Luke 4:16-21

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

Luke 4:16-21

white and brown wooden table

Thoughts from Luke 4:16-21

Broadly speaking, the mission of Christ was to preach the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). Jesus delivered His first recorded sermon at Nazareth in the synagogue. In this sermon, He gives us much more information about His mission. He stood in the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. This passage is cited in our text.

All of us are citizens of this world. Unfortunately, in this world, millions of people suffer. They experience the devastation of war, the sorrows of oppression, the decimation of disease, the slow death of starvation, and the indignity of poverty. Beyond the physical conditions, millions of people live in spiritual darkness. They are crushed by a load of sin and habits that torment them. The light of truth has not yet dawned in their lives.

While we are in this world, a battle rages for our spiritual allegiance. On the one hand, Satan and his allies vie for our attention and loyalty. On the other hand, the body of Christ, led by our Lord, reaches out with love to all of us. The members of the body want others to be included. Through accepting Christ, we can become members of the Kingdom of God.

In our text, Jesus says that His mission was to preach the gospel to the poor, deliver the captives, restore sight to the blind, and lift up the downtrodden. In our next “thoughts” we will examine each aspect of His mission. His mission is as relevant today as it was then.

More Thoughts from Luke 4:16-21

Broadly speaking, the mission of Christ was to preach the kingdom of God. Our text gives us more details about the mission. The mission of Jesus was to reach out to the poor, deliver the captives, restore sight to the blind, and lift up the downtrodden.

The mission of Christ, first of all, was to “preach the gospel to the poor.” The Hebrew word translated “poor” can refer to people who are poor economically, and it can also refer to people who are “humble.” In other words, it can refer to people who are poor in Spirit as in Matthew 5:3. People who are impoverished spiritually can be included as well.

Jesus preached a message of salvation. It included repentance and faith. It included true righteousness and concern for the poor. It included deliverance from sin and sickness. It included the good news of the coming kingdom and of the final triumph of good. Fortunately, it was comprehensive salvation and affected all aspects of life. There is no part of our lives left untouched by the gospel.

Among the “poor” are those who are economically in need. Was there an economic message to the financially impoverished? The answer is “yes,” but we must be careful how we express it. We must not exalt either wealth or poverty. There is no absolute correlation between either wealth or poverty and spiritual well-being. We know people who are financially poor and spiritually rich as well as financially poor people who are spiritually poor. Also, we know wealthy people who are spiritually rich and other wealthy people who are spiritually poor

In general, we believe that God does love to bless His people economically. People who believe in Christ and follow His teachings often experience an increase in their economic well-being. When we live for Christ, we simply do better in life. We have seen how poor people who find Christ begin to live better and stabilize their economic lives. Ultimately, we know that we will be joint heirs with Christ. We will inherit the earth.

More Thoughts from Luke 4:16-21

One aspect of the mission of Christ is to proclaim release to the captives. We can think of captives as prisoners of war. As a metaphor, however, the word “captive” can mean being held by anyone or anything. The metaphor is flexible.

During His days on earth, Jesus was very deeply concerned about those who were enslaved by Satan. They were prisoners of Satan in a spiritual war. Millions of people today are Satan’s captives. They are under his influence. They may be captives of habits, attitudes, and lifestyles that they cannot control.

The Spirit sent Christ to proclaim release to the captives. The word “release can mean to pardon, cancel, or forgive. The Bible uses this word with regard to the forgiveness of sins. God forgives people based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. This is the heart of the gospel. The use of this word suggests that the captives are those bound by sin and Satan. Through Christ’s preaching, the power of the Kingdom breaks in to deliver the captives.

When the metaphor of “captive” is used in a broader way, the gospel is a message for all people who are captive in any way. The captives often cry out for their release. This will include people who are oppressed by governments. Although Jesus did not have a liberating army, His message was powerful. We do not have such an army now, but we have the message. This message has a powerful impact on the nations of the world.

We know that the ultimate fulfillment of the release of such captives will happen when Christ returns to earth. Prisons will not be needed because crime will exist no more. The Kingdom of God will be fully established in the universe. All earthly regimes will be put under Christ’s power and authority.

