“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue and was handed the scroll of Isaiah where he specifically looked for this verse so he could read about himself. Here, in this moment, Jesus summed up the result of his putting on flesh and coming down to earth. He told Nicodemus in John 3:17 that his purpose was to save the world and not to condemn it, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV) but here he is telling the people in Nazareth what the result would be and what that would look like.
It should be noted the word for world in the Greek is Kosmos which means the entirety of sentient life.
I love the nuance used here and revealed in the NLT vs other translations. Jesus isn’t just making an empty campaign promise, that under his rule he wants X and Y to happen. But instead a direct result of his presence here on earth will lead to captives being released, the blind seeing, and the oppressed to be set free. In the Greek the word for “captives” literally means people who have been captured in contrast to that “the oppressed” being spoke of are people who have been broken, shattered, and shivering as a result of being crushed by the cruelty of their oppressors.
God makes five promises that apply in different ways to the spiritual self and the physical self:
1st: When you’ve been reduced to a lowly state, when you’re spiritually and physically bankrupt, begging for help, God has good news for you. Jesus uses the word, Euangelizo, which to the original audience would have been associated as a message from the Ceasars letting the people know that that the Ceasar had brought peace, freedom, justice, and prosperity to his new empire. Jesus is providing hope to people who may have lost it.
2nd: Whether you’re a captive to your sin or a literal captive for whatever reason. You will be released. Jesus doesn’t state when it will happen, or that it has already happened, he promises that you will be released from it. I think this works a lot like the season aspect that I wrote about earlier.
3rd: I can’t help but be reminded of the lyrics of Amazing Grace, “I once was blind, but now I see.” when I think about spiritual blindness and of course, there’s the physical healing and restoration of sight that God is able to do and still does today!
4th: I love how Jesus is constantly reminding us that there are people under an oppression that isn’t captivity. This type of oppression is more insidious, in my opinion, because it has a pretense of freedom. Jesus is telling us however, that no matter what you go through, no matter what has been done to you, no matter what has happened to break your spirits, there is hope. This is definitely a But God situation. Jesus is here to proclaim that Jonah 2:6 is still relevant to us today, “I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!” (NLT)
5th: is the statement that because of Jesus’s arrival here on earth, the time of the Lord’s favor is available to us. We don’t have to do anything to receive this. If you’re a Christian, Jesus has already arrived and we don’t have to or send any gifts to preachers on TV to attain the favor of the Lord. And we will probably never fully understand the many ways in which this favor manifests itself but we can trust that it exists.
There’s so much more to unpack from this verse and there have been numerous books written about it. But for now, just remember what Jesus said when he closed up the scroll: “The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”