“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus knew who he was and why he had come: to proclaim good news. His ministry was one of speaking: he spoke out freedom, recovery of sight, and the favour of the Lord. There was power in his words, and indeed it was his words, the words of the Father, that achieved the very thing that he was proclaiming. Just as God spoke in the beginning of time and the world came into being, Jesus spoke, then (and now), and what he said (and says) came to be. When he spoke freedom, people were set free. When he spoke healing, people’s eyes were opened. When he spoke the favour of the Lord, people’s live were transformed: suddenly they knew they were loved. There is power, there is healing, there is love, in the words of Jesus.
Jesus knew that the “Spirit of the Lord” was the source of his strength, authority and power. The Spirit of the Lord was “on him,” just as the Spirit of the Lord came on the prophets of old. He did not speak, or act, in his own strength, but in the power that the Spirit gave him. He was anointed in the same way as a king is anointed, not for his own sake, but for the task he had been given. He thus received the power, and authority, and wisdom, and strength he needed for this task. His anointing was a supernatural thing. It still is. The Holy Spirit is a force that is far greater than anything we have access to in the natural world, and that is saying something, since nature itself is an extraordinarily powerful thing.
Jesus knew who he had come for: he came for the poor, he came for us. As we have recognised our poverty we have become recipients of his healing, freeing, blessing words. But until we recognise our poverty we sense no need of Jesus. There is, however, not one person who is not poor, in his or her natural state. All of us live in poverty of one sort or another.
Are we really so poor, many might wonder? Human efforts down through the millennia have resulted in significant parts of the world, significant numbers of people, who live in material prosperity. We see this as social evolution, progress to a state of greater comfort and security, and we believe that this equates to greater happiness. Millions from the less “developed” parts of the world look at “rich” societies with envy. They do everything, risk life and limb, to get themselves to this places. They are known as economic refugees, fleeing poverty to get a better life.
But it is an illusion, as so many refugees and migrants can bear witness to. Even those who become materially prosperous recognise there is an emptiness in the West that material comfort and security cannot fill. Despite all our efforts we are still poor, we are still in need, we are still imprisoned, blind, oppressed.
The poverty of the wealthy Western world is a poverty of relationships, a poverty of the mind, a poverty of the spirit. We have everything we think we need for a good life, but we still search for real joy and real hope. All our efforts, social, medical, political, have not resolved the poverty of the human spirit once and for all.
Jesus came and said that he was the solution to all that. He said that his words would provide the way out of this poverty. Yet so many of us cannot see our own poverty, or if we can, recognise only the material part, the physical. We struggle and strain to get more stuff, thinking that then we will be complete. But we all know that we are so much more than our bodies. The essence of each one of us is something that is not seen with physical eyes. We may look healthy, wealthy and wise, but our spirits are so often small and lonely and sick. Jesus came with his words of release, healing, and restoration.
The verses that Jesus quoted as he announced who he was, and why he had come, in his local synagogue that day, are taken from the writings of the prophet Isaiah, who had lived hundreds of years before. But Luke did not record them in their completeness: compare what is written here in Luke and the verses in Isaiah 61:1-3. But if Jesus was reading he would surely have read all of the words recorded in the scroll he took up. There are some other aspects there which are just as much a part of what Jesus does for us, through the power of his Spirit.
He binds up the broken hearted.
He comforts those who mourn.
He replaces the ashes of mourning with a crown of beauty.
He replaces sadness with joy.
He fils our hearts with thankfulness and praise.
He replaces despair with hope.
Do you see yourself? Do you see that Jesus came for you? Are you willing to listen, to receive, to be healed, to be set free? This is good news.