2008-12-21 (am) Luke 4:18-21 Spirit
Can you imagine being there when Jesus read that scroll? Imagine being in a worship service in the synagogue two thousand years ago. Everything is going on as usual, you’re worshipping, you’ve met your friends, you’ve been talking about the all the different rabbi’s. You wonder who will be doing the reading this morning.
Then, as you’re worshipping, the scroll goes to Jesus and He reads the very words of Isaiah that I just read. After He’s done reading he says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!”
This is an absolutely mind-blowing statement! Can you imagine it? What would your reaction be? Would you believe it? Suppose someone came to Edson, claiming to be Christ returning to judge the living and the dead. Would you believe him? No? Then why should we believe that what Jesus said back then was true? Is it logical to believe that Jesus is who He says He is? Did He really fulfil the scriptures? How can we be sure?
John the Baptist had similar doubts, so he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to find out. Jesus answer to their questions, is a summary of our text this morning. So clearly, Jesus is using this text as evidence, as proof of who He really is!
As we look at our text, we see that there are six proofs that Jesus is the Messiah, they are: the anointing of the spirit, preaching to the poor, proclaiming freedom, recovery of sight, release of the oppressed, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour.
Anointing of the Holy Spirit
Was Jesus anointed by the Holy Spirit?
Well, yes he was. At His baptism, as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. All four gospels record this event. This is true and was easily verifiable when the gospels were written. There were eyewitness testimonies to the physical presence of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus.
So, the Holy Spirit anointed Christ. Why is this important? In the Bible, people were anointed for a purpose. Priests were anointed to do the work God called them to do, namely, offer sacrifices for the people. Prophets were anointed to bring God’s Word to the people. Kings were anointed to rule over God’s people.
Jesus, was anointed by the Holy Spirit as prophet, priest and king. We see the fulfillment of these three offices in Christ, in the next five criteria which proves Jesus is the Christ.
Preach to the Poor
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says of the poor, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor that Jesus is speaking of are not merely those who are lacking the basic necessities of life. He’s describing those who are spiritually destitute, who are searching for spiritual treasure, but who cannot find it, for their religious leaders are not providing the hope and the depth they need, or they’re following a false religion. Many false religions promise physical financial reward, but Christ promises something far greater. He says, “Don’t look at this world, where moth and rust destroy, look to the treasures I’ll give you in heaven, treasures beyond your imagination.”
Okay, that’s nice for the poor, but who are they? Who is spiritually poor? Everyone. Every single person on this planet is spiritually poor. It says in Romans 3 that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. But that’s not the whole sentence. That verse goes on to say, though all have sinned, all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus.
So, when Jesus says, “I have good news for the poor.” He is saying, “I have good news for everyone.” Don’t you hear in this an echo of what the angels said to the shepherds? “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Jesus ministry was centred around preaching. He preached everywhere. Yes, he performed many miracles, but he always preached. Preaching was His main task, and those who heard His preaching said that he preached unlike the leaders and scholars of the day, he preached with authority! His preaching had results!
The problem is greater than mere spiritual destitution. There’s a false prince of the air, he parades as an angel of light, whose lies keeps everyone in bondage. So, not only are people looking for the truth, they’re constantly being bombarded by lies. It takes great discipline to wade through the untruth, and seek out and find the truth. This oppressor keeps working hard against those seeking the true light.
So what Christ does as king is he kicks out the false ruler. He destroys Satan and his schemes. He overpowers him and takes over.
Alistair Begg, in a lecture he gave on Romans 3 to a bunch of businessmen, describes it this way. He said, some of you have just experienced a takeover. Sohio was taken over by BP. But suppose nothing changed. Suppose BP said, “we’ve been taken over, but your CEO stays, your name stays, nothing changes, you keep operating as you always have. Eventually, you’d go up to them and say, “You’ve not changed. You’re still the same company. There’s been no takeover.
The same is true in Christianity. The proclamation that Jesus is talking about is that He has come to set the captives free. He not just the one who makes the proclamation, He’s the one through whom freedom comes!
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the Jews that they are enslaved. They indignantly retort, “We are slaves to no one!” Then Jesus explained to them that they are enslaved to sin. In fact, because they want to kill Him, he says that they are children of the devil!
But for all who receive Jesus, he performs a takeover. He removes the old CEO, Satan, and puts himself in the place of lordship over us. We are now able to produce succulent delicious, God glorifying fruit! Our lives are changed! No longer bound by sin and guilt, we’re encased in grace, love, joy and hope!
