Throughout history, because of the sin and greed of man and the work of Satan, human economic, social and religious institutions have been tainted and often work to enslave and oppress the very people they were set up to serve or govern. Many poor people are not only victims of their own misguided life-styles, they are also victims of institutional oppression. Because of the tyranny of these forces, people are driven from their places within society to a poverty level – unable to care for themselves. Jesus graphically identified with the poor people of his day. He spent most of his public ministry time with people in the market places and streets, rubbing elbows with the sick, sinners and the poor, seeking to liberate them from whatever enslaved them. Jesus can give us courage to minister to the poor in our day. He can open our eyes to see the oppressed poor in our community and give us direction as how to best minister to their needs. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON COMPASSION.
At the very beginning of Jesus’ three-year ministry, our Master made it very clear why he had come. Luke’s gospel spells it out for us precisely in his fourth chapter, and if you hung around John Wimber for any length of time, it wouldn’t be long before Luke 4: 18-19 came rolling off his tongue.
Here in Luke’s writings, Jesus of Nazareth, now fully indwelled and empowered in the Holy Spirit, has just returned from his grueling desert wilderness experience, and is now beginning to teach in the synagogues of Galilee. Luke tells us that on the day he was attending Sabbath services in his hometown of Nazareth, he was invited to read the Scripture of the day. The scrolls were opened to what we refer to as Isaiah 61 and Jesus read the following words:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).
In synagogue worship settings, it’s customary for all the men to stand during the reading of the Scriptures, after which all are seated. After everyone has taken their seats, the reader of the text is given the honor of speaking first; giving his insights and thoughts about the text that has just been read. This is why Luke tells us that all eyes were fixed on Jesus after he had read this messianic passage from Isaiah.
I’m sure that most of the men in the synagogue that day were expecting Jesus to do what all rabbi-wannabes would do after reading this familiar text. Since everyone knew that this passage in Isaiah 61 is referencing the dramatic changes that will occur in society when the Messiah arrives, I’m guessing that most were expecting Jesus, the hometown boy, to say a few kind words and then turn the proceedings over to the eldest rabbi, so that he could lead the discussion with the men.
But on this typical Saturday afternoon, the synagogue service in Nazareth took a turn literally no one (except, maybe Jesus?) expected. Luke tells us that indeed, the Master didn’t talk very long, but what he did say was so outrageous, it blew the meeting apart, ending it in a near riot. He stated: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The way Luke’s text reads, I’m thinking that Jesus must have said this sentence in a sweet tone, because apparently, a few folks smiled at first, thinking kindly of the nice young man they had known growing up in Nazareth. But then, after a few more choice comments, the crowd finally started to realize what Jesus had actually said. Before long, they’ve taken Jesus out of church and are ready to throw him off a cliff!
I’ve heard Dr. Don Williams, a good friend of John Wimber and a man well-trained in Hebrew thought, explain that Jesus’ eight-word sentence here would be very similar to someone standing up in one of our churches today and saying to the crowd…”This passage of Scripture I’ve just read is being fulfilled today…by me…in your face!”
Talk about someone ignoring etiquette, or worse yet, slamming a door on someone’s toe!
You see, according to Isaiah’s prophecy, when the Messiah comes, he will have a heart for the poor, the oppressed, the needy, the hungry, the overlooked ones. The Messiah won’t let injustice stand, so wherever there is wrong being committed, the Messiah will make it right. Whenever there is a person being abused, that abuse must stop, and wherever there is poverty and brokenness, the Messiah will step in and reverse that curse.
So, just as Wimber suggests in the quote above, Jesus of Nazareth didn’t see his ministry to the poor and oppressed as a moonlighting job on the side. To the Master, it was the primary job description given him by his Father. When the Messiah comes, you see, all oppression and injustice must stop. When God’s kingdom comes, the season (or year) of the Lord’s merciful grace and favor is extended to all. No-holds-barred. No exceptions. No ifs, buts, or ands.
Now, that’s good news, don’t you think?
God, I see in Jesus’ ministry that demonstrating your loving heart toward the poor, the hungry, the blind, and the oppressed is Job One. I confess that it’s easy to delegate your ministry to the poor and needy to lower levels of importance, placing other causes above your insatiable hunger for justice in human affairs. Holy Spirit, may Jesus’ primary cause become ours as well. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- How am I ignoring the fact that Jesus placed his ministry to the oppressed and the outcast at the center of all he does?
- What needs to change in our ministry priorities so that our work for Christ aligns itself more closely with the Luke 4:18-19 messianic commission?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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