Our new sermon series for the next three months is learning from Jesus, through the Gospel of Luke. This week’s title is ‘A Messiah’s manifesto’.
I have a couple of questions. One, do you know why we should be learning from Jesus, hopefully most of you under your breath will have just said something like ‘derr because Jesus is our Lord’ or words to that effect, but did you know that the word Christian means to be a follower of Christ, to follow Jesus, to be like Him. So what better way to learn to be like Jesus than to learn from the Master Himself and to look at His Manifesto.
My second question is why through the book of Luke? Now for me this is very personal, I love the book of Luke, it was this book that opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus was real, some 9 ½ years ago, I was on an Alpha course and was asked if I had ever read the Bible, with absolute authority I said no its un-readable by anyone, with a bit of a shock look on their face the two leaders ask in a very loving way why that was, because it’s written in old English, that rubbish Shakespeare language that only lover of Shakespeare can understand. Oh, they said, have you ever tried reading a modern translation, why don’t you try the NIV version and don’t start at Genesis but start at Luke. So I did and before I got to the end of the book of Luke I realised, ‘Gordon Bennet this is true, this is real, and then I surprised even myself, I remember thinking I believe this stuff. I was griped, I started reading the bible on my way to and from work, well I started reading print outs, I didn’t want people to think I was weird. Now nine years or so later I realise that I am not the weird one, for me reading about God and what he has done for us is only natural, most humans are inquisitive, and I am very inquisitive, but most people are looking in the wrong place to find the answers to who we are what we are and why we are. In this book are the answers to all those and many other questions.
If you did not know, Luke was a Greek doctor. Therefore for me with my a,b,c mind he was easy to understand, If you have never read the bible for yourself I would say read Luke and read it in the NIV version. Now there is a lot in our reading, so lets look again at verses 14 and 15 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. Now just before verse 14 is the section about Jesus being Tested in the Wilderness, so after this Luke tells us about Jesus returning to Galilee and in the power of the Spirit doing great stuff, healing the sick, and also great teaching in the synagogues, Jesus reputation was beginning to spread, Jesus was the talk of every town and village, have you heard about this guy Jesus, they say he can do this or he can do that, a great Man of God. Today he would be all over Facebook and social media, with TV crews running around after Him.
In verses 16 we read, he went to Nazareth. So Jesus goes home back to the village where he was a kid and where he was raised, that place is always home, most people when asked where are you from tell of the place the spent there childhood, I always say Clarkenwell EC1, but in fact I have now spent more of my life in Havering than I did living in Clarkenwell. And Jesus was back home. And on the Sabbath the Lords day, Jesus went to the synagogue, it says as was His custom. And we read ‘Then Jesus stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
- Jesus found the place, he looked for this reading it was no accident, Jesus knew what he was looking for and what he was going to say, this is Jesus first recorded sermon.
- Jesus gives us an insight into the nature of His mission.
- He tells us why He came.
Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2. And Luke has recorded this for us. Jesus read “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 favour.Then Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. Everyone’s eyes were on Him and Jesus said “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Outstanding what a statement. ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’. So what Jesus just read was His manifesto and what He said was all that you have been waiting for is now hear in Me NOW.
The text from Isaiah gives us all that Jesus came to do, it is the bones of His Mission, everything else is the flesh on the bones, so here we have the core of Jesus Mission.
Lets look at these statements a bit closer.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. Isaiah had written that the Messiah, would be empowered by the Holy Spirit.The Spirit would give him the wisdom to act wisely and provide the power to carry out his ministry.
At this point I have a question are you filled with the Holy spirit, are you open to the Holy Spirit, are you allowing God’s Holy Spirit to guide you in what you do day by day hour by hour, or are you frightened that you will not be in control, are you holding God off. Jesus was not afraid to be filled with the Holy Spirit, it was what made Jesus who He is and He is willing to share that Spirit with us, and the Holy Spirit will help us become what we are called to be, it is the Holy Spirit that connects us to God. And through the Spirit we know that part of Jesus mission was to reach out to the poor, It is thought that perhaps 80% of Israel, were considered poor in Jesus time.
Now here’s the thing - the theology of Jesus’ day was that riches showed that you had God’s approval, and poverty suggested you had done something to displease God. Jesus opposed this point of view and says in the Gospels that wealth was an massive difficulty to entry into the kingdom of God, I am sure many of us have heard the Bible verse were Jesus said “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”. Matthew 19:24.
And that is a fact, it is much harder for the rich to give up something, than those that have nothing, but Jesus wasn’t just talking about the needy here, but those who are spiritually poor. And who are they, they are the people who do not feel the compassion of Jesus, who do not accept Him or do not accept His teachings in the full.
And therefore have a poor spiritually connection to God, they have no relationship with God through the Holy Spirit and Jesus, they do not or will not pray, there is no connection no personal relationship with Father God. To be poor in spirit means that we have nothing of value to offer God. Being poor in spirit is admitting that, because of our sin, we are completely empty spiritually and we can do nothing to help ourselves. Jesus is saying that, whatever our position is in our society, we must acknowledge our spiritual poverty before we can come to God in faith to receive the salvation He offers through Jesus and to receive His Holy Spirit. Now you may be asking, Why and what does being poor in spirit have to do with the kingdom of God?