Recovery of Sight
When a person was incarcerated in those days, they would put them in cells underground. Very little light made it into the depths. So, the prisoners were effectively blind. When a captive was pardoned, ransomed, redeemed and set free, they would come out of prison and, after their eyes adjusted, they would be able to see again.
When Christ came, he made it possible, not only for the captives to be set free, but for them to leave the darkness of the dungeon of death and walk out into freedom, into light. Those who were spiritually blind are now able to see.
We see an example of this several times when Jesus healed the blind. But consider the spiritual significance of the man who was healed who had been born blind. Now, according to scriptures, all humans are born into sin, all people are in essence, born spiritually blind.
But Jesus comes along, and by setting us free from being born into slavery to sin, he gives us our sight! We, who were born blind, are now able to see! We can see the world as it really is! We’re not limited to merely dealing with symptoms; we can get to the heart of the problem. We were bound by Satan and were captives. Now, through Christ, we’re set free!
Release of the Oppressed.
But Jesus does more than simply set us free and enable us to see. Those things are great, make no mistake. But as our king, he rules over us. We’re his subjects, but we’re not His slaves.
We’re friends of Christ. He’s let us in on his plans. Last evening I saw a clip of the interview that the honourable Stephen Harper gave. When asked about the upcoming budget, he said something along the lines of, “Well I can’t tell you about that yet, you’ll have to wait until the budget comes out in January.” He’s purposely keeping things in the dark, not letting things out because, well the situation might change between now and then.
But Jesus isn’t like that. He’s revealed everything we need to know in order to participate fully in His government. He is the king of kings and the Lord of lords. He has transformed us into co-heirs with Him. We know His will, and what’s more, by His Spirit, we’re able to do His will!
There’s a series of four short sentences that sum up the condition of humanity in various areas of history. In the garden, Adam and Eve were able to sin. That’s the first phrase, able to sin. But after they sinned, humanity, in the period leading up to Christ, were not able not to sin. But after Christ, those who are in Christ are able not to sin. And when Christ returns, we will not be able to sin. It’s a cool Latin phrase which if you’re interested in looking at it, is on the church’s website.
Right now, we’re in the period of history where, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we are able not to sin, though we still struggle against it. Nevertheless, through the propitiation, the atonement of Christ on the cross, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we’re now able not to sin, we can turn from it. We’re becoming more and more like Christ, every day.
We see this very powerfully demonstrated in Jesus’ interaction with the Disciples. He sent them out to do ministry, to preach, teach, heal and cast out demons. They were able to do all these things, because they spoke and acted in the authority of Christ.
Then, after Christ ascended, they continued to be faithful servants of Christ. And because of the Holy Spirit working in them, we’re here today, faithfully following Christ! Furthermore God can and does use sin even for His glory and our benefit. We see this in Joseph, even though his brothers meant it for sin, God ordained Joseph’s struggles to that he could save his whole family form dying in the famine.
We see this also in Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times, Judas did it only once. Later, Peter confessed his sin and was restored, in fact he became one of the most influential leaders of the church. His sin of denying Christ, his confession, his restoration by Christ, had a profound impact on his ministry. It made him completely humble, and served him well.
So, while it is necessary to confess sin, while we must repent and do our utmost to turn completely away from sin, we must not despair, for God transforms even the worst sin, the murder of His Son, into the means of His greatest grace and glory! He does the same for us and our sin.
Year of the Lord’s favour
When Jesus said, “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” that didn’t mean that a year from that moment, the Lord’s favour came to an end.
No, in this case, the word year simply means a long period of time.
This phrase is tied to the year of jubilee, when all our sins are forgiven. Make no mistake, we are most certainly still living in the Lord’s favour. If it were not so, then Christ would have already returned. It is the fact that we’re still here that we know we are favoured by God. God has not closed the door on people yet. We’ve received Christ, yet there is still time for others to receive Him too! We must let people know that God’s favour is still available, the complete forgiveness of all sin is offered to everyone!
And because we are learned subjects of the true king, we have the privilege of participating in this ministry of proclamation.
We need to get out there, into our neighbourhoods and families and proclaim that God’s favour still rests on us! God’s favour still is with the world. God is revealing in the 2000 years of history since Christ’s ascension that he really is a loving God, slow to anger, abounding in love, faithful through all generations.
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as Christ was anointed by the Spirit to bring life, joy and love, we’ve been anointed by the Spirit for the same purpose! This Christmas, let us receive again the gift of God’s grace in Christ, and share it, give it to those around us! Amen!