I’m sure all of you have asserted your democratic right, under the ‘Representation of the Peoples Acts’ to cast your vote in both local and general elections in recent years. Leading up to an election, political parties publish their manifestos: an explanation, if you can understand them, what it is they are offering the electorate. We hear all sorts of promises don’t we, with regards to: Health; Crime; Immigration; Tax Cuts; Austerity and so on.
But it’s not always the mainstream political parties who enjoy our patronage, is it? Many vote for the political alternatives offered by the UKIP, Respect, Greens, Monster Raving Looney Party! even BNP! Some people vote at Elections, not always on policies, but on the principle that it’s time for a change. Sometimes, as a result of this, people find themselves having to be satisfied with something less than they would prefer.
But will the Ballot Box really make a difference? Is there such a thing as a political party with good ethics, morals and values at the centre of their policies? Now, I don’t want to be accused of being politically motivated this morning – we all know that politics and religion don’t mix, and so I’ll keep my preferences to myself. … but thinking about manifesto’s got me thinking about a Christian manifesto. I think Jesus gives us one in Luke 4:14-21 …
These words are the first words Jesus spoke at the beginning of his ministry after his 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (we know it as Isaiah 61, written some 750 years before) and, after reading those words, Jesus said that Isaiah, was writing about him.
Can you imagine both the horror and indignation around Jesus’ declaration as he claimed to be the Messiah? Is it any wonder that, later in the chapter, they drove him out of town and tried to throw him over the cliff!
Anointed by the SPIRIT
But these words were Jesus’ statement of purpose as to what he was seeking to achieve during his ministry and the reason the anointing of the Holy Spirit was upon him. These words could so easily be Jesus’ manifesto for ministry.
To be anointed means to be set apart for a task. Jesus was set apart to preach about the Good News of the kingdom of God. Isaiah’s prophecy was that someone would: … preach good news to the poor, set the prisoners free, make the blind to see and release the oppressed. And all that Jesus did, his healings and miracles, demonstrated that he was God’s chosen Saviour.
Good News to the POOR
Good News is something that is in such short supply in today’s world. There’s always something on TV, in our newspapers and magazines, which constantly remind us how immoral/violent the world is.
Jesus was proclaiming that the day of the Lord’s favour had come. He came to proclaim that the poor would hear good news … Tondo
Freedom for the PRISONERS.
The Romans imprisoned many people in Jesus’ day, and it would be silly to think that Jesus was going to empty all the jails. Some prisoners deserved to be there – so another meaning was intended. Jesus came to free people from the evil forces that bound them up. In today’s world, that may be from drugs, alcohol, bitterness. Jesus came to free us from the one who delights in dragging us down, the devil himself.
Jesus was proclaiming that the day of the Lord’s favour had come. He came to proclaim that the prisoners would be set free …
I’ve met more people in prison out of prison than those imprisoned in prison!
Sight to the BLIND
Blindness was a common ailment of Jesus’ time, and we know he healed the blind on many occasions. However, Jesus is speaking about more than physical blindness, he’s speaking about spiritual blindness – which is the greater blindness. Many people are blind to the things of God, and Jesus came to remove barriers to belief. Such as a lack of faith, excuses, anger – things that stop us from seeing how much God really loves us and cares for us.
Jesus was proclaiming that the day of the Lord’s favour had come. He came to proclaim that the blind would be given sight.
Release the OPPRESSED
Jews, in Jesus’ day, were oppressed by Roman occupation. But Jesus healed many who were oppressed in different ways. Those oppressed by demons. Those who had crushed spirits and broken dreams. Those who had heavy loads to carry. Jesus promises to raise the spirits of those who feel they have hit rock-bottom in life. With Jesus, in the words of a pop song … the only way is up!
Jesus was proclaiming that the day of the Lord’s favour had come. He came to proclaim that the oppressed would be released.
Jesus’ manifesto for ministry and it was a manifesto of actions and not words. It was a manifesto of meeting people’s needs. Of grace; of mercy; of salvation; of forgiveness; of reaching out. Jesus’ manifesto should be the manifesto for the whole of the Christian church.
Whilst a General Election may give us the chance to make our own choices about whom we follow and whom we trust to get us out of danger and make the world, or UK, a brighter place – it seems that Jesus doesn’t give us that choice at all. Jesus came to bring sense in a broken world and to bring healing, wholeness and restoration in body soul and spirit, where there is hurt, despair and pain.
The Holy Spirit that anointed Jesus is the same Spirit that anoints us – that’s an amazing thought, isn’t it? When the Holy Spirit fell on the church at Pentecost Sunday, it ushered in the empowering presence of God in the lives of Christians to enable them to do wonderful works in Jesus’ name.
What about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that you have received but have never really understood or appreciated? What gifts are you asking God for? What gifts has God given you? How can you use them for the greater benefit of the church community?
May each one of us be willing to live out Jesus’ manifesto in today’s world through the power of His Holy Spirit:
to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
This is an extract from a talk I gave at Saint Mary the Virgin in Little Burstead on Sunday 23 January 2022. The Bible Reading was Luke 4:14-21