Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor’
We have before us a unique passage for meditation today: the passage theologians have called the ‘mission statement’ of Christ. Luke’s gospel tracks Jesus’ public life as it begins in Nazareth and gradually proceeds southwards towards Jerusalem. Chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel opens with Christ, after his baptism in the river Jordan, coming “in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” From there the Evangelist goes on to record Jesus’ encounter with the tempter in the wilderness, after which He returned to his hometown in the northern province of Palestine. Jesus’ public ministry had started because people were already talking about Him.
In today’s reading we find Jesus in Nazareth, reading to the people in the synagogue. As was the custom of Jews, they gathered together in their synagogues to pray and to listen to the rabbis reading and expounding the laws of the Lord. On this particular Sabbath, Jesus was chosen to read to them. Jesus must have been the last teacher for the day, because when he stood up to read He read not from the Torah but from one of the Prophets. The Hebrew text of Isaiah 61: 1 which Jesus read referred to ‘the anointed one’ which could be translated to ‘Messiah’ and in Greek to ‘Christos’, all unequivocally indicated Jesus Himself. As the reading proceeds, it is clear that the whole statement is about Jesus and His earthly mission. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” was confirmed during Jesus’ baptism when” the Holy Spirit came down on him in the form of a dove” and a heavenly voice proclaimed “ You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.” ( Luke 3: 22). The tasks the Messiah would focus on as listed in Verse 18 were those that were central in the ministry of Jesus and his apostles. Through Jesus, the anointed Messiah, sinners were freed from the bondage of sin, the blind regained sight, the brokenhearted were restored, the poor and the sick received help and healing and those in captivity were delivered. The next verse succinctly sums up the mission stated in the preceding verse by affirming that Jesus had come to proclaim the ‘acceptable year of the Lord’. Just like a Jubilee year which comes once in fifty years is one in which slaves were freed and all debts cancelled, the ‘acceptable year of the Lord’ is the dawn of God’s new age which would bring to man total forgiveness and restoration.
This reading tells us that Christ’s ‘mission’ goes beyond sermons about grace and forgiveness to sinners. The first mission task, as we see in this portion, is preaching the gospel to the poor . However, preaching the gospel is more than the mere telling of how one can receive eternal life through faith in God .While that truth is central to the gospel, it is not the entire gospel. It includes service, such as feeding and clothing the poor , healing the sick and proclaiming liberty to the captives. Preaching the gospel or ‘proclaiming the good news’ is also meeting the needs of the marginalized in society.
This is Christ’s mission and this should be the mission of every church and every Christian. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection symbolize not only spiritual salvation but also the various forms of physical deliverance that came through Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we have a moral duty to provide protection and help to the less fortunate among us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have called us to be your disciples in this world. Help us to be faithful to the mission you have entrusted with us. Use us as your servants to care for the poor , the sick and the broken hearted among us. Amen
Thought for the day: Is our ‘preaching of the gospel’ merely words without action/service?
Theme of the week : Mission - to make Jesus known
Laila Alex, Philedalphia