He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them,
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4: 16-21
As I read the promises of Isaiah on Jesus’ lips that day in his home town of Nazareth, I believe the fact that Jesus was indeed anointed to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. We all need to be freed from something that captivates us from time to time, as much as a person who is being held behind bars for a crime desires freedom from a cell. Jesus wanted his hearers to know that his mission in life was to free us. He had come to earth to bring freedom for each person.
During my years as a pastor, I paid monthly visits to people who were confined in prison. I felt that some of them were innocent of the crime for which they were imprisoned, and some were surely guilty based on the evidence against them. Yet, in all cases, guilty or not, Jesus is saying that he has come to bring release to all people whether they are confined in a jail or confined in their own personal kind of prison. It may not mean physical release if there is a prison term to be served, but even in confinement there is the possibility of release of the spirit and forgiveness for the wrong they may have done. Jesus can free the mind and give hope for a different future.
As I visited each of those persons in prison, I felt that the greatest thing I could do for any of them was to reassure them that God loved them and wanted to forgive them. I gave them a copy of the Bible for their personal study, and encouraged them to seek out what God wants to do to help them in their situation. Almost without exception all of the people I visited in prison used their Bibles daily, reading Scripture to help them face the trials of being in prison. Nearly all of them wrote questions in their Bibles, or their concerns about their situation, so we could talk about them when I came to visit. My hour with each person always went faster than I could imagine.
One thing I brought away from each of my visits with these prisoners was a reminder that these life-changing differences that Jesus was anointed to bring are not just for those living behind prison walls. We all have prisons of our own that we have created or agreed to. As each new year rolls around many of us set out to make changes in our lives to improve ourselves, but do we ever think of asking Jesus to help us make the needed changes. Our attempts of improving ourselves with a new diet plan or exercise plan are often tried in the absence of Jesus, the one who was sent to us to help us change our lives and bring freedom. We often think that any life-changes we make are dependent solely on our own effort. Yet, Jesus reminds us today that he has come to help us make the changes that we need to make in order to be Christ centered in our living each day. Our Bible reading and study along with daily prayer is a necessity as we seek to make any changes. We need the assistance of our Savior to guide us through each day as we walk on the upward path of being set free from our prison of habits or hatred or behaviors that defeat our Christian witness of living for Christ.
- How do you hear Jesus’ words today?
- When he says he is declaring ‘release to the captives,’ what does that mean for you?
- What is the reality of your own captivity?
- Would you agree that much of the time we live in the illusion of being completely free?
- What is holding you ‘captive and what would release look like for you?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.