Anointed to Proclaim

The epiphany in Luke 4:14-21 is that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who has been anointed to proclaim the good news of God’s favor. Jesus’ ministry is just beginning, but His fame is spreading quickly, and so He is given opportunities to preach in synagogues all throughout Galilee as He returns to His hometown. When He gets to Nazareth, He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2, a passage describing the ministry of the coming Messiah.

Readers of Luke’s gospel will note that the power at work in Jesus in v. 14 is the same power that will fill the Messiah, foreshadowing the great revelation in v.21: Jesus is filled with the power of the Spirit. The Anointed One is filled with the Spirit. Jesus is the Anointed One!

This means that when we hear what the Anointed One is going to do by the Spirit’s power, we are listening to a description of Jesus’ ministry. If we ask why Jesus has been given the Spirit, and what He is going to do, the text answers by repeating: “Proclaim, proclaim, proclaim!” Jesus’ mission is one of proclamation. He comes as a teacher, whose mission is accomplished by speaking words. In fact, Jesus doesn’t decide what the mission is, or how He’s going to accomplish it. He hears and obey God’s Word, and then God’s Word is put in His mouth for Him to proclaim.

And if we ask, “What is the message that Jesus proclaims?” The answer is “God’s favor.” The message comes very much like the Jubilee announcement in Leviticus 25, proclaiming a year of returning things back to rights, of correcting everything that had been going wrong. In particular, the Lord’s favor will be shown to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Those whose lives have been filled with bad news finally hear good news. Those who look at the trouble in their lives and think “God must hate me!” hear instead “No! God loves you, and is coming to deliver you.”

And the Spirit does not anoint the Christ just to talk about relief for the oppressed, but to actually relieve the oppressed. Jesus does not simply say, “Poor, be warmed and filled! Captives, be free!” What Jesus proclaims, He does. He brings to pass the good news that He announces, most especially by securing God’s favor toward us through His atoning death and life-giving resurrection. He speaks of God’s favor, shows you God’s favor by dying in your place, and then He secures God’s favor for you by sharing His Spirit with you, as a down payment on the full favor of God.

But this jumps ahead of the story in Luke 4. When Jesus finishes reading this passage, He sits down to preach, and everyone in the synagogue is on the edge of their seat, waiting to hear what Jesus would say about one of the greatest visions of the Messiah. At this moment, every eye in the whole synagogue was fixed on Jesus.

Everyone wanted to hear what He had to say, but not one of them was ready for what He did say. “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The wait is over! The Anointed One is here! The Spirit is upon me! This is the year of the Lord’s favor! The entire synagogue had an epiphany in that moment: Jesus is the Anointed One, who has been filled with the Spirit to proclaim God’s favor.

The message Jesus proclaims is one of healing and hope and salvation, and so the way to respond is with gladness and rejoicing. Many people think that a sermon isn’t complete until they’ve been told what to do, but Jesus doesn’t come with instructions for the poor, or action points for the blind. The message is not “do stuff for God so that He will give you His favor.” The good news that the Messiah preaches is that God’s favor is already here!

What happened on that Sabbath is what happens every Sunday in every gospel-preaching church all over the world. Every week, this good news is proclaimed again: Jesus is God’s Messiah, and He has come to fix a broken world, wipe away tears, and make all things new. The church has never gotten over that shocking, exciting, glorious epiphany, and she never will. The favor of God has come to you, and His name is Jesus.

Posted on Thursday, February 04, 2016 by CJ Bowen