Summary: Easter Sunday! Like the Prophet Isaiah, like Jesus who was prophecied, we are to be proclaimers of this Good News! Jesus has risen from the dead!

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The top news headlines for March 19, 2008, were as follows:

Brenda Martin continues to languish in Mexican jail awaiting charges for fraud. A junior cabinet minister from the Canadian government visited her in the Guadalajara jail but held out little hope that the Harper government would be able to influence the Mexican Federal Court system. Martin has been held without bail and without formal charges for two years.

In other news, 300 cancer tests in Newfoundland and Labrador were discovered to be faulty. Women who were tested for breast cancer and subsequently cleared now find that the test was not conclusive. Health officials say that 100 women have died in the past decade as a result of the faulty test.

And in local news, the campaign to create a heritage centre at the site of Winnipeg’s former Upper Fort Garry suffered a fatal blow Wednesday at City Hall. Winnipeg city councilors voted against giving the Friends of Upper Fort Garry group any more time to raise the money it needs to build an interpretive centre at the downtown location, often referred to as the birthplace of Manitoba.

As Lloyd Robertson would say, that’s the kind of day it’s been this Wednesday, March 19, 2008. The news is not so good when we tune in to our favorite media source. Good news does not usually attract our attention, it’s the bad news that catches us, and then throws us into slight anxiety.

But today, Sunday, March 23, 2008, I proclaim to you the good news of an early Sunday morning news breaker: the tomb is empty! To those in prison, to those suffering physical and emotional despair, and to those who wrestle with rebuilding the ruins of their broken lives, this news is the best you have ever heard. My old broadcasting nature compels me to proclaim to you this good news: Here are our top stories…

1. “Man claims anointing of Holy Spirit, begins ministry to down and outers”

Jesus began his ministry on this earth when he read from a scroll in the synagogue of the village of Nazareth. That scroll contained the words of Isaiah the prophet. This is what he read:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor…” (61:1-2).

Then he returned the scroll to its keeper and paused before he spoke. When he spoke again he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Those words rocked their world. But what do they mean for us?

Filled with the Spirit the prophet spoke to his people and brought words of encouragement to them. Filled with the same Holy Spirit Jesus applied these words to himself in a greater way. Here’s what we know…

There are two triplets of great significance in Isaiah’s writing. The first speaks powerfully of Jesus’ identity as the Servant of the LORD. In the first triplet he says “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me…the LORD has anointed me…He has sent me.” There is a tremendous amount of authority in these declarations. Jesus claimed to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in him and empowering him. Then Jesus claims to have a special blessing from God, the anointing, the hand of God upon him. Then without a doubt, Jesus is set apart and sent by God himself with authority and power to minister to humankind.

Jesus is the anointed One. The Greeks used a term to describe the anointed One. We know him as the Christ. In Hebrew he is called the Messiah, the One who was prophesied to come. There may have been hundreds of children named Jesus in first century Palestine but only one was called the Christ, the Messiah of God.

The second triplet repeats his mission in various ways. Three times the prophet uses the word “proclaim” to emphasize the verbal aspect of that mission. He wrote that the Messiah was “to preach (proclaim) good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the captives…to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” These are synonymous declarations. The good news was translated by the Greeks as “Gospel” meaning that a new program was being established, a program founded on God’s truth and grace, not the wickedness and evil of man.

The essence of the new program was understood best in the phrase “the year of the LORD’s favor.” Jews knew it as “Jubilee,” the year of redemption. In Leviticus 25 the people of Israel were instructed to let the land rest every 7 years as a Sabbath year. After 7 cycles like this, seven times seven years, the fiftieth year was a year of liberty where land that was sold would return to its original owner, slaves would be freed, and wrongs would be set right. I don’t know if the Israelites ever followed this instruction correctly.

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