An Age of Hope

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.

This is what Jesus quoted in the synogogue of Nazereth.  He probably knew he would not have a good reception here, but he still selected a very encouraging message.  It was good news!  The prophesy was being fulfilled.  There would be freedom.  Eyes would be open.  Chains would be unloosed.

Jesus ushered in an age of good news.  The greek word for this  is used by the angels when they told the shepherds that a savior has been born.   It was used by Jesus to let John the Baptist know that he was the “one.”  Good news preached to the poor was a signal of the coming of the messiah.

Social justice is such a theme throughout the Old Testament.  Good news for the poor would mean that finally the poor would get justice.   Ken taught on Wednesday night about how we all are equal in Christ.  And indeed the first churches contained everyone — rich and poor alike.  One of the most important functions of the early church was to remember the poor.  My understanding is that the collection they took up was less for paying evangelists than it was to give to the poor in Jerusaelm.

For me good news for the poor is so much more than that, because when I remember how much Jesus did for me, a wretched sinner, then I want to help everyone, not matter how low their situation. Because I realize how low I am, it helps me to reach out to others inn less than desirable situations, people I might not normally want to reach out to.

Also, the first verse of the sermon on the mount is “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Good news for the poor is also that all who see their need for God will finally be able to have the living water that never ends.

Jesus was sent to heal the broken, crushed hearts.  This refers to healing of a supernatural kind.  The impossible hurts can be healed.  Jesus was sent to give us all hope in a place where it seems there could be none.

Jesus was sent to proclaim that those who were in prison would be given freedom, but more than that, they would be absolved, they would have complete forgiveness.  It is like a prisoner set free with all charges dropped.  I am sure the Jews didn’t think they were in prison.  They didn’t know they were slaves to sin.  But they did know that the cloud of God’s wrath hung over them.  They did know that they could be punished again as their ancestors were.  They knew atonement needed to be made for any who didn’t obey God’s law — and all of them hadn’t obeyed the law at some point.

This is encouraging to me because it reminds me that I live in a situation where I am set free from the prison of guilt.  There is no condemnation for me.  That was God’s intention since days of old.

Jesus started an age when the blind would recover their sight.

He came so that those who were oppressed would be delivered.  Literally, those whose lives were shattered in pieces would be restored.  Actually the word for deliverance here is the same word as is used for delivering those in prison.  But where before the verse carried the idea idea that they were justly being punished by being incarcerated, this verse refers more to those who were hurt by others, who have unjustly been subjected to harsh treatment.

Satan is the oppressor, he wants to take us down.  He shatters our lives and dreams.  He crushes our hearts and hopes.  He makes sure that life disappoints us.  And often we are participants in the process.  We do something to allow Satan to bring us down.  We make a wrong choice, and that is all Satan needs to start a chain of events that lead us in a downward spiral, one we feel helpless to halt.

Jesus came to halt the powers of darkness, to do the impossible, to give hope to the hopeless.  It is a time when mankind, stuck in the morasses of weakness, can have an element of divine help, can be elevated by grace to a strong stature, can finally be able to fulfill their potential.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:6

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