The kingdom of God is both eternity in heaven with God, as the apostle Paul said (Romans 6:23) ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is also the quality of life with God before death, Jesus said (John 10:10) ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ God offers us salvation as a gift, through the sacrifice of Himself of Jesus on the cross, the full payment for our sins is paid. Before we can receive this gift, we must understand that we cannot make ourselves worthy of it.
The escape route is by grace through faith, not by works the apostle Paul said (Ephesians 2:8-9) ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.’ We must recognise our sinfulness before we can understand our need for a Saviour, for Jesus.
We must admit our spiritual poverty before we can receive the spiritual riches God offers, Ephesians 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We must, in short, admit our “poor spirit.” When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He is declaring that, before we can enter God’s kingdom, we must recognise the our own spiritual state and the failure of our own works to save us, being a good person don’t work, being filled with the Holy Spirit and a follower of Jesus does. Accepting Jesus us our Lord and Saviour allows us to become children of God to call God Father and to receive all the benefits of being Gods Children.
Next Jesus read ‘He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners’. Now to the best of my knowledge Jesus was not into the jailbreaking ministry. So this is symbolic. It’s about people who have been imprisoned by habits and desires that stops them choosing right from the wrong when tempted? Like those who are totally overwhelmed with lust, and feed that lust with pornography, about those who serve a substitute god like shopping or Money or other gods, things that dominate their lives. Like addiction to alcohol, or drugs prescribed or not or addicted to nicotine? Or the many other things that pull us away from God.
Now some times we Christians are more likely to condemn the captives than to tell them about the freeing power of the Holy Spirit who can deliver them fully and completely. We put them down rather than lift them up to Jesus. Jesus’ commission was to proclaim freedom to those in chains; and if we follow Jesus it is our commission, too.
Next Jesus read ‘and recovery of sight for the blind.’ Jesus did literally heal blinded eyes as we read in Mark 10:46, or John 9:1-8 also in Luke7:21 he records ‘The blind receive sight.’ So we know that Jesus healed the physically blind, Jesus used this miracle to point out the irony of spiritual blindness in John 9:39-41. So Jesus intended the Scripture from Isaiah he was reading to include both healing of physical blindness AND spiritual blindness.
I can testify to the fact that ten years ago I was spiritual blind; I was looking but not seeing and not understanding, my eyes were opened because others who could see the truth of Jesus took time to help me see. I could see but I was blind to Jesus until The Holy Spirit opened my eyes. And I went into the Father’s arms.
Next Jesus read ‘to set the oppressed free.’ Now you may think that this is similar to “freedom for the prisoners”. But there is a difference: on the one hand you have prisoners released; here you have people who are oppressed or broken being set free. In Jesus day the wealthy would take advantage of widows and orphans, cheating them out of their property (see Luke 18:1-7). This relates to social oppression. Slavery was one of the greatest evils of the First Century, oppressive taxation, and oppressive behaviour by the Roman occupying troops.
Who are oppressed today? Some women are still oppressed in this country, people of a certain race can and are oppressed, there is religious oppression. There is Morden day slavery, the broken the poor and the homeless, How do we as Christians deal with this social oppression.
If we are Jesus’ disciples, and we are filled with His Holy Spirit then we have his commission to seek freedom for the downtrodden, justice for the poor. The political parties have their own formula for fighting oppression of the poor and disenfranchised — and frankly they all fall far short of achieving the desired result.
Ultimately, helping the oppressed must not be just a political goal; it must be a personal objective as well. It certainly should affect the causes we give to, the way we spend our time.
Next Jesus read ‘to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ Jesus is saying he is the Lords favour and was also telling of His return at the end of the age to usher in a period of unparalleled freedom and wholeness. When righteousness will triumph over oppression.
When we tell others about Jesus, we too are declaring that “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). We are declaring that the time is at hand, of Jesus’ setting people free. This time of freedom, is more than a literal year. But when Jesus returns, the time will be over, and the time for judgment will have come.
So in wrapping up. We have wonderful “good news.” Let us all ask God to fill us with His Holy Spirit and Let’s not be shy about declaring it. This was and is Jesus manifesto ’It should be ours, to tell everyone about the Good News of Jesus Christ, that is, that God loves them, to proclaim that news to the poor in spirit, to set those held by bad habits free, to help those who cannot see the good news of Jesus to see it and to proclaim to all that God is Father Son and Holy Spirit. And that God loves them so much He sent His own Son to pay the price for theirs and our sins our failures. To tell everyone the Gospel, Jesus is the way to the Father and to eternal life.
Lets Pray: Father God, thank you that you love us so much that you came in the form of Jesus to show us how to be like you, thank you that you have paid the price for us, through your Holy Spirit help us to fellow the teachings of Jesus and to carry out His manifesto in our lives and in our family’s and our communities. In Jesus name we pray Amen.