I find myself contemplating often the words Jesus used to describe his purpose. Jesus gave us description immediately before he launched into his public ministry. This is the way it went down, and this is what he said:
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“’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.’
‘And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”Luke 4:16-21
The famous announcement of his purpose came after John the Baptist piqued the interest of the local people, proclaiming, “Prepare the way for the Lord”. It came after John the Baptist challenged people to repent and be baptized.
The announcement took place after Jesus spent 40 days out in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Jesus had not yet begun his “public ministry”, when he stood up to read in his home town synagogue from the words of Isaiah, the Prophet – words spoken about Jesus over 500 years before that day.
This was the announcement of what Jesus came to do. The Spirit was on him to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of our Lord’s favor.
It wasn’t just a prophecy to be fulfilled. It was the very purpose for which God emptied Himself and became a man incarnate. God came to reveal Himself in the material world, to reveal His very heart and His love for mankind.
This was the message that He was trying to convey over the many centuries through the one people who inclined an ear toward Him. But, they didn’t completely get it. They wandered and strayed in their devotion to God, and they mistook His law for nothing but a code of conduct that might earn them the favor of God.
They didn’t understand the relationship He desired to form with them. They didn’t understand His love for them or the singularity of His own devotion to them and the purposes He established for them before the foundation of the heavens and the earth.
They didn’t even recognize Him when He came to them, albeit emptied of all that would not fit into human form (Phil. 2:5-7) They didn’t recognize Him stripped of all His power, holiness and glory.
He did not come with pomp and circumstance. He came humbly in the form of a man just like them. His coming was barely a whisper. is arrival went all but unnoticed. Born in a humble setting to poor, common parents, he grew up in an area of Judea that was off the beaten path and not a little “backwards”.
His first 30 years of life were so unremarkable we know next to nothing about them. The first public stir that is recorded is the day he stood up and read from the Isaiah scroll, sat down, and announced, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
People were so unready for anything extraordinary from Jesus that they marveled and asked each other, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22) Then, he seemed to provoke them (Luke 4:23-28), and they burned with anger at his audacity. (Luke 4:28)
It was an inauspicious start to his “public ministry”. He bombed in his hometown synagogue.
What he said of himself, however, is preserved for eternity. It is the key to understanding the heart and character of God revealed through Jesus, “the exact representation of His nature”. (Heb. 1:3) What Jesus said that day and what Jesus did is the best demonstration of God’s heart and character that we, as finite beings, might understand.
Since Jesus is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), Jesus was with God in the beginning, and Jesus was God (John 1), we understand that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature”. Once we have seen Jesus, we have seen “the God of the Old Testament”. I know it’s hard to fathom, but it’s true.
What we see in Jesus is the character of God stripped of all His power, holiness and “glory” that would make us fall on our faces in fear and awe. (Gen. 17:3; Josh. 5:14-15; Ez. 1:28 and 3:23: Dan. 8:17 and 10:15) We see in Jesus God emptied into the form of a man. God brought Himself near so He could reveal his heart and character to us unadorned by the power, holiness and glory that would cause us to melt at the sight of Him.
This is what we see of God’s heart and character in Jesus: a desire to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind. We see a God who came to us to set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
When we strip God down to what can fit into human form and the human psyche, this is what God looks like!
How does a God who created the entire universe explain Himself to the human beings He created in His image? He comes to them in human form.
Jesus didn’t just announce his purpose; he demonstrated the purpose of God everywhere he went. He gave us a living example of God’s heart for people.
“Now Jesus began to go all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Then the news about him spread throughout Syria. So they brought to him all those who were afflicted, those suffering from various diseases and intense pains, the demon-possessed, the epileptics, and the paralytics. And he healed them.”Matthew 4:23-24 CSB
He didn’t come to condemn the world; He came to save the world. (John 3:16) He came to set it free. He came to invite us to joint him in proclaiming the good news, freedom for prisoners, and sight for the blind. He invited us to follow him in setting the oppressed free and proclaiming the “year” of God’s favor.
That salvation is available to all people “while it is still called today”! (Heb. 3:13) When Jesus left this earth his body that he raised from the dead, he gave us the same purpose he had for coming: to go into all the world making disciples (followers who do what Jesus did and who say what he said). (Matt. 28:19)
Jesus said all the Law and the Prophets is summarized in two statements: Love God and love your neighbor. (Mark 12:30-31) Jesus said the greatest love anyone can show is to lay down your life for others. (John 15:13)
Jesus not only said these things; he did them. He loved people by proclaiming goods news to them, especially to the poor. He loved people by freeing prisoners and giving sight to the blind. He loved people by setting the oppressed free and telling them of God’s favor.
These things we should do also.