For the Desperate


In Jesus we encounter a story of God among us, the certainty of our captivity, and the hope of our release. He comes to bind the broken

The picture painted in the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah is a depiction of realized hope and reconciliation. It is a stirring picture of wholeness:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion–
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.(1)

The prophet Isaiah outlines God’s plan for restoration: putting into words the hopeful cry of justice and liberty, marking the end of mourning and ashes. It was no doubt a passage that sustained the Israelites through hardship and bitter exile. I imagine in Babylon the imagery in this chapter was often longingly upon their hearts, the promise of God’s comfort and grace treasured words upon their lips. I imagine in Jerusalem congregations delighted to hear Isaiah 61 proclaimed from the scrolls in worship.

Consequently, I imagine faces of utter shock, when after reading these familiar words before a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus commented: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”(2)

According to New Testament scholar Darrell Bock, the Gospel of Luke has often been the neglected gospel in the life of the Church. Yet more so than any of the other gospel accounts, Luke depicts in detail how a small part of history in a small part of the world reveals the plan of God for the nations. Luke writes the story of Christ across the pages of human history, showing the tension between that which blinds us to the work of God and that which points us to our desperate need of God. Luke’s portrait of Jesus shows God acting among the oppressed and downtrodden, the captives and the blind. As he carefully places the parables and teachings of Christ before his readers, Luke forces us to see that whether we deliberately make a choice to follow him or not, a choice is always made.

At the synagogue visit where Isaiah 61 was read aloud, Jesus reveals himself as the fulfillment of a story set in motion long before his time on earth. His words put both the hearer of that day and the reader of the present in the position of having to make a choice. All of the promises of God stand before us in the person of Christ. He is the fulfillment of God’s plan. He brings liberation to the captives. He brings sight to the blind. He binds the brokenhearted. He brings peace—or he does not. In this particular synagogue, the people ran him out of town.

Scottish theologian James Stewart once noted, “Christianity is not for the well-meaning; it is for the desperate.” In Jesus we encounter a story of God among us, the certainty of our captivity, and the hope of our release. He comes to bind the broken.  The invitation to receive him is a startling invitation to wholeness.

(1) Isaiah 61:1-3.
(2) See Luke 4:14-30.


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