“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me . . .
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
– Luke 4:18-19
Jesus made this announcement in the synagogue of his home village, Nazareth, taking his words from Isaiah 61:1-2 & 58:6. Our Lord came to seek, to teach, to help, to heal, and to offer salvation to the lost and lonely, the poor and brokenhearted, the imprisoned and oppressed people of his nation — And He is still doing that. Jesus goes after those who know that they are lost in their sins and need real Life, Liberty, and Joy. But these non-material aspects of a meaningful life will always elude us until we receive them as gifts from Christ. Augustine of Hippo said some 1620 years ago: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”
The “acceptable year of the Lord” is a time in history when God acts in a special way to deliver those whom He has planned to save. With his brief ministry on earth (about 3.5 years) Jesus inaugurated this “acceptable year”. And that “year” is still unfolding. The good news concerning Jesus Christ – his death, burial, resurrection, numerous appearances, and ascension – continues to be proclaimed all over the world.
Why is this “year” referred to as “acceptable”? God is now actively blessing the human race, as He promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) four millennia ago. Allowing all of us to go to hell was unacceptable to Him because He is righteous, caring and loving. So He took deliberate action through Jesus Christ to transform our lives with the blessings of salvation by sending His Son to reveal His nature and to become the sole, sufficient sacrifice for our sins. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him!” (John 3:16-17)
Now maybe life for you is pretty good, yet still you sense a spiritual void in your heart. God sent Jesus Christ to fill that void. Perhaps a family member’s rejection of your love – or the loss of a person dear to you – has left you with a broken heart. Christ can heal your brokenness with the balm of his embrace, support, and encouragement to reach out to others. Possibly you have been free to pursue your dreams and do exciting things – some that have brought you recognition. Nonetheless you have tendencies that easily enslave you– your proclivity to be addicted to your work, or to push people away (either by being too private or too preoccupied with your problems), or the compulsion to compete with others and prove your superiority – any number of inner needs and compelling drives that hold you in their grasp.
You may be a competent and proficient counselor who helps others recognize relationship-breakdowns, for which they bear some responsibility. You teach them to face their faults or failures. And yet you also have been blind to (or have ignored) your own needs for more wisdom than you possess to deal with the problems that have you flummoxed. Jesus Christ is the personification of God’s wisdom. He offers himself as your counselor and guide through life.
Finally, it may be that you have suffered oppression, either as a child, or from an abusive relationship, or from prejudice. As God gently touches your life through Jesus Christ (who also endured persecution at the hands of evil men), He enables you to gradually emerge from your experiences of rejection, ridicule, or cruelty. They need not hang ominously over your remaining days in this world. Jesus Christ, utilizing the friendships, wise counsel, and encouragement of others, can deliver you from the oppression of a difficult past, and you can discern meaning in the sufferings you underwent during those times. The Lord also shows you and me how to help others, whose sufferings are similar to what we once endured or are presently going through.
The Lord gives to us the same Spirit who anointed Him, so that everything that Jesus proclaimed about his mission applies to us as well. God appointed him, not only to take away our sins, but to heal us from the damaging effects of sin – ours and those of others – upon our emotions and to our relationships. But this healing does not happen in isolation from Christ’s church. The local church is given to us as a hospital for sinners who are in process of being saved. It is such people whom God places in it – folks like you and me. All of us have a past that contains some “negatives,” which have had a detrimental impact on us. But God can use these very experiences to prepare us to help others who need the healing ministry of Christ. When Jesus first made his announcement in the village of Nazareth, he was also inviting you and me to be a part of his healing ministry. Accept his invitation. Let him begin to heal you, and then become a channel for the healing power of Jesus that flows through you to others.