TO PREACH THE GOOD NEWS
Key Verse: 4:18
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free...”
When Jesus was baptized by Jon the Baptist in the Jordan River, the Spirit of God descended upon him. Then Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Against the devil, Jesus won a great victory with the words of God. “It is written, ‘Men shall not live on bread alone.’” “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” By overcoming the power of temptation, Jesus became the source of victory for everyone who trusts in him. In today’s passage, we see Jesus led and empowered by the Holy Spirit and traveled back up north to the area Sea of Galilee and then to his home town, Nazareth. What Jesus did first and foremost was teach the word of God. We see that Jesus, as the promised Messiah, proclaims the good news. Did you hear any good news this week? Here is the good news that Jesus brings. Through this Bible Study, we may receive the good news so that we may be set free from sin; our blinded eyes may be restored to see the light of life; we may have the kingdom of God; we may receive the salvation by faith in Jesus.
First, Jesus teaches the Bible (14-16)
After he won the great victory over the devil’s temptation, Jesus did not do a victory parade in the capital city, Jerusalem. hen what did he do? Look at verse 14-15. Instead, he traveled to Galilee, which was known as a despised area to the Jews. Verse 14 says that Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit. What did he do after he was empowered by the Holy Spirit? Look at verse 15. “He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” Wherever he goes, Jesus teaches the word of God in the synagogues. Teaching the word of God, Jesus begins his ministry. The synagogue - outside of Jerusalem – was the center of Jewish worship. Since they could not travel to the temple in Jerusalem, they kept the Sabbath by gathering in the synagogues to listen to God’s word. I searched “synagogues in Highland Park” in Google map. There are 10 synagogues in a small city like Highland Park. Virtually every towns were Jews lived have at least a synagogue. Jesus began his ministry in humble places, teaching the Bible. Even when he visited his home town, Nazareth, he went into the synagogue, as was his customer, and proclaimed the word of God. Teaching the Bible in the synagogues in Galilee and Nazareth seems too ordinary and humble. However Jesus’ Bible teaching had powerful effects on people. People were amazed by the authority of Jesus’ word and everyone praised for his powerful teaching.
“Bible Study” sounds too ordinary. Our fellowship is University Bible Fellowship. We do Bible Study. But how hard it is to find one who wants to do Bible Study nowadays! There are so many interesting student organizations; Academic, Culture, Business, Sports, Arts, Leisure, Social, Political and even Special Interest. Then why should we do Bible Study? Why shouldn’t we make Dance fellowship, or Sing along Fellowship? Why didn’t Jesus do miracle fellowship or Wonder Bread fellowship? From the beginning to the end of his ministry, Jesus had taught the word of God. It is because Jesus believes in the word of God. He believes that the word of God is the word of life; the word of God has mighty power to create the whole world; Anyone who hears and believes in the word of God has life. This is why he used the word of God to defeat the devil’s temptation. “Men shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Only God’s word is the source of power, strength and life. Jesus teaches the Bible, the word of God. Once a lot of disciples left him because he taught the word of God instead of doing miracles. Jesus asked the Twelve “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Even if there might be just one wants to do Bible Study, we cannot give up Bible Study. The word of God is the word of life. In Dance fellowship, Business fellowship, or Miracle fellowship, no one can find salvation. Also, when Jesus taught the bible, he absolutely believed in the word of God; it would make the people wise for salvation; it would lead them to repentance and faith. People were amazed by the authority of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus did not teach what he just know as knowledge like teaches of the law, but he taught what he believes. Teaching the Bible seems too ordinary, but when it is done by faith, there is a tremendous effect for the Holy Spirit works with the word of God. One simple and clear example is that I had received the word of life and saved through Bible Study. Let’s teach the Bible by faith!
Second, good news for the poor (17-21)
Finally, Jesus went back to his hometown, Nazareth. What did he do there? On the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue. Do you know anything about Sabbath service? The services usually included singing/prayers – a reading from the Scriptures probably taken from the five book of Moses –another singing/prayer – another reading from the prophets. At this time, a synagogue leader would invite an older man or visitor to read from the prophets. Then there would be a teaching or comment from the Scriptures that had been selected and read. Finally, there would be a time of praising/prayer. Look at verse 17. “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.” Obviously Jesus was invited to read by the leader of the synagogue because he became a very famous men. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. What passage did Jesus read? Jesus opened the scroll and found the passage, Isaiah chapter 61. Let’s also read verses 18 and 19 together. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Why do you think Jesus turn to Isaiah Chapter 61? After reading the Scripture, Jesus said “Today this scriptures is fulfilled in your hearing.” Through this Bible study, Jesus wanted to teach them who he is and what he will do. This passage specifically tells who Jesus is and what work he will do.
