Years ago, in the middle of what felt like a crisis, God challenged me to consider how deep my loyalties lay. Really, to consider who He truly was to me. Would I treat Him as a Genie or a motivational guru who offered plithy words of affirmation when I needed an emotional boost, or would I live as if He truly was my Lord?
This was about thirteen years ago, during what I term my “Louisiana experience” when God’s healing work within me intensified in a way that left me reeling. I felt as if I was reliving some key, devastating moments and was free-falling into some of my greatest fears.
I wanted Him to fix my circumstances–immediately. To save our house, save our finances and really, our way of life.
But Christ wanted to fix my soul, and so, in the middle of my desperate prayers, He asked, “Do you love Me now.”
In other words, “If I don’t answer your prayers as you hope, will you still choose Me?”
He was challenging me to evaluate my expectations, and to toss them if need be.
Some 2,000 years ago, the men and women of Nazareth faced a similar choice. Would they accept that Jesus, the One from whom, perhaps they’d purchased furniture from, was the long-promised Messiah? They must’ve heard about all the miracles He’d performed. How He’d healed people of their diseases, cast out demons, and even raised a dead girl to life. The people were amazed by all He did and said, until He made it clear, He wasn’t just a prophet or well-spoken teacher. He wasn’t just Someone out to better their day. He was God’s anointed Savior, His Son, with the full authority that entailed.
Reading from Isaiah 61:1-3, He said, “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).
20 Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21b, NIV).
The Jews wanted a Savior, just not the One standing before them. No. They wanted a much more regal, more prestigious, and more political, less … rustic Messiah. And so they scoffed, rejecting the freedom Christ offered because it didn’t come packaged as they’d expected.
And while I’ve accepted God’s free gift of salvation, there’ve been times when I’ve resisted His Spirit. I’ve learned, after stumbling down numerous exhausting dead ends, however, His is the only path that leads to freedom. He truly did come to bring good news to the poor, freedom for the oppressed and the enslaved.
These words, which Jesus read to the people in that Nazarene synagogue some 2,000 years ago, were originally spoken by the prophet Isaiah during a dark time in Israel’s history. After a short period of revival, the people had once again slipped into idolatry. God warned them, again and again, if they didn’t repent, judgment would come. But even then, God wouldn’t abandon them forever. Life wouldn’t always be hard and painful; eventually, jubilee, a day of joy and freedom, would come.
God makes that same promise to us. Whether we’re suffering the consequences of our sin or perhaps sin that’s been done to us, we can trust good will come. His heart is for us always. When we remember that He truly did come to set the captive free, we’ll find it easier to surrender to His lead, even when His plans or methods don’t match our temporary expectations.
For those following the Chronological New Testament Reading plan, please note, the NIV Chronological Bible placed today’s passage (Luke 4:16-32) in a different chronological order.
This week’s reading plan: