A Call to Humility

"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, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4.18 (Emphasis mine)

After being tempted in the wilderness, Jesus starts His ministry by standing in the temple and reading none other than the most well-known Messianic passage in all Scripture. And He says, “Today this has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, “This is it, guys!” There is, however, something peculiar about the way Jesus reads Isaiah 61. What’s missing?

Well, He actually ends it mid-sentence. The passage in Isaiah goes on, “And the day of vengeance of our God…” Why would Jesus leave this out? Perhaps because vengeance was not His mission in His first coming. Instead He identifies who His gospel is for: The poor. And He accompanied His gospel with miracles for the blind, the sick and the lame (Mat 4.23). In fact, when John the Baptist questions if Jesus is really the Messiah (and it’s possible he questioned it because Jesus’ ministry was clearly lacking in the vengeance department), Jesus answers Him by referencing His healings (Luk 7.22). And then He adds, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

What was Jesus doing that was so offensive? Why would anyone care that He left out the vengeance stuff? Vengeance isn’t usually a welcomed event… Unless, of course, it’s vengeance on your enemies. But Jesus came with a different message: “Love your enemies.” It seems like the biggest problem people had with Jesus is that He loved all the wrong people. He ate with tax collectors (Mark 2.16). He touched lepers (Mark 3.6). He cast out demons (Mat 9.34). He defended widows (Lk 20.46-47) and preached freedom from tyrannical religion (Mat. 23.4,15). He also refused miracles to the self-righteous Pharisees (Mat 12.39) and said that their only sign would be the sign of Jonah. There’s some vengeance talk for ya -- but wait -- vengeance on whom?

Do you realize what a shock this was to everyone? The Jews had been waiting for a Messiah to come and rebuild their cultural identity, and instead Jesus came tearing down all boundaries. (Consider even the tearing of the temple curtain at His death.) This was revolutionary. It was appalling and terrifying and the rulers hated Him for it.

What about us?

What do we think of the Messiah who is more concerned with feeding the hungry and healing the sick than proving Himself to be God? Can we identify with this Christ? Or rather, do we? Do we look like Him, oh American Church? Do we love, feed, heal, and hang out with the same people Jesus did?

Ok, I made this list in attempt to map out what this would actually look like in today’s culture. And let me emphasize how little thought it took to come up with these… By that I mean, this is so obvious. Let’s please stop using “Not knowing the need” as an excuse to not care for the needy, yeah?
  • Leprosy: The “untouchable” disease without cure -- AIDS
  • Tax Collectors: Known to all as “sinners,” shunned by religious fundamentalists -- Homo/Transsexuals
  • Samaritans: Cast off by Jews on account of different ancestry -- Any race besides yours (*1)
  • Widows / Orphans -- Broken families
  • Prostitutes -- Prostitution in America
  • Slaves -- Human trafficking in America (*2)
  • Poor / Needy -- That guy who lives under the bridge (*3)
The heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry was centered around the poor. The Kingdom that He preached was upside-down -- unconditionally extended to every social class. He loved the social outcasts and taught us to do the same. He was the Son of God and yet no one was beneath His attention.

My own attention, however, is much more selective.

Oh Lord, please replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Teach us to love the poor and broken in our world today the way Christ did. Amen.


*1 - Don’t think racism is still an issue today? Let’s be honest; the most racially segregated 2 hours of the week occur on Sunday mornings in America.

*2 - Video: Fight Against Child Trafficking

*3 - I realize that virtually all Americans fall into the top 10% of the richest people in the world. But I still don’t think that changes Jesus’ theology of pan-handling. The Greek word for “poor” that Jesus uses most often is ptochos which literally means beggar.

1 comment:

  1. So amazing and eye-opening and thought provoking! LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!