Truly transformational leaders are rare in any field. It is easy to talk a big game, but delivering… well that’s another question. Leaders of all stripes lay out their intentions before campaigns, AGMs, rallies, only to find the reality of compromise, human nature and bureaucratic institutions stifle their best hopes. One man was different.
Luke who was a companion of the Apostle Paul recalls for us one of the greatest moments in history. Fresh from his baptism where the heavens opened and God declared Jesus as his son whom he loves, fresh from being tested and overcoming the temptations of the devil in the wilderness, Jesus goes to the temple and reads Isaiah 61…
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news for the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
He then rolled up the scroll, handed it back, and sat down. We are told every eye in the temple was on him. Then he proclaims, “It’s just come true in front of your eyes, right now in this place.”
Now that is a moment in history. I would give anything to have been there for that!
This manifesto, this statement of intent is made in fulfilment of Isaiah 61. This is a direct quote from Isaiah 61 but interestingly the last line of it is missing… have you ever noticed that? Isaiah 61 finishes with “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God.” Put simply Jesus is going to usher in an era of grace. Now is not the time for judgement or vengeance. Jesus has come to bring salvation and restoration! This is what he is going to do… open blind eyes… release oppressed people… free prisoners. And accordingly this is the heart of what our faith is like… If we are to ask as a church are we being effective? Well is this stuff happening?
Right lets just go through this manifesto…
“The Spirit is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” Jesus always has a bias for the poor because Jesus is interested in restoring the fundamental dignity inherent in everyone. A Darwinian approach to life leads to the survival of the fittest. A gospelised approach leads to a restoration of hope! That is why every Christian should be involved in some outreach or care for the poor. It is a reflection of our saviour.
Next Jesus says, “he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” Central to Jesus ministry is rescuing people out of darkness and into the light… He casts out spirits that possess people. He frees people from sinful lives.
Next Jesus says about his mission, “Recovery of sight for the blind.” Some have tried to spiritualise this line making it about opening the eyes of the spiritually blind. We sing songs like Amazing Grace (I was blind but now I see…) and that is all true and good. But this was an actual aspect of Jesus ministry. In Luke 18 a blind beggar calls out to the passing Jesus, “Jesus, have mercy on me”. Jesus stops and asks what do you want me to do for you? “Lord I want to see” and with that his eyes are opened by Jesus. That is a life changed… that is what Jesus does! And he continues to open blind eyes today. Just read about Heidi Baker in Mozambique. The healing ministry of Jesus continues all around the world!
Next Jesus says, “To set the oppressed free”. I love the Message version of Matthew 11. Jesus says, “Are you tired out? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I wont lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
What a great mandate for the church today. Introduce people to this Jesus! My hope for Manly Life is that the tired, the burned out will come to know him.
This is all in one sense summarized by the final line: Jesus says; “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” This is our story… it is his story… Jesus continues to save! We want to join God in bringing his LIFE to Manly. That is our vision. The Jesus manifesto is our manifesto for life and ministry. That is why in the very next chapter of Luke he starts calling a ragtag bunch of people to follow him and join in his ministry.
Well finally, is this a fulfilled manifesto? After all lots of leaders promise big and deliver little. Well yes, in Jesus life it was fulfilled. The blind did see, the poor got good news, the favour of God was proclaimed, the oppressed were set free. But it is always a work in progress. A work that we must commit ourselves to for the glory of God.