The Beginning of Jesus’ Radical Ministry
Luke 4:14-21 ESV
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord 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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
David Platt wrote a book that quickly became a bestseller. Its name is Radical. In it he calls the American church away from a mere cultural Christianity that mixes a little bit of Jesus with a worldly way of life back to a way of life where we trust in the Christ of the biblical gospel and then live for Christ, as Jesus has called us to live. It is a short book, which is easy to read in its style, but hard to read in its content, because it exposes the worldly ideas and attitudes that we have compromised with. Many others have written and spoken in a similar way, but the Lord has been using this little book as a wake-up call across our land. I commend it to you. Then I urge you to read the book of Philippians about thirty times, since you’ll be reading with your eyes opened.
The meaning of words like nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs depends on the context of the other words in which it depends. So you can find in the dictionary a number of usages of the adjective radical that do not concern us. But since we’ll be using this word many times today and in the weeks that follow, it will be helpful to provide a definition. Dictionary.com gives the following: “Thorough going or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms.” Or “favouring [sic] or tending to produce extreme or fundamental changes in political, economic, or social conditions, institutions, habits of mind, etc.” Jesus came to bring people to a fundamental and extreme change in our relationship with God and our way of life before God. In this and the weeks to come, we will consider this radical change. We will not be looking at the content of the book Radical, but rather at something more radical—God’s Word.
We will not understand the radical nature of true Christianity until we understand how radical our Redeemer or Liberator is. The Lord Jesus Christ is everything to true Christianity.
I. Christ is a radical Redeemer in his calling (4:18a).
A. The Spirit of the Lord, the Third Person of the Trinity, anointed Jesus.
1. Note the personality of the Spirit.
A person appoints and anoints, not a force. The Spirit acted on him, so that Jesus would do the work of God (Ac 10:38). And so, Jesus did just that. He had already been active, showing and telling that God’s reign was active in history, and that people should change their minds from self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction and trust in God. This ought to make us think of what our lives should be like, since the Spirit’s power is active in all true believers (Lk 24:49; Ac 1:11; cf. Eph 3:16).
2. Jesus Christ came on a mission.
He was anointed by the Spirit to perform certain tasks. We need to know this as we read the Gospels. Christ acted purposefully. Jesus didn’t tell people everything about his mission at this point. He gradually made it known as their understanding of him increased. First they had to know him; then they could understand what he came to do.
Apply: Everyone in Christ needs to see that we are on the mission that the Lord Jesus appointed for us (Matthew 28:19-20). We must make Christ known, so that they can repent and believe.
B. The Spirit empowered Jesus for this mission (4:14, 18).
1. The types or shadows (as Hebrews calls them) of the OTS prepare our understanding for this idea of anointing. A man would have oil poured on him to show that he had been set apart to be a priest or prophet or king. In the case of someone like David (1 Sm 16:13), the Holy Spirit came upon him to equip him for the work God had called him to do.
2. The anointing by the Spirit that Jesus referred to occurred at the time of his baptism (3:21-22; 4:1). Everything that Jesus did in his earthly ministry was carried out in the power of the Spirit of God (4:14).
Apply: At the time of salvation, we are baptized with the Spirit and so we are to be continually filled with the Spirit. This will result in bold witness for Christ. A Spirit-filled community testifies to the Spirit-filled Redeemer.
II. Christ is a radical Redeemer in his mission (4:18b-19).
A. A mission of proclamation
1. Jesus preached the good news. He went to the poor, to those despised by the worldly elite, and said, “I have good news for you. I am here; the reign of God has come near to you. Though you are despised and struggling through this world, I’ve come from God so that you might experience his power at work in your life. I’ve come to tell you that God the Father cares about you. You can trust him; he will provide for your needs. You can have treasures in heaven.”
2. Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor. The real year of Jubilee had come with his arrival. In the law covenant, God had given the year of Jubilee to Israel as a time when slaves were set free and all land was returned to its owners, even if it had been lost through debt. Things might be bad for a while, but when the fiftieth year came, liberty was proclaimed throughout the land. Jesus is welcoming the spiritual slaves and the spiritually bankrupt back to him. You can have a place in the Father’s family, not as a slave or even a hired hand, but as a child. God will take away your rags and give you the best clothing. Now is the time (2 Cor 6:2)!
B. A mission of freedom
1. Jesus would bring a reversal of conditions: from bondage to liberty, from blindness to sight, and from oppression to release. He was not sent to patch up broken lives or to make a couple of surface alterations. No, the Father sent him to bring radical change. People settle for far too little; they are content for a little change to help them cope. A couple years ago during a storm, the wind blew my grill over and the handle on the cover broke in a couple places. The grill still worked, so I did what any man would do. I got some duct tape and wrapped it around the handle. It works fine, but it is still a broken handle. Sin is like a windstorm that constantly ruins people’s lives. And people try to deal with it by using the duct tape of human wisdom: involvement in religious or spiritual rituals, counseling, drugs, or however they try to escape, hide, or reform. But they’re still ruined by sin. Instead, Jesus came on a mission of real, authentic change.
2. As should be clear to anyone familiar with the Four Gospels, Jesus demonstrated his ability to produce radical change by performing works of mercy for the glory of God. He went around doing good (Ac 10:38). He made blind people see, deaf people hear paralyzed people walk, and mute people talk. He healed the lepers, fed the hungry, and even raised the dead. Although he truly cared about the physical suffering of all those people, his real aim was to set people free spiritually. His goal was to bring people into the reign of God. Then their sins are forgiven, they are declared right with God, and they can start to live for the glory of God and enjoy him forever. Then he starts to make real changes in their lives from the inside out. And that’s much better than a life patched up with duct tape!
Apply: Today is the day that you can be free forever. It’s time to meet your Redeemer!
III. Christ is a radical Redeemer in his claim (4:20-21).
A. The Lord Jesus taught from the premise that the Scriptures are a book about him (cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-45; Jn 5:39).
1. You cannot understand the Bible correctly until you grasp this essential point. The Bible tells the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. It is not a jigsaw puzzle about what will happen during the end of the world. It is not a thesis about God’s promises to Israel. It is not a law document about correct behavior. It is not a how-to manual for religious or spiritual experiences. Its message is Jesus Christ.
2. Therefore, when we listen to its message, we should be hearing what it tells us about Christ’s person, word, and redemptive activity. You build your systematic and biblical theology around him. Your exegesis of its books must present him. You must have a Christ-structured theology.
B. The Lord Jesus taught that he is the fulfillment of the Scriptures.
1. The idea is not that God gave revelation in the OTS that when Christ arrived, everyone would say, “Yep, there he is, just like we figured out.” If that was true, the religious experts of the time would have hurried to bow down at the feet of Jesus.
2. Instead, the idea is that Christ himself was the fulfillment.
His person, his message, and his redemptive activity fulfilled the OTS. Without him, his message, or his work, there could not be any fulfillment. When he spoke at that synagogue on that day, he was fulfilling the scriptures and explaining their meaning. He directs his hearers to look at him as the fulfillment of what Isaiah had written 700 years before. They had heard the news of what he was doing by the Spirit. Everyone was praising him (4:14). Now the point of decision had come for the people of his hometown—to repent and to believe the good news. And this news rocked them, it upset them. “It’s this Joe’s son? What is he saying? Finally the news infuriated them, when he told them that he was in charge of grace (4:23-27), and they tried to kill him (4:28-30).
Apply: So then, how will you respond?
Will you bow before him and say, “Yes Jesus, you are the fulfillment of the promises of God’s Word. You are the Redeemer! You set people free! Lord Jesus, please… I’m poor and I need good news; I’m a slave to so many things and need to be free. Lord Jesus, I’ve been blind to God’s glory in you; please give me eyes that can see. I’m oppressed; won’t you release me?” There is good news today! Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rm 10:13). Right now, turn to him by faith and he will save you!
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.