Then what does Isaiah tell about Jesus? “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me…” Jesus is the true ‘me’ that these verses are talking about; he is the Anointed One, the Messiah. Jesus is the anointed prophet, anointed king and anointed priest. God has purposefully anointed Jesus and sent him. For what? God has anointed Jesus and sent him to preach the good news! What is the good news Jesus preaches? If you look carefully at verse 18, it mentions four kinds of people who really need to hear good news. Do you see what they are? They are the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed. They can show us the deep spiritual meaning of “good news.”
The first group of people is the poor. God anointed Jesus to proclaim good news to the poor. What are the poor here? Do you think you are poor because you do not have a house with 2-car-gurage; because you do not have famous brand clothes; because you do not have a new I-Phone6; because you do not enough money to pay your tuition or student-loan or electric bill or rent? Then did God anointed Jesus to pay our bills or to pay our house-mortgage and students loan? Definitely Not. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3) The poor are those who acknowledge that they are sinner and humble themselves before God as unworthy servants. They are the ones who are truly humble and spiritually desperate for God and his grace. They deeply acknowledge that without God’s mercy there is no hope of salvation for them. They are like the tax collector in Luke 18 who would not up to heaven but beat his breast and said, “God have mercy on me, as sinner.” What can be good news to the poor? Of course, it’s to become rich! So should the poor go out and buy a lottery ticket? Jesus would not give us a lottery winning No. Jesus would not pay back our credit debt or our monthly bills. However, Jesus will make the poor truly rich. How? He will give them the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ came to bring the poor to the kingdom of God. What good news to the poor! Those who are proud, self-righteous, and arrogant never have this riches of the kingdom of God that satisfies our soul; they will never have overflowing the riches of God’s grace that heals our sorrowful and wounded hearts; they will never taste the riches of God’s love that fills our empty hearts. But the poor will have all the riches of the kingdom of God. What a good news! The poor will be satisfied.
What is the second group of people in verse 18? It is the prisoners. Have you ever been in jail? No one here has ever been in a prison. Then what does this mean “Proclaim freedom for the prisoners”? Did Jesus come to set free all the criminals in prisons? Definitely not! Then who are the prisoners? Though we are not in jail now, we are all prisoners. Galatians 3:22 says “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin...” We are prisoners of sin –POS. We are bound to sin, shame and guilt. We do what we don’t want to do; If we do what do not want to do, it is no longer we who do it, but it is sin living in us. We cannot but cry out “What a wretched man I am! Who will recuse me from this body of death?” It is much worse than being physically imprisoned; it is a prison for our mind, heart and spirit. At least there is a way to be free for physical prisoners –just get out of a prison. But there is no way/nowhere to be free from sin. Where/how can a prisoner of pride be free? Where and how can a prisoner of lust; a prisoner of self-conscious; a prisoner of shame and guilt; a prisoner of unthankfulness be free? Even if you are in the middle of Grand-Cannon, you are still in the prison of sin. What is the good news for the prisoners? Of cause, it is to be free. How can we be free from sin? Jumping off from George Washington Bridge will not set us free; Abusing alcohol or drug will not set us free; establishing ourselves with currier will not set us free.
Jesus, the son of God, proclaims freedom for the prisoners of sin. Jesus set us free from sin. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he purchased our freedom. So Jesus said, in John 8:36, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The blood Jesus shed on the cross for my sins has power to break all the chains of sin. “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” Jesus set a woman caught in act of adultery free; “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus, the son of God, set me free from sin; “Son, your sins are forgiven.” When the Son of God set you free, then you are free indeed. “You are free.” How can we experience this freedom? Jesus said in John 8:32 “If you hold to my teaching, you are truly my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” We must hold to the truth, the word of Jesus. We must believe that Jesus has proclaimed freedom from our prison of sin. Before he met Jesus he had cried out “What a wretched man I am! Who can rescue me from this body of death?” After he met the risen Christ, Paul declared this freedom by faith in Romans 8. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” What a good news!
What is the third group of people in verse 18? It is the blind. The blind are those who live in the darkness of this world – the philosophies and religions and empty reasoning of man. They could not see the truth of God. What is the good news for the blind? It is, of course, recovery of their sight. Incredibly, Jesus also announces recovery of sight for the blind—something that is humanly impossible. In John 9 Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man; not only physical eyes, but also spiritual eyes to see who Jesus is. On the contrary, the religious leaders could not see who Jesus is for they were blinded by their unbelief and spiritual pride. Before Jesus comes into our lives, we are really blind. We are in the darkness of sin. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12) His light opens our eyes to give us spiritual sight—the light of life. Then we can see Jesus, the son of God. He opens our eyes to see the kingdom of God as our great riches and inheritance. We can see Jesus’ world mission vision calling for us and giving us hope and purpose. What a good news that Jesus brings recovery of sight to the blind! Jesus truly opens our eyes to see. (Jn9:25)
Finally, the last group of people mentioned in this verse is the oppressed. Jesus came to release the oppressed. What does it mean to be oppressed? In English, the root of the word “oppressed” is “press”. The oppressed are those who are being pressed down and crushed by a heavy burden. They are groaning in endless slavery to immorality, to additions, to desires for the world. People in this world are constantly oppressed by anxieties, by stress, by fears and worries of this life. Even Princeton students are so oppressed by their heavy workload, and even children are so oppressed by their parents’ sky-high expectations. Actually it is all the oppression of sin. All we were slaves to the power of sin and death. It was continually weighing down on us. What does Jesus do for the oppressed? Jesus releases the oppressed! How could he do so? By taking all the weight of our sins upon himself on the cross! –“Look! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus set us who were held in slavery by our fear of death free! (Heb2:1-15) What good news that God sees our heavy oppression under the power of sin and death and sent us Jesus to set us free.
