With a week to go before Christmas, we need to ask ourselves, “Who did that baby Jesus grow to be?” Luke chapter 4 gives us that answer, in more specific terms than we have ever imagined. He announces, in verse 21, a time of favor and freedom from God for humans. Is it still true today? If so, how can we get that kind of favor and freedom in our own lives?
Answers at Midnight
Been kinda cold lately, eh? Reminds me of how, last winter, there was one night where Robin said, you know, it’s getting kinda cold in the living room. Is the furnace okay? There’s some words you don’t want to hear. So, I looked and, sure enough, the furnace had stopped working. Okay, so I pulled it apart a little, did what little I knew to do. Still nothing. “Do you think we need to call someone?” More words I don’t like to hear. So, I did a little online searching and with some trepidation I called a nearby heating contractor. This is like at midnight or thereabouts now. I called the emergency line; and got a person! They, in turn, called a tech who called me.
“Yeah, I’m about a half hour away, but I’ll be there.”
Sure enough, he showed up! Cheerful! He pulls the furnace apart, tests everything, stays with it long enough to discover a failed part. I have a new one in the truck! He fixes the furnace, gets it up and running and in the process, gives me a new thermostat and I had a warm house again. And a happy family. I had no answers to brokenness. But as it turns out, all I had to do was to initiate a call. And he came to me, with a genuine answer. Does that sound familiar at all?
Here’s Jesus making a return home to Nazareth…
16 So 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 to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth as a “local boy done well.” Jesus had some notoriety and He went home and to church on the Sabbath, as was His habit. Let’s start right there. Is the assembly of the saints, the meeting of the called-out ones, otherwise known as the church, your habit on the Sabbath day? It’s not time management, it’s choice management, as Jenna likes to say.
But back to the story. Jesus was given the honor of reading the Scripture for the week and then expounding on it. So, He opens the Scripture and reads from Isaiah 61. And here are the specifics of what He read.
The Holy Spirit is at work through Jesus to:
Preaching. In this case, it means to shout out good news. So, picture this. The Bills miraculously make it into the playoffs. And game by game they win, beating better and better teams. Until they make it into the Super Bowl and win. What would the news of that look like? Whoa! Can you believe it? But what if, in your preaching, you ran into “the poor”? The poor here means those with a poverty mindset and the resulting long term poverty of money and things that go with it. Well, the Bills just squeaked that one out. The officials gave them the game. It’s just a fluke, wait until next year. The message might just be lost on someone like that. The message would be life changing if it was received.The reason that the good news is either received or not, depends on how much we hang on to our poverty.
Signs that you have a poverty mindset. If you cling to:
It’s someone else’s fault that I’m stuck in this situation. It’s him, her, them, that.
Well, I have to be this way, just to survive. Financially, relationally, morally. Look at everyone else, I’m not the only one.
Let me tell you just how awful my situation is. How lousy my circumstances. Must be nice to have…
That’s what’s called a “poverty mindset.” And if you have one, you likely won’t be able to move out of your poverty until you release those habits and believe His good news preaching.
It literally means to put together and make whole that which was shattered. If you’ve ever had kids, you know how hard it is to put back together some shattered treasure. If you’ve had experience with that, you know that whatever it is won’t ever be the same. You can easily feel the same way with a shattered heart. I never saw that coming. It ruined me. I can‘t stop seeing that in my mind so I’ll never get over it. Believing that He actually can make a shattered pottery heart whole again may seem to be elusive. But He can.
That means to, with formality and gravity and authority, announce a decree or verdict. Like in a courtroom. And the captive is one who is taken as a prisoner of war with a spear. A POW camp is a tough place to live. Especially if the captors are out to further punish you, make the conditions awful. What happens though, if you don’t believe the liberators will ever come? Some lost hope and perished, in Germany, just before the Allied liberators came in WW2. Some people who are captives are just like that. The addiction, the pattern, the thing that holds you captive. The question is, can you believe the Liberator?
Sure, Jesus healed many physically blind people, but that’s not the majority of the blind. As a matter of fact, when Jesus healed a man blind from birth He made a comment. That He came to help people know whether or not they are blind. And the example He gave was one of someone who proudly thinks they see clearly, but their pride keeps them from being open enough to admit they don’t have it all together. Pride, a lack of openness, an adamant “I’m right” attitude, is blindness. Jesus came to recover sight to the blind; if they will lay down their pride.
5. The Holy Spirit is at work through Jesus to pardon those who are rightfully guilty.
President Obama is using that clemency power of the president more than most. He is carefully looking at cases where especially drug related crimes, now dealt with more leniently in the courts, could be pardoned. Rightfully guilty, that’s not the consideration. Pardoned completely, that is the result. For those of us who know that we are guilty of wrongdoing, we understand this. That pardon is offered, not a well-deserved life sentence requires something of us. Yes, again, humility, to receive it.
Those who are oppressed are those who have been or are, crushed under the weight of circumstance. I think that I will always associate Christmas Eve with what the Bartolucci’s will face every year. That is crushing grief. But they would tell you that the only relief they have felt was the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus. Do your circumstances crush you? Come to Him, believe on Him.
And He sums all this up by announcing (like a representative of the government) a spiritual “acceptable year of the Lord.” A reference to the Year of Jubilee that released all debts and servitude in Israel every 50 years. That sums it all up.
So, this was Jesus, born a child in Bethlehem, yes, protected and growing in relative obscurity, remained obscure until He was released to do what He was called to do. Let me ask you. Which Jesus is alive right now?
Can you let go of your poverty, whatever or whoever shattered your heart, walk out of captivity, can you admit your blindness and leave your blindness behind, let go of your guilt, get out from under the crushing weight of circumstances and live in the time of God’s favor and freedom?
It’s not about “can He do it?” Or does He want to do it. It’s about will you believe it and ask Him for it. And amazingly, He may not release you from your earthly situation, but He can give you this freedom in the situation.
All you have to do is initiate a call. And He will come with the genuine answer.