Jesus’ first sermon was a disaster. His home church in Nazareth was the setting for His first sermon and the launch of His public ministry. Things looked promising at first;
“They were all speaking well of Him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from His mouth” (Luke 4:22).
By the end of the sermon,
“…everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They got up, drove Him out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl Him over the cliff” (28-29).
It was a failure to launch in front of His friends and family…disaster. I would have been tempted to abort the mission and find an easier way to make a living.
Thirty-two years ago, I preached my first sermon at my home church of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, and it went far better for me than it did for Jesus. I had a very supportive crowd on that Sunday night. That youth-led service was destined for success because we had a fan in every pew.
Why was Jesus’ church family so unreceptive; even violently opposed to His message? Jesus was a man on a mission—to fulfill the role of Messiah. They were okay with Jesus as a healer and teacher, but not as the Savior of the world. We see Him clearly lay out His life’s mission from Isaiah 61, which He claimed to fulfill personally. This clearly set them off. That message still sets some people off because of its bold claims about Jesus.
Jesus’ life mission and message have not changed since that original sermon. Neither has our mission changed since it is directly tied to His.
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because he has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2).
So how can we live out Jesus’ mission over the holidays? Here are four simple ways:
Preach Good News to the Poor
Some prefer to the use the term “Gospel” instead of “good news.” I’m not sure poor people really care which word we use as long as we are giving them real hope for their lives. Good news seems to be more eagerly received by those who are in bad shape. The “poor” are those who have proven unable to care for themselves. They are thereby the responsibility of the local church, not just the parachurch ministries or government.
Jesus makes good on His promise by spending a lot of time with outcasts, lepers, prostitutes, women, and children.
Since His mission is my mission, what opportunities are available in your community to share the good news of the Gospel with your neediest neighbors? I can immediately think of one opportunity for me.
Whoever is kind to the needy honors God (Proverbs 14:31).
Grant Freedom to the Captives
Our most obvious application is ministry to convicted prisoners. As a pastor and volunteer police chaplain in my city, I have visited a few prisons in Arkansas and can honestly say that I have left each one with a sense of missional fulfillment. Openness is one of the few attributes of brokenness, and prisoners are, in general, very open to hearing from someone who cares about them.
What ministry to prisoners or prisoner families (Angel Tree) can you support or help with over the holidays?
Give Sight to the Blind
We see Jesus giving sight to both the spiritually and physically blind. Jesus’ home church was openly curious to see Him perform miracles, which He was reluctant to do because of their motives.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the Gospel (2 Cor 4:4).
I believe that Jesus still heals the sick as He did in His earthly ministry. We should not hesitate to pray for the sick to be healed, then trust Him for the outcome. Who needs prayer for healing in your family, work, or church?
Release the Oppressed
“Oppressed” means bruised; broken into pieces. The original passage says,
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).
As we minister to the brokenhearted in our churches, may we also take the opportunity to love those hurting within our own biological families. Thanksgiving and Christmas may be our best opportunities to release (a.k.a. forgive) someone who has oppressed us as well.
On November 30, Thanksgiving weekend, I will be preaching at Green Acres again (for the 5th time since my debut). I can’t wait to see my home church family again. I still aspire to be a man on a mission – Jesus’ mission – to preach the Gospel to the poor, captives, blind, and oppressed…starting at home.