He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”Luke 4:16-21 (NABRE)
Every human person desires freedom. The central message of Christianity is the gospel, and the gospel is the message of authentic freedom.
In chapter four of his Gospel, St. Luke records that Jesus preached this sermon at the synagogue at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee, right after his 40 days in the desert. Accordingly, the text of Isaiah 61:1-2 (and 58:6), which the Lord reads, is often considered as something like his mission statement. Why did God the Father send His Divine Son into the world to take on human flesh? This is why: that he might fulfill the prophets of Israel, and become the means of true freedom for all who are oppressed.
Who are the oppressed, whom Jesus came to set free?
(1) The materially, emotionally, and spiritually poor. Those who lack the necessities of an abundant life can rely upon Jesus to provide for their needs, beginning in this life and fully in the next. Therefore, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20, see also Luke 6:20)!
(2) Those who are captive to suffering, death, and sin. Jesus heals the sick, especially those burdened with the sickness of sin. Many who are physically sick are also healed. When his Kingdom comes in its fullness at the end of time, all sickness of every kind will be healed as sin and death are finally destroyed. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted … Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:4, 6).
(3) The physically and spiritually blind. Jesus opens the eyes of the blind. Sin is the worst kind of blindness, bringing with it a profound ignorance of the most important truths. In the next life, the Lord will open the eyes of the blind fully, so that they will see the face of God (see 1 John 3:2). “Everyone who has this hope based on [God] makes himself pure, as [God] is pure” (1 John 3:3).
“The kingdom of God is at hand!” In Jesus Christ, God is establishing his rule in the world, and where God rules, his creation flourishes. What should we do, then? How should we receive the freedom that God offers in Jesus? “Repent, and believe in the good news!” Through faith in the gospel, Christians receive the Holy Spirit, the “down payment” of the full liberation we are promised (see Ephesians 1:13). We are freed through the gift of God’s love poured into our hearts, and the hope of fuller blessings in heaven (see Romans 5:5, 8:24-25).
There are many ways to preach the gospel, but this way is a powerful one. We can proclaim the good news by starting with Jesus’ “mission statement” in Luke chapter 4, and go from there, sharing how Christian life is a life of increasing freedom and fulfillment. Try it out, and share your experience in the comment section of this post! Or do you have a question or comment about this way of proclaiming the gospel? Either way, we’d love to hear from you!