We see in the gospel of Luke that Jesus had been speaking in the synagogues and people were drawn to his teaching. Then he did something stunning and perplexing. Jesus stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth, the town where he had grown up, to read a passage from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Isaiah 61:1). Then he sat down and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
In this action, Jesus was saying that he – the son of Joseph, who had grown up in their backyard – was the Anointed One God had promised to send so long ago to “preach good news to the poor.” The listeners must have wondered – what message could this son of a carpenter who has no wealth or power of his own possibly have that would be considered good news?
The people during this time were hoping the Messiah would bring them into material wealth and freedom from oppression. They longed for the promised King who would end their struggle under the heavy taxation of the Romans. But that is not at all the message Jesus brought. Instead, Jesus began perhaps his most significant sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, with these words: “God blesses those are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus wanted them to see that to be poor in spirit – to be keenly aware that they are powerless and bankrupt and have nothing to offer God to get in his good graces – is what would prepare them to receive God’s riches and blessings.
The “good news” Jesus announced was his own coming – offering himself to us and for us. Paul wrote about Jesus: “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus’ good news for the poor (then and now) is that he had come to make us rich – not financially or materially or even temporarily, but spiritually and eternally. This good news for the poor was that he would pay the debt for sin owed to God, the debt we have no resources to pay on our own no matter how hard we work or try.
Prayer – I hear and believe that God will meet all of my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Now I see that you, Jesus, are the Good News for someone like me who is destitute and empty and needy. I come to you with my poverty, and in you I am rich.
Song: The Gospel (By Ryan Stevenson)
Incumbent at St Aidan's Anglican Church,