Look at verse 19. Jesus came “...to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The year of the Lord’s favor means that it is time to proclaim the liberty in the land; it is time to cancel all debts and free those who were slaves. “The year of the Lord’s favor” means that it is time of restoration – renewal – deliverance – freedom from oppression and suffering and captivity. The year of the Lord’s favor is a symbol of the beginning of God’s grace. In the year of the Lord’s favor, salvation, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins were available for anyone who come to Jesus by faith.
Let us read 18-19. What a wonderful scriptures from Old Testament! What a wonderful promise of God that were written thousands years ago! If a promise remains as a promise, it is nothing but empty promise no matter how good the promise is. But look at verse 21. “and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” What does it mean? It meant “I am the Messiah foretold by Scripture.” What a bold statement! Jesus announced that, now that he had come, all the promises of this prophecy were available to God’s people. It means that all this wonderful prophecy has been fulfilled. It means you can have the kingdom of God; you can be free from sin; we can see the living God for Jesus is the promise Messiah. How would you respond to this wonderful good news?
Third, Jesus is rejected by his hometown people. (22-30)
How did Jesus’ hometown people react to the good news? Verse 22 says the people got very excited by Jesus’ gracious words and began to talk a lot. Though they acknowledged his words were gracious, they pointed out that he was a mere carpenter’s son. Just because people are amazed by the message doesn’t mean they accept it. Instead, they asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” What an amazing privilege to hear the word of Jesus! However their reaction was not based on the word Jesus preaches, but based on something else like Jesus’ human background. Jesus looked too ordinary to be the Messiah; he did not have anything special when he grew up in Nazareth; he was just a son of Joseph. They thought “How can a carpenter become the Messiah next day?” When they did not pay attention to what God speaks through Jesus but think about only human side of Jesus, they began to doubt. All wonderful God’s promises are right there for them, but they could not have those for their unbelief. How should we respond to Jesus and his message?
What did Jesus deal with those who rejected him? Look at verse 23. “Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me; ‘Physician heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” Jesus knew exactly what was going on in their hearts. He knew that they wanted to see just a miracle. They did not believe in their hearts that this person sitting right in front of them in the synagogue was the Son of God. Then what did Jesus do? Jesus did not give up hope for these people. Jesus told them two stories from the Old Testament. Look at verses 25-27. The first was about Elijah and the widow from Zarephath. During the time of Elijah, when Israel was under the rule of the idolatrous king Ahab, God sent a severe famine in Israel for three and a half years. When God wanted to feed his servant Elijah during the famine. God did not send him to any of the widows in Israel, but to a Sidonian woman – a Gentile. She was not rich, but so poor that she was preparing the last mean for her and her son. Then Elijah asked something unusual. Elijah asked her to give him first; serve him first. What a cruel request? But he did. And she honored him by believing the God of Elijah. She had faith in God. Then according to the word of God given to her, the jag of her oil did not run dry and the flour did not run away. What an amazing story of the woman. Out of many widows at that time only she was blessed by God. Why? Because she was humble enough to believe the message given to her through the servant of God. God blessed her faith.
The story of Naman the Syrian is the same. Naaman overcame his human pride and obeyed Elisha’s directions to wash himself seven times in the Jordan, and he was healed. He demonstrated his humble faith and he was healed though he was a Syrian, a gentle man. Why do all the other lepers could not be cleansed? Because they did not have faith in God. The widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian didn’t judge humanly; instead, they both respected the message that came through God’s servant. And so they obtained God’s blessing by faith, even though they were foreigners.
Jesus used this story to show the Jews in Nazareth that anyone regardless nationality, social status, or wealth who accepts the good news by faith receive God’s blessings. Unfortunately, the people in the synagogue became furious and drove Jesus out of the town and took him to the edge of a cliff to throw him down. But they had no power over Jesus. It was not Jesus’ time to give his life, and no one had the power to take it from him. So Jesus could just walk right through the crowd and go on his way.
Today we learned that Jesus brought us really good news: the kingdom of heaven for the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and released for the oppressed. Let’s accept this good news by faith.
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