Summary: Anointing for Ministry
Anytime we read of Jesus, we need to be conscious of two main things. We ask what Jesus has done for us. And we ask what example he is for us. 1 Peter 2:21 says, ’to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.’ Jesus has done for us that which we could not do for ourselves. He suffered and died for us. His suffering is our salvation. And he’s left us his example. We don’t atone for people’s sins, but we do take up our cross and endure hardship to lead people to the one who can.
This passage is the mission of Jesus. And, as our example, I believe this passage is the mission of the church as well. In Jn. 20:21, Jesus tells us that he sends us as the father sent him. And Paul speaks of us as the body of Christ. The mission that Jesus performed in his own flesh, he now performs through the church. That is us. And we have our mission in this passage.
This passage is often misused. It is often misunderstood and misused in one of two fashions. Sometimes, the gospel, the mission of Christ in the church, is merely physical and social. The poor and captives and blind and oppressed are purely physical and social states. But Jesus said in Revelation 3:17 to the church in Laodicea, “You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.“ John Piper is a pastor who wrote, “arrogant, self-satisfied, wealthy American is utterly poverty-stricken and miserable in God’s eyes and ought to be in our eyes. Most of you work with those people and your heart should go out to them just like Jesus’ did to Zacchaeus.“(John Piper, Christ in Combat: Offense by the Spirit - Lk 4:16-21 on SermonCentral.com).
Many of you know that I went out to California last week. I had this passage in front of me the whole time, because I was coming back to preach on it. And it seemed to frame everything I did there.
The timing for the trip came about because my best friend, Greg Hughes, for whom we have prayed when he lost twin sons a couple years ago, and when they had another son almost a year ago, he was installed as pastor at Malibu Presbyterian Church, and invited me to give his charge at the installation service. Since this is the passage I had in my mind, it is the passage I used, for it is his mission. I read this passage about the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed. And then I asked him to look out at the congregation. Then look out of the windows of their sanctuary. What you see is amazing, beautiful people in and amazing, beautiful place. Executives, wealthy, movie stars - the people who have created hollyworld and californication - the makers of our culture. At first glance, poor, captive, oppressed and blind is not what comes to mind. But it is his job, his mission, to see them, to see Malibu, exactly that way. This is a mission field, and God is alive and here.
The moment we think we have this God stuff all under control, we are in trouble. The worst patients are doctors. And the hardest people to minister to are those who think they know more than you do – that they know the bible better and God better. They have sat in that pew for so long, that they couldn’t possibly need anything more from God or anyone else. But God came for the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. He came for you and me. And when we know that, then we are free to minister. It is only if we are free to be ministered to that we are free to minister to others.
The other misuse of this passage is to completely spiritualize it. Then, we sit back and think we are following Jesus when we have no compassion on those who really are struggling financially, really are behind bars, really are hungry and addicted and oppressed.
Vic Pentz is the new pastor at PeachTree Pres. in Atlanta - the sort of St. Peter’s of American Presbyterianism. He was speaking at the church I grew up in this past weekend, and so I got a chance to catch one of his sermons. He told a story about this. He talked about a time when he, as a pastor, was trying to hook some resources, some funds, up with some folks who were living in poverty. A single mother in the slums of Houston needed some money to get some food. Someone in his congregation offered to get them some money, but couldn’t do it that night. Without thinking, Pentz asked the contact person to have the single mother put it on her credit card and they would pay her right away. As soon as it came out of his mouth, he knew what he was saying. He was so far out of touch with what her life was really like, he knew that wasn’t living in the gospel.