Jesus the rescuer

… to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (‭Luke‬ ‭1‬:‭74-75‬ NIV)

Saviour is not a word we use much nowadays, except in reference to Jesus. It has taken on a religious tone in a world where religion is no longer fashionable. I prefer the word rescuer, which means the same thing, and which is clearly indicated by God through Zechariah’s words to be one of the roles that the child Jesus would take on. But rescue for whom? And rescue from what?

The Jews were a people who felt the need of rescue. Oppression was not a new experience for them. At the time that Luke wrote his books there was one great world power – the Roman Empire – and there is no doubt that the Jews, like most of the Romans’ other subject peoples, saw them as an enemy, not just because they exacted obedience and taxes, but because they hindered the worship of God, an activity which was at the very centre of Jewish identity. The Jews felt, quite simply, that they couldn’t be themselves. They longed for liberation, and they perceived in their ancient scriptures a promise that one day a liberator would come, sent by God to rescue them. In recording the Holy Spirit inspired words of Zechariah, Luke indicates that he believes this child Jesus, born to Mary, was the liberator promised by God.

We too find ourselves in need of rescue, when undesired forces take control of our lives. The truth is that for all our technological and scientific genius, there are things that affect our lives that are beyond our control. Wars and catastrophes, oppressive regimes, result in suffering and death for countless people every year. Even in peaceful nations there are many who are oppressed, by economic hardship, illness or accident, destructive relationships or loneliness. The promise of a rescuer is a beautiful one for all of us who find ourselves in such situations.

So was Jesus only a rescuer for the Jews, or was he interested in others too? Look at what God says through Simeon, who sees Jesus in the Jerusalem temple when he is just a week old:

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (‭Luke‬ ‭2‬:‭30-32‬ NIV)

These first two chapters of Luke’s book give us glimpses of who Jesus would be, through words from God that came through angels and the Holy Spirit. The chapters that follow are a description of the life Jesus lived and we the readers can compare what God had predicted with what this man turned out to be. Luke clearly believed that the life he would describe was a perfect fulfilment of the promises of God. Look at some of these words of God that Luke records in these first few chapters, words that speak of Jesus the rescuer:

Zechariah under the the influence of God’s Spirit:
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (‭Luke‬ ‭1‬:‭69-75‬ NIV)

Mary, in a Holy Spirit inspired exclamation of gratitude:
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. (Luke 1:46-47)

An angel appearing to shepherds: 
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (‭Luke‬ ‭2‬:‭11-12‬ NIV)

A thankful old man in the temple (Simeon):
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (‭Luke‬ ‭2‬:‭30-32‬ NIV)

Luke clearly believed that Jesus was a saviour, a rescuer, sent into the world by God for the good of all people, both Jews and Gentiles. He drops these words into his introduction, again as a teaser, a trailer for the movie of Jesus’ life. It is for the reader to decide, as the pages of Luke’s book unfold, whether the life Jesus lived and the changes that he brought to the world, bear testimony to this claim. Not just in general terms, but in personal, since for each one of us a question begs an answer – can Jesus rescue me from the situation I am in?

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