If you’d like a particularly rich study in the New Testament, I suggest that you consider the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, and beginning at verse 16. The Lord Jesus, as the son of Adam (you read that in Luke 3 and verse 38), succeeds where Adam the first failed. In the first part of chapter 4, you read the story of how Jesus perfectly resists the temptations that the devil (the one who successfully tempted our first parents) – that the devil has put before him. Following that great victory, Jesus is further empowered by the Holy Spirit, and he begins his public ministry. It’s interesting that he begins that ministry in Nazareth (in northern Israel), the place where he was raised as a child, as a boy, and as a young man. The people in Nazareth knew this Jesus – he was the hometown boy!
It’s a Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath
Day – and Jesus goes to the synagogue where it was his custom to publicly read
the Old Testament portion for that week.
This week Jesus stands, unrolls the Old Testament scroll which had been
given to him – the prophet Isaiah – and begins to read from what we
would know of as Isaiah chapter 61 and verses 1 and 2: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the
captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are
oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s good favor. Then, probably much to the surprise of those
gathered for worship that morning in the synagogue (because they were
accustomed to much longer readings from the Old Testament), Jesus rolls up the
scroll, gives it back to the attendant, and sits down. That means that he’s ready to explain and apply
The “sermon” (if I may call it that)
was one of the shortest and most remarkable in all of history. As the eyes of all in the synagogue are
fixed on this hometown boy who is now a rabbi, he says simply (but remarkably):
Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Now Jesus would have said more than
that because the Word of God states that he “began” his sermon this way, and
also that the congregation members “marveled at the gracious words that were
coming out of his mouth.” But the Holy
Spirit doesn’t record what those words were.
Only this: Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in
As I said, it’s a particularly rich
study to learn and think about what it means that Jesus’ coming into the world
and beginning his public ministry brings “good news to the poor, the
proclamation of liberty to captives (the language of the Old Testament year of
Jubilee), the recovering of sight to the blind, and the setting at liberty those
who are oppressed.” In the four Gospel accounts
and in the book of Acts (which, the writer Luke says, is a continuation
of the things Jesus began to do and teach – now by the Holy Spirit through the
Apostles) you can read many literal examples of these:
- The Gospel
coming to the poor and despised of their age and their culture.
apostles being set free in miraculous ways.
- Blind people
(like Bartimaeus) receiving their sight.
oppressed by demons and disease wonderfully liberated by Jesus or by those who
continued his ministry – the apostles.
These were very literal examples – we would call them “signs” – confirming that Jesus was the Messiah and that His words (and the words of the Apostles) were the very words of God. They are little intrusions of the eternal state of liberation from sin and death wonderfully brought into human history.
That unique place of these signs (as given in Luke
chapter four and verse 18) is a fascinating study. They are, again, very literal and very
physical examples demonstrating what God is doing in “the year of the
Lord’s favor” – the whole Gospel age as a time of Jubilee. God’s order for this
age is to proclaim liberty to captives – not only captives in the land of
Israel, but captives from throughout the whole earth. Now, by the power of God, we make disciples
of people of all nations – followers of Jesus Christ. Those united to Him in faith are truly
free. If the Son makes you free, you
are free indeed.
Are you enjoying this age of the Lord’s
Jubilee? Are you one who’s been freed by
the power of the Gospel?
Now while it is very true (and sadly
and painfully true) that everyone by nature is a slave of sin – inmates in
the personal prison house of original sin and all the wickedness that proceeds
from it; it’s also true that prisons – in very striking ways – are metaphors
(symbols or pictures) of the individualized imprisonment that sin brings:
- A persistent
reminder of guilt and shame.
- The constant
sense of not being in a state of mercy and grace, but of being under law and
- All enjoyments
accompanied by chains of one form or another.
- For some, the
only expectation is death.
And not infrequently physical
imprisonment, in the hands of our gracious God, becomes a portal to make men
and women see their spiritual imprisonment and come to Jesus Christ in
faith and repentance. Those in literal
captivity hear how Jesus gives liberty to those in spiritual captivity.
They believe, and they’re freed from within, even while they remain in physical
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning
ray. I woke! The dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off! My heart was free! I rose, went forth, and followed thee!
So beautifully and poetically wrote
Charles Wesley, describing his own conversion to Christ that had come just a
few weeks before. Charles Wesley had
never been in physical prison; but those in physical prisons can sing that hymn
with the same joy – because the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ as
Savior and Lord – has power to bring liberty to captives – to give liberty from
within to those in prison.
My guest today is a testimony to
that power of the Gospel. He was in
prison – a real, physical prison (often called a “correctional facility”). But Christ liberated Him from the prison of
his own sin and guilt. Later he was
liberated from physical prison. And –
what’s more – he’s now a pastor who loves to proclaim the Gospel of liberty
to captives. It’s an amazing story – and
you’ll hear all about it on today’s Visit to the Pastor’s Study. I’m calling it: “From Prisoner to Pastor: The Power of the Gospel to Liberate Those in
Here’s a link to the full program:
Yours in our matchless liberating Lord,