"Jesus' Mission Statement"
Before our passage for this morning Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.
We talked about this two weeks ago.
We are told that "heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit came down on [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove.
And there was a voice from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.'"
We are told that Jesus returned from His baptism "full of the Holy Spirit" and then was led by the "Holy Spirit" into the wilderness for a time of testing as Jesus refused the pathways that the devil offered--the pathways of the world.
In the wilderness Jesus refused to be lured by wealth, power and spectacle.
Then we are told, at the beginning of our lesson for this morning, that "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee..."
And Jesus went to a synagogue in Nazareth, His hometown.
And this is where Jesus read from the scroll from the prophet Isaiah.
"He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Then Jesus rolled up the scroll and began to tell the people: "Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it."
Mike read the Scripture that Jesus read from at the beginning of today's service.
The only difference is that Jesus left one thing out from what it says in Isaiah Chapter 61:1-2.
And that one thing is "to proclaim...a day of vindication for our God."
Nearly every biblical scholar worth his or her salt will tell you that in reading and reinterpreting these Words from Isaiah Jesus is stating His mission.
And therefore, it should go without saying that, as Christians, we are called to understand our purpose and mission in accordance with Jesus' understanding of His purpose and mission.
When Jesus announces: "Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it," He is proclaiming that the promised liberating work of the Holy Spirit of God is present in Him.
And the author of Luke--who is the same guy who wrote down the Words to the Book of Acts--traces that continuing fulfillment through the Acts of the Church.
And it continues in us today through the power of the very same Holy Spirit.
It is the "good news."
What is striking, though, is that this is only "good news" to us when we are willing to admit what is hard in our lives, what is lacking, what has been most difficult, that we sin, that we fall short of the glory of God and that all our work and trying is just filthy rages without the "Good News."
And that is because it is not “good news” in general, but rather good news for the poor.
It is not just release, but release to those who are captive, sight to those who are blind, freedom to those who are oppressed.
Do you see what I mean?
God offers Words of comfort, but these words only mean something to those living with discomfort.
How do you hear Jesus' Words today?
How do I?
In this world, so many of us spend so much time acting as if we have it all together.
We spend so much money trying to look better, get fitter, appear younger.
There is so much pressure on us externally from the culture at large and internally from ourselves to not need anything or anyone.
It's no wonder that the Good News of Jesus is often rejected or ignored by so many.
And you know what?
The stories we tell ourselves about being perfect, the commercials we pay attention to telling us that we really can have it all, the ads that promise us that if we just purchase this product we’ll never feel insecure again – these are all false.
And deep down we know it, don't we?
So while Jesus’ message is "Good News", in order for us to hear it that way it must first sound to us like bad news, the bad news that we are not who we want to be, can be, and should be…and we never will be.
When I was in college, I gave a speech about Christianity in a psychology class I was taking.
Before the speech, I handed out tracts that I had.
On the front of the tracts was written the words: "Good News."
After class, I saw that a number of classmates had left the tracts I passed out on their desks, so I went around and picked up the ones that were left.
I was taken aback, when, on picking up one of the tracks a student had crossed out the word "Good" and in its place had written the word "Bad."
At least he or she was being honest.
Jesus comes bringing good news to those in need, but those who don’t see or don't want to see and admit their need don't want anything to do with Him.
And most of us have probably been there.
Did we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior--forsaking all else--as soon as we heard the Good News or did it take a long time...
...a lot of "sowing our wild oats" or checking out other options before making our ultimate commitment to Christ?
Think about the rich young man who is described later on in the Gospel of Luke as well as the Gospel of Mark and Matthew.
He races up to Jesus all excited and asks: "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus tells him that he lacks one thing: "Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."
Did the "Good News" of Jesus sound like Good News to this guy?
We are told that "he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth."
Of course, living with great wealth while so many others starve, sit out in the cold, don't have clothing, clean drinking water--the basic necessities of life is, from a Kingdom of God perspective, incredibly selfish, hard-hearted and foolish.
But isn't living "high on the hog" what our culture, our world promotes as the ultimate mission of every man, woman and child?
Isn't it the lie that most of us buy into?
"If I only had more money...
...If I only had a nicer house...
...If I could only afford another one of these..."
We can all relate, right?
Just look at how many folks bought "Powerball" tickets when the jackpot went up over a billion dollars.
In Matthew Chapter 25 Jesus says to those who followed Him: "Inherit the kingdom...I was hungry and you gave me food to eat.
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear.
I was sick and you took care of me.
I was in prison and you visited me...
....when you have done it for the least of these...you have done it for me."
Of course the opposite is true as well.
"Go away from me...I was hungry and you didn't give me food to eat.
I was thirsty and you didn't give me anything to drink.
I was a stranger and you didn't welcome me.
I was naked and you didn't give me clothes to wear.
I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me."
What does that say to me about how well I am following the Gospel?
What does that say for you?
It's very easy to get sidetracked from the central message of Christ.
The prophets had to remind the people about God's main purposes all the time.
And Jesus, like the prophets before Him is not impressed with ceremonial shows of self-righteousness.
What did Isaiah say?
"Trample my courts no more...learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."
Jesus came to fulfill what Isaiah pleaded for.
By the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus lived His mission statement; He was crucified because of it.
To know our mission and to understand what God has given us to do is the most important thing we can uncover.
It is the secret to life.
The writer of Luke's Gospel wants us to know that Jesus' ministry started on this earth when the Holy Spirit claimed Him in baptism, led Him to be tested in the wilderness, and filled Him with power for an urgent ministry of grace to all the downtrodden of this world.
By following Jesus we are taught what is real and how to say "no" to the false options and temptations of this world.
We learn how to say "yes" to God's good purposes for all people; to say no to self-glory in all its forms and yes to helping the poor and the captured.
When we accept that we need Jesus we are enabled to actually hear the Good News for what it is: GOOD news.
Then we can be honest about our deep hurts, fears, and longings.
We feel an immense freedom simply from admitting the truth.
And we receive the help and comfort that God offers – release, sight, healing, freedom, and more.
Then, we realize we don’t simply receive help and comfort, but we are also invited to offer it to others.
We are invited, that is, not just to hear and receive good news, but to be it.
This is what the Body of Christ and community of faith is – God’s hands delivering the promise of good news to all who come in need.
"Are you Afraid?" we may ask those around us.
"Come here to find courage."
"Are you Lonely? Come join our community."
"Are you sick?
Come here – or better, let us come to you – to care for you."
Are you isolated?
We will visit you."
Let us gather together and encourage one another."
When we decide to follow the Jesus of the Bible the Holy Spirit comes and
gives us something to do for God.
Following the REAL Jesus means accepting His mission.
God gives us no other day than today to bring Good News to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and new beginnings to all who have failed!!!
Jesus went forward in the power of the Holy Spirit as the Agent of God's mercy to the downtrodden.