More Thoughts from Luke 4:16-21

Another element in the mission of Christ was to proclaim recovery of sight to the blind. Jesus opened the eyes of those who were physically blind and who had other diseases. In addition, He healed people who were spiritually blind. Many came to faith in Him and followed Him. Thus, both physically and spiritually, this proclamation was fulfilled during the days of Christ on earth.

John the Baptist was in prison wanting reassurance that Jesus was the Son of God. He sent a messenger to Jesus asking (Matthew 11:3), “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus reassured John by sending his messenger back with this report (Matthew 11:5): “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hears, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Healing is a major aspect of the gospel. As Christ proclaimed the gospel, he healed those who had this need. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about “healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” Healing flows from the atoning work of Christ (Is. 53:4-6 and 1 Peter 6:24). The Holy Spirit brings the power of the Kingdom of God into our lives now. When Christ comes back, the work will be completed, and the Kingdom will be fully established. Our ultimate healing will be accomplished.

More Thoughts from Luke 4:16-21

Another aspect of the mission of Christ is to set free the downtrodden. This phrase was brought into Luke 4:18 from Isaiah 58:6. The downtrodden are those who have been bruised and broken by life. Many feel that their lives are totally broken. The bruising can be either in the body or in spirit. Those who are downtrodden can include the contrite in spirit as well as those who are broken.

The spiritually downtrodden are clearly included. They want to live above the temptations of the world, but they seem to give in to deception. Only the power of Christ and the influence of the Spirit will deliver them. Thank God there is victory through Jesus Christ and through the power of the Spirit. When they come in contrition, they are forgiven and released.

Also, many are downtrodden by others. In a sense, they are enslaved by them. Many seek justice in a social sense. The downtrodden must be set free from the oppressors. The metaphor is flexible enough to cover them as well. Jesus did not lead a militia or army, but He did proclaim the gospel to them. Ultimately, under the rule of Christ, all the downtrodden will be lifted up.

Jesus is concerned about those who are downtrodden. The mission of Jesus is to mend broken hearts. The Spirit empowers Jesus to proclaim the benefits of the Kingdom of God on earth. While Jesus was on the earth, He delivered men and women from the oppression of their spirits and bodies by proclaiming the gospel.

Christ’s mission is our mission. How many times do we encounter people who feel oppressed, downtrodden, and broken? The circumstances of life have taken their toll. They don’t know whether or not they can get up and go again. To them, we present Christ who identifies with them in all circumstances and through every pain.

I will read these verses from the New American Standard Version 16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “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, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (NASU)

More Thoughts from Luke 4:16-21

At the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus delivered His first sermon. Citing Isaiah, He outlined His mission. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to proclaim recovery of sight to the blind, and to set free those who are oppressed. The words poor, captives, blind, and oppressed are flexible and readily include physical, mental, economic, and spiritual conditions. The mission of Christ includes all of life.

Jesus concludes by saying that His mission was to proclaim the “favorable year of the Lord.” What did the prophet Isaiah have in mind by this statement? How did Jesus apply this phrase? It may be that Isaiah had in mind Lev. 25:8-13. In the Old Testament times, every fiftieth year was a year of jubilee. A trumpet was blown. Then, throughout the whole land, the liberty of Hebrew slaves, the canceling of debts, and the restoration of property to their original owners were proclaimed. No doubt this was a favorable year of the Lord.

Whether or not Jesus had in mind the fiftieth year of jubilee, the phrase “the acceptable year” means the time when it would be acceptable to God to proclaim such a message of deliverance. Jesus made it clear that the time was right. He said (verse 21), “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus would proclaim the gospel to the poor in all of its aspects. The Gospels record what He did.

The Bible assures us that now is the time when men may come to God, be delivered from their sins, and be redeemed. As we, in turn, present the gospel, we are still living in the favorable year of the Lord. The day of salvation is now. At the same time, we know that what Jesus did on earth was an early fulfillment of His prophesied mission. The prophecies have already been fulfilled, but in a sense have not yet had the ultimate fulfillment. The ultimate fulfillment of this mission will happen when Christ returns.

George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

Excerpts transferred from a series originally posted on Dr. George's Facebook.

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