house, unable to get out and sing for those people and I wondered what was God thinking? What am I supposed to do now? I won't go into it again, but suffice it to say, God lead me to write a book on the life of Christ called Come to Me.
Yesterday, as I saw how God weaved the lives of the characters in the movie together and then reflected on my own life and the "cast of characters" who have come through it, I looked back and asked myself, where is the one place in my life where God has constantly been placing me? What is the passion He created within me that I would say is my "calling"?
From the moment I realized what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I have always been drawn to my Bible. In the early days of my walk with God, I was always compelled to dig deep into Scripture. I would read my bible first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. But there came a time when I wasn't satisfied with the "basics". I knew all the stories - now I needed more. I felt compelled to "know" more, but I didn't know how to go about it. Then God brought a friend into my life who pointed me toward Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries and my life changed forever. Inductive study became a passion. But I was still singing at the time, and spending an hour or more on Bible Study, while caring for small children plus pursuing a singing career seemed impossible. How was I ever going to devote my time to it? Well . . . several years and a fall down a flight of stairs later . . . God had a plan. While waiting for me to grow in my faith, He encouraged that same friend (who introduced me to Kay), to send me for training to become a Precept Teacher. The tapestry God was weaving in my life was beginning to unfold.
Last week I started reading a new book by Jeff Goins called The Art of Work. It wasn't a coincidence that I heard about this book through a friend. It was just another part of the tapestry of my life God is still weaving. The book talked about finding your calling - your passion. This book, along with the movie, made me see two things: first - my calling is to write and teach in-depth Bible Studies (not to write fiction) and second, that teaching those studies is how God wants me to answer the questions - do you believe and if so what are you going to do about it?
After the movie a young fellow came down the aisle and said to me, "Sister, is that you I heard coughing throughout the movie?" My immediate thought was, "Oh, no! I hope I wasn't coughing that much, that I ruined the movie for him." I was so embarrassed! You see I've had this lingering cough for years and it has recently started getting worse. So I started to apologize for disturbing him and he put his hand on me and said, "No! No! You misunderstand. I want to pray for you and ask God to heal you." Well you could have knocked me over with a stick! I started blubbering like an idiot. I couldn't stop crying. He had no idea how much this cough bothered me and how worried I was about it. But God nudged him toward me. Another thread, another life added to the tapestry of my life. I know I won't forget yesterday anytime soon.
So now I find myself facing a new beginning (another part of the tapestry if you will) - teaching my Bible Studies in person. You see, that is the one part of my life that I've been purposely ignoring. Why? I've been too embarrassed about how people will react when they see me. For those who know, I have a disease that is making my legs so big I can barely lug them around anymore (hence the reason I use a scooter). Unfortunately, they have not just "handicapped" me in body, but they have given me a distorted view of myself and taken a normally extroverted person and created a reluctant introvert who was tucked safely away in her home where no one could see her, unless she had to go outside. Then the armour was put on and I would self-consciously prepare myself for the "barbs" about my size that all-too often come my way, through disgusted looks, people pointing and laughing, or people who get right in your face and tell you in the most unpleasant way possible, how ugly you look. But after yesterday, I'm thinking that my legs are my cross to bear and if I let them stop me from sharing what God is teaching me then I'm not doing what God called me to do. So today, I'm answering the question - do you believe? With YES - I DO! And if anyone is willing to take on a bible teacher who teaches from a red-hot scooter, then sign me up!
If you want a life-changing experience go see Do You Believe? You won't regret it.