Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV): The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
When Jesus proclaimed His calling to the people of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), He did so by proclaiming that in Him this calling, this ministry shown to Isaiah 700 years before was fulfilled. And it was; every bit of it. But we, as God’s people, need to remember that the mission that was His to start is ours to continue. Jesus’ ministry that He announced was not just a one-shot thing. He was announcing the beginning of a whole new economy, the launch of the kingdom of God, that would be brought to full flower by His followers down through the ages.
All of the things that Jesus claimed as His to proclaim are to be lived out by His people:
- The Good News is to be preached to the poor. Not just the materially poor, but the poor in spirit, the spiritually bankrupt, who realize that in themselves is nothing that merits God’s favor. To them we are to show God’s grace and love, so that they can receive eternal life.
- The brokenhearted, those whom life has left desolate, who have been used up and thrown away, we are to bind up, wrapping them in God’s love, and bringing them into His family, where they will find not just healing for their wounds, but a place to belong, and a vital mission to be a part of.
- To those who are captive to sin, who have received a death sentence in their souls due to their rebellion against God, we are to show the way to freedom. Through surrender and repentance, through receiving for their own the sacrifice of Jesus, their shackles will be broken off, the bronze bars hemming them in will come crashing down, and they will experience the true freedom of the children of God.
- To those who are lost in the darkness of spiritual blindness, God will give sight through our ministry and our testimony, opening their eyes to the truth, and causing the bitterness, fear, and false worldviews to fall like scales from the eyes of their souls. Their souls will be flooded with light and life, helping them to clearly see the future that God holds for them.
- To all who are walking apart from God, we as His people, by our lives as well as our words, are to proclaim both the year of God’s favor – the opportunity to turn from their old lives of sin and death into the new kingdom life purchased for them by the suffering and death of Jesus, and the day of God’s vengeance – the fact that those who reject God, who rebel against Him and go on in their wicked ways, are building up their own doom when the end comes. In this way, God’s people are at the same time a sweet incense to those who choose to be saved, and the stench of death to those who reject His message of reconciliation that He delivers through us. (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.)
- To all who mourn and grieve about the evil that goes on in the world, we are to bring comfort through a clear vision of the future that God has built for us – not “pie in the sky,” but a life starting here and now that is eternal in every dimension. They can see that forever life lived out among us, and they can receive it for themselves. And when they repent and rely on Jesus for forgiveness and new life, their ashes of repentance will be replaced by the beauty of true holiness and righteousness. Their mourning for their sins and the sins of their society will be replaced by the oil of joy, because of God’s forgiveness and because of His transforming power working in and through them. Their despair because of their powerlessness and the seeming invulnerability of evil will be replaced by a garment of praise as they begin to watch God work in the world around them, changing the very nature of things wherever they set their feet.
This was Jesus’ mission: to get the ball rolling in proclaiming the kingdom of God by His life and ministry, establishing it through His death and resurrection, and making it a living reality in the lives of His followers through His ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Now it is up to His followers, each one of us who goes by His name, to continue that ministry in our own times and places; to make it a living reality everywhere we live and work.
Father, this is an amazing vision; far more than I had ever thought of before. Thank You for helping me to see it. Now, Lord, empower me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can do all I need to do in order to make this vision a reality through Your strength. Amen.