“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God. …I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.” (Isaiah 1-2a, 10-11)
One of the most dramatic moments in history happened in the sleepy town of Nazareth when, at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus entered his home town synagogue. When he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he immediately found the first part of our passage for today, read it aloud, and then it says, he simply sat down.
This passage was one of the great prophecies of the coming of the Lord’s anointed king, the Messiah, whom Israel had been awaiting for six hundred years. Jesus sat down, as if to teach, waited for all eyes to be on him, and then said simply, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21) “You have waited,” He seemed to say, “Now, here I am”.
From that point he set his face to accomplish his mission to save the world.
But to save them from what? The first hearers of Isaiah’s prophecy would have heard salvation from exile and political oppression. The hearers of Jesus’ day would have imagined pretty much the same, liberation from Roman domination. But Jesus himself had something even more significant and all -encompassing in mind. Paul put it this way:
“The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners”(I Timothy 1:12).
Jesus said, after he reached out to the tax collectors Levi and later Zacchaeus,
“Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners”
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10)
Jesus came to save us from our sin.
For Jesus, the great oppressor of human life was human sin, and all had fallen under its brutal domination. For us sin is often just a matter of guilt and punishment: I shouldn’t, I did, I’m guilty, I have to pay the price. But Jesus knew it was much more; it is the destroyer of life. It is what is wrong with the world and what is wrong with my life and yours. That is why this passage in Isaiah uses the phrases it does. Our lives are left impoverished by sin, our hearts are broken because of sin, and we find ourselves imprisoned by our sin and its effects . And if we think about it honestly, we have to agree. Even if we just think very superficially we can see the toll our envy, self-centeredness, anger, and pride have taken on our own happiness and those around us.
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” Isn’t that, then, the same as Paul saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”? By saving us from sin he restores us to life, life abundant and life eternal. Best of all he restores us to relationship with Life itself, to relationship with God, in whom is our only true life and happiness.
And we can be certain that “save” is what he wants to do. Remember John 3:16 ,”For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son…”? The verse immediately following is equally important: “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
This great truth is borne witness to in a very subtle way in this passage. In Isaiah the end of the prophecy reads , “to proclaim the year of the Lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God.” However, when Jesus quotes it in Luke he leaves off the phrase “the day of vengeance of our God.” Why? Because there will be no judgment? No, for often Jesus speaks of the day of accountability to come. God’s full Word still stands. However, here Jesus wants to emphasize the primary motive, the driving passion, behind his coming. Let no one be confused, He came to save.
For two thousand years those who have turned to Jesus and followed him have found their lives restored: the poor have been made rich, the brokenhearted have been healed, and the prisoners set free. It hasn’t always come easily or quickly, for there is much to be done in most of us, but it has come surely and certainly. And those who have experienced his salvation are not hesitant to proclaim with Isaiah, who first heard the words of promise,
”I rejoice heartily in the Lord , in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation.”
May their song be ours as well.
Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.