Faith Comes from Hearing, April 2015

Faith Comes from Hearing

Meditation on Luke 4:18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:18-19

It matters what a person says first. The first words that are spoken in a presentation or a speech are important because they let the audience know where the speaker intends to go and what he intends to do with the remainder of his message. Jesus’ public speaking ministry was no different. These verses from Luke 4 are the first recorded words of Jesus’ public ministry in Luke’s Gospel. And what Jesus says first matters for those who are his disciples.

These words follow Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit coming upon him like a dove (Lk. 3:21-22). Jesus is then led into the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil for forty days, defeating each temptation with the Word of God (4:1-13). After this time of testing, Jesus begins his public ministry, teaching the Word of God in the area around the Sea of Galilee (vv. 14-15). He makes his way to his hometown of Nazareth, goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stands up to read from the Old Testament (v. 16). The attendant hands him the scroll of Isaiah and, of all the passages he could have read from, he chose these two verses from Isaiah 61:1-2. This was no accident. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He was beginning his public ministry by making it clear what he had come to do.

The main point of the verses that Jesus quotes is that the Messiah will be anointed, or filled, with the Holy Spirit in order to proclaim the good news. The verb “proclaim” is used three times in these two verses: “proclaim good news,” “proclaim liberty,” and “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus came to proclaim. He came to preach. He came to speak the Word of the Lord in the power of the Spirit.

But what did he come to say? And who did he come to say it to? In other words, what is the essence of Jesus’ message and who is his audience? Simply put, Jesus’ message is one of “good news” and it is for those who are humble enough to receive it.

The “good news,” is described as “the year of the Lord’s favor.” So the message that Jesus came preaching is about God’s kindness and grace, his love and mercy. Jesus came to tell us that God has been favorable to us! This is incredible when we think about how we have treated God. We have deliberately rebelled against him, ignored him, and even used him to give us what we want. But, despite our sinfulness, God has looked upon humanity with favor. In Jesus, God has something good to tell us. He tells us that we can be made right with him, that our sins can be forgiven, and that we can have eternal life with him.

This “year of the Lord’s favor” will not last forever. Jesus deliberately chose not to read the second half of Isaiah 61:2: “and the day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus did not read this part about God’s judgment and wrath because now is a time of God’s “favor.” There will be a day of judgement, but today is a day of grace.

This grace that Jesus came announcing is only available for those who are humble enough to receive it. Notice that the good news is for the “poor,” the “captives,” the “blind,” and those who are “oppressed.” The “poor” in the Bible does not always refer to those who are materially poor, but can also refer to those who are spiritually poor. So Jesus’ message of good news is for those who are spiritually poor, or “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). It is for those who are humble enough to admit that they need God, that they need forgiveness, that they can do nothing to save themselves. The message of Jesus is for those willing to acknowledge that they are “captive” and “oppressed” in their sins and “blind” to the things of God. The grace of God is for those who are humble enough to admit that they need it.

So the essence of Jesus’ ministry was to proclaim the good news of God’s grace to those willing to receive it. By extension, the ministry of Jesus’ followers is no different. Jesus’ church is also called to “proclaim good news to the poor.” The essence of our ministry as individuals and as a church is to proclaim who Jesus is and what he came to do, to tell people about “the year of the Lord’s favor” before the “day of (God’s) vengeance comes.”

The reason why proclamation must be central in our individual lives and in the life of our church is found in Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” If people are going to receive the grace of God through faith in Christ, they must hear the good news. This means that we must tell them. “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14). People will never repent of sin they do not know they have or love a Savior they have never heard of.

May Preston Highlands become a church that is committed to the proclamation of the good news of the Lord’s favor to us in Jesus. May we give our time and money and prayers and lives to this mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, to all the nations.
Praying for your boldness,

Pastor John