Yesterday, I began to summarize the mission of Jesus in light of the mission of God in the Old Testament. I based my discussion on a passage from chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel. Here’s that passage, once again:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come (Luke 4:18-19).
On the basis of this text, which is a citation from Isaiah 61, I explained that:
1. Jesus was sent by God in the power of the Holy Spirit. 2. Jesus was sent to proclaim the good news.
Today I’ll continue where I left off yesterday.
Third, Jesus was sent to enact the good news.
Jesus practiced what He preached. As a part of his announcement of God’s coming kingdom, Jesus proclaimed release for the captives, seeing for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. He backed up his audacious proclamations with compelling demonstrations. Those in bondage to demonic powers were set free (Luke 4:33-35). The sick were made well and the blind given sight (Luke 7:21-22). Jesus liberated those who were bound by social injustice and prejudice (Mark 7:24-30; Luke 5:12-15; 7:36-50; 8:43-48; 10:38-42; 19:1-10). Even as he called his followers to love their neighbors and their enemies (Luke 6:35; 10:27), Jesus also loved with exemplary compassion (Matt 9:36; Mark 10:21; Luke 7:13). He not only spoke of God’s reign, but also embodied that reign in his own person and ministry. Where Jesus was, there was the kingdom of God (Luke 17:21). His enactment of the kingdom demonstrated the validity of his preaching, and drew thousands to hear his good news. It showed that the coming of the kingdom was focused in him, his proclamation, his ministry, and his person.
Fourth, Jesus was sent to form a community of the good news.
Although not explicitly stated in Luke 4:18-19, when the poor, the blind, and the captives received the good news of God’s kingdom, they also had the opportunity to join the community of kingdom people, who, once reconciled to God, experienced reconciliation with each other as well. In Luke 5, Jesus called a few fishermen to form the core of his disciples, promising that they would now fish for people (Luke 5:1-11; 6:12-16). The community of Jesus’ followers live under God’s reign, demonstrating love and justice as servants of God and of each other (Mark 10:43-44; Luke 11:42; John 13:34-35). Even during the earthly life of Jesus, his followers were empowered to join in his ministry, proclaiming the good news of God’s reign and demonstrating that good news through works of healing and liberation (Luke 9:1-2; 10:1-17). Their sharing in the ministry of Jesus foreshadowed an even greater work to come.
So, even as in the Old Testament, God’s mission involved forming a people through whom to restore his kingdom on earth, Jesus’ mission was not simply about getting individuals right with God. He was also in the business of forming a people to proclaim and live out the reality of God’s kingdom. This is perhaps one of the major oversights in much of American Christianity, which has allowed the individualism of American culture to obscure the essentially communal nature of Jesus’ mission. Yes, he came to secure individual salvation and to call individuals as his disciples. But full salvation includes restoration as God’s people. True discipleship is always a shared endeavor. There are no “lone ranger” disciples in the kingdom of God (or at least there shouldn’t be).
Fifth, Jesus was sent to consummate the good news through his death and resurrection.
Though he embodied and inaugurated God’s reign on earth, human response to Jesus was still limited by sin. Without experiencing the most profound kind of liberation – from sin, our rebellion against God – we cannot be reconciled to God. Until we are cleansed from our sin, we can long for God’s kingdom, but we cannot fully enter it. Jesus was sent not only to proclaim and to demonstrate the good news of God’s reign, but also to consummate that good news by overcoming the barrier of sin. He came, “not to be served but to serve others, and to give [his] life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He was sent to fulfill the mission of Isaiah’s suffering Servant of God, the one who would be “wounded and crushed for our sins,” upon whom “the Lord laid . . . the guilt and sins of us all” (Isa 53:5-6). Because God’s rightful reign over us was shattered by sin, the shattering of sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus enables us to be reconciled to God. Once reconciled, then we can live in full fellowship with him as citizens of his kingdom. The cross of Christ invites us into the kingdom of God and restores us into intimate fellowship with him as God’s subjects, servants, and beloved children.
In my next post I’ll show how this kingdom-centered mission of Jesus has been passed on to us.