Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 22 November 2006


By Jim Jordal

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Luke 4:14-21 (KJV)

Historiography is the body of research techniques, theories, and principles used to gain historical knowledge. It also examines critically those verbal and written sources from which history as we know it arises. One might thus surmise that because of its vital position in history the Bible has been studied and analyzed to a greater extent than any other writing.

Unfortunately, some theologians (Jesus Seminar) using these very methods have "discovered" that very few of the sayings attributed to Jesus can actually be proven to have originated with Him. So to them scientific investigation trumps faith. But we who are of faith know better. Although we cannot always "prove" what we believe through the stratagems of science, we still believe through faith in the word of God. It is with this thought in mind that we look at one primary account of what Jesus Himself said concerning His earthly ministry.

In His first sermon in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21) Jesus used the words of the prophet Isaiah to proclaim His earthly mission. He quoted Isaiah's promise that the coming Messiah would preach gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and the oppressed, and recover the sight of the blind. Jesus concluded His discourse by proclaiming: "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." He thereby established that He was the promised Messiah, and that these prophecies were now realities to persons of faith, and would through Him be fulfilled in their entirety.

But Christians often discount what Jesus said by insisting that His words apply not literally, but in a spiritual sense. They claim that when Jesus spoke of the "poor," He meant those who were poor, not financially, but in spirit. Similarly, the "brokenhearted" become those broken by grief over the pitfalls of life; the "captives" those oppressed by Jewish tradition; and the "blind" as those suffering a lack of spiritual insight.

But I think from the context (another method of historiography) of the entirety of Scripture, it should be clear that Jesus aimed His message at those who were poor, oppressed, bound, desperate, ignorant, blind, and hopeless--not only spiritually, but also in the financial, social, and political sense. Thousands of Bible verses reveal God's anger at the reality of economic and social oppression, so why would Christ preach anything different?

As He began expounding Isaiah's prophecy, Jesus first established that he was in fact empowered by the Holy Spirit to embody this text in Himself. In other words, He was its fulfillment. His person and His message were what Isaiah had foreseen over a thousand years before. His mission was to bring to fruition what Isaiah had prophesied. And His kingdom existed to bring justice and righteousness to the earth.

So when Jesus in His first sermon defines His mission as preaching good news to the poor and bringing healing to the brokenhearted, deliverance to the captives, sight to the blind, and liberty to the bruised, He reveals the great truth that God's will for humanity is now to be accomplished through Himself.

Christians are both recipients and instigators of the mission of Jesus. To instigate is to provoke or incite action toward a goal. Because we receive the healing, deliverance, vision, and liberty promised by the gospel, we are free as well as impelled to provide these benefits to others--in word as well as in action. That's why charity and advocacy are so vital to the Christian witness.