God’s Heart for The Poor – Luke 4
Thank you for joining us this week as we take a look at a number of Scripture passages in a quest to see God’s heart for the poor and His call to us as Jesus followers to serve the poor.
Today’s passage is from Luke 4, where Jesus announces His mission in the synagogue at the beginning of His public ministry,
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
This passage is so powerful as Jesus proclaims His Mission of seeing God’s Kingdom break in to the here and now and the imminent defeat of the kingdom of darkness. It becomes even more powerful as we consider conditions on the ground as Jesus makes this proclamation – the people waiting for The King who was to come and overthrow Rome and finally deliver God’s people from their oppressors. Hope had arrived.
However, in some circles the radicalness of this passage has been diminished. There have been efforts at times to interpret this passage as only having spiritual significance. We read it as the good news for the poor being the preaching of the good news to those who are spiritually poor, the freedom being for those of us who were imprisoned by sin, the recovery of sight being a spiritual coming to see Jesus, the freedom from oppression being the spiritual deliverance of us as a people and the proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor being a spiritual knowledge of God being for those who will believe. Of course, this is good news, but what if there is more?
What if Jesus came not only to fulfill this spiritually, but also practically? What if the good news for the poor is more than just a spiritual promise of heaven someday, but a call to even the poor to experience life to the fullest here and now? What if it is a literal freedom for those who have been imprisoned – not only by sin but also in the natural realm? What if recovery of sight spoke of a physical healing and wholeness that Jesus was extending to those who would encounter Him? What if the freedom from oppression also pertained to those who are oppressed by individuals and cycles and systems and societies and that their loads could be lightened as part of the Good News? And, what if the year of the Lord’s favor truly points toward what it seemed to point towards in context which was the Year of Jubliee where slaves were set free, debts canceled and land returned to previous owners in a God ordained sort of way that meant a regular reordering of status, wealth and freedom?
If we look at Jesus’ ministry as a follow up to His declaration of His Mission, I believe that we see Him doing all of this – on a spiritual and a natural level. If we interpret His Mission within the whole counsel of Scripture and see God’s concern for those on the fringes as expressed from one cover to The Bible to the other cover I think we get the same message. His message, actions and Mission overcomes any form of dualism that would try to point to the spirit being more important than the body. In Jesus’ interactions with people – His encounters, healing and teaching – it seems over and over again that He is concerned for the whole person. He was concerned about; restoring the dead to life, seeing lepers reenter society, freeing those who were demonized, seeing widows provided for, healing the lame, embracing the sinners in daily life, teaching of how the poor are positioned to more readily enter the Kingdom than the rich AND also calling people to saving faith. He proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom in fullness.
I believe that we see God’s huge heart for the poor here. But, there’s something more. Jesus speaks of being anointed to see these things come to be. We then see Him anoint the 72 followers to go and do the same. And, in turn, by The Holy Spirit we are anointed to actively partner with God in this activity. The activity of seeing souls and bodies made whole. The activity of seeing people set free spiritually as they are delivered from evil spirits while also seeing them set free practically as we are agents of justice on individual levels and societal levels – lightening the loads that weigh them down.
It is an amazing call that we have been anointed for…may we be about our Master’s business in following His example in His power.
Join us tomorrow for a look at another passage.