“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…” (Isaiah 61:1-2; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
Isaiah preached these verses to Jews facing hardship. His audience had been through traumatic times. The people needed hope and comfort, and Isaiah spoke to those needs. Many of the prophecies in the second part of Isaiah forecast the coming of the Messiah as assurance that God will always be faithful to restore and heal His people.
The Jews of Isaiah’s day were oppressed by foreign powers, including Babylon and Assyria. Seven hundred years later, during Jesus’ lifetime, the Roman Empire ruled over the Jews and most of the known world. Political corruption marred Israel’s religious leaders at both times. Some things never change. Eighty years ago, European Jews experienced perhaps the worst oppression of their history. Political corruption still oppresses the poor and the people of God. There are still wolves in sheep’s clothing pretending to minister to God’s people, abusing and manipulating them in Jesus’ name. Sin has enslaved people throughout history. Isaiah announced that a Messiah would come as the answer to our deepest needs. Today, we look back on Jesus’ ministry and seek to reap its blessings.
So, it should be no surprise that Jesus Himself preached from Isaiah’s prophecy early in His ministry:
“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:16-21).
Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in several ways. First, He was the Messiah whose coming was announced by the prophet. His very life—His very presence in their town and synagogue—fulfilled a promise God had made 700 years earlier.
Second, He came to fulfill that calling to the people He met. The Holy Spirit was upon Him, as God had proclaimed when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. He came to proclaim good news to the poor: those who lacked financial means as well as those who were “poor in spirit.” He came to proclaim release to the captives: those who were bound both by Roman oppression and by Satan’s domination. He brought sight to the blind, both those who could not see physically and those who could not see God’s presence in their lives. He came to set free those who were oppressed, particularly those who were controlled by sin.
This was the focus of His ministry. Jesus spoke words of comfort and restoration. He miraculously healed the blind, the sick, and the demon-possessed. He instructed, trained, and commissioned His disciples to minister to these needs in His name.
This should still be the focus of our ministry. Christ calls His disciples to go forth in His name and to make disciples of all nations. How do we make disciples? By condemning? By pretending we are better than others because we do not commit the same horrible sins that they do? By quoting Bible passages and assuming people’s lives will turn around if they simply give their lives to Jesus and “snap out of it?”
We make disciples by imitating Jesus and showing His love to others. He sends us to bring good news to the poor (physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually), those who have lost hope, and those who do not know how to get out of their ruts. We proclaim release to the captives, showing them the way out of the chains of bondage that hold them. We offer sight to the blind by revealing the Light of the World, Jesus, to them. We set the oppressed free by letting them know that they no longer need to live in self-condemnation, for Jesus has released them with His forgiveness.
Part of our mission is to offer hope and comfort. As I mentioned in a previous post, mourning and grief can be a response to any kind of loss. We have all suffered. All Christians have been forgiven; we have all received Jesus’ comfort and mercy. Now, it is our turn to bring that comfort and mercy to others.
Lord, when You lived among us, You brought good news to the afflicted; You healed the brokenhearted; You brought liberty to captives and freedom to those who were imprisoned by sin and shame; You gave sight to the blind; and You comforted all who mourn. Heal us in our time of need, comfort us in our times of sorrow, and anoint us to go forth and comfort others as You have comforted and healed us. In Your name, we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
How have you been comforted and healed by Jesus? How have you comforted others in His name, or how can you do so in the days ahead? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.
Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.