“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 for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21b).
The mission of Jesus is clearly articulated. His messianic (anointed) mission is to bring “good news” (gospel) to the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed. It is not merely a message, but actions. God in Jesus acts to redeem. It is divine grace (favor).
It is Jubilee! What Jubilee should have meant to Israel throughout its history (though there is no evidence Israel ever practiced it) breaks into the world through the ministry of Jesus. Jubilee–released prisoners, good news for the poor (e.g., debt release)–has arrived with the presence of the kingdom in the person of Jesus.
At the “big picture” level, this is the reversal of the curse. All that the curse means in the broken creation is reversed in the ministry of Jesus. It is his mission; it is why he was sent. It is what he preaches and what he does!
“…the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them” (Luke 4:40).
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43).
These lines are so meaningful as well as programmatic in Luke’s Gospel. It is the mission of Jesus in practice; Jesus is practicing the kingdom of God. He heals the sick and declares the presence of the kingdom of God in the world. This is is his mission.
His ministry is the “good news of the kingdom of God,” that is, that the kingdom of God has come near and when the kingdom comes near the brokenness of the world is healed. The curse is reversed.
The “kingdom” here is not the structures and organization of an institutionalized church. Rather, the kingdom is the reign of God in the world; when God reigns and overcomes the curse, when God reigns and destroys fallen barriers, when God reigns and overcomes diseases, demons and death, when God reigns and reconciles people groups, when God reigns and the poor and oppressed get justice.
The ministry of Jesus is a proleptic enactment of the eschaton. In other words, the new heaven and new earth (where there is no curse) has broken into the fallen cosmos in a way that declares and promises the future. The ministry of Jesus is the presence of the future; the future breaks into the present as Jesus proclaims the good news of the kingdom and heals the sick. The ministry of Jesus is God’s promise of a different kind of world, a future world where there is no more curse.
The “good news” (gospel) of the “kingdom of God” is not, at this point in the ministry of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the means toward the end of the reality of the kingdom of God. That reality is “good news.” It is the good news that God intends to redeem, renew, and restore his creation and community. God does this through the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus; these are means by which God inagurates, implements and consumates his reign in the world.
“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you’” (Luke 10:9).
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven…Blessed are the eyes that see what you see” (Luke 10:18, 23b).
The Gospel of Luke calls disciples of Jesus to participate in the mission of Jesus. Just as Jesus declared the message that the “kingdom of God is near” (which is the “good news of the kingdom”) and healed the sick (reversing the curse), his disciples follow him into the world to announce the nearness of the kingdom and to participate in curse reversal. Disciples proclaim the good news of the kingdom and heal the sick.
Healing the sick is but one instance of the presence of the kingdom. Doctors, nurses and medical professions are instruments of the kingdom of God even when they don’t know it as they “heal the sick.” Environmental scientists are instruments of the kingdom of God even when they don’t know it as they protect and preserve the envrionment. Educators are instruments of the kingdom of God even when they don’t know it as they dispel ignorance and equip students for responsible living within the world. Social works are instruments of the kingdom of God even when they don’t know it as they work for social justice among the oppressed and neglected. And the list could go on….
Our vocations, as disciples of Jesus, should serve the ends of the kingdom of God. We do not pursue our careers for the sake of money, greed and power. Rather, our vocations–whether medicine, law, education, service industries, etc.–are instruments of the kingdom of God in the world. Disciples recognize this as the good news of the kingdom even when others might not see the reign of God in what they are doing. Disciples proclaim the reality of God in the world as they work for healing and reconciliation.
At bottom, disciples continue the ministry of Jesus. As instruments of the kingdom, they are a means by which God reigns in the world for peace, healing and reconciliation. Disciples participate in the mission of Jesus to reverse the curse as the kingdom of God grows and fills the earth.
When the curse is reversed–when the poor receive good news, the blind see, the oppressed get justice, and prisoners are released–Satan falls and the creation is blessed. Satan is crushed by the heel of the kingdom of God and the creation is released from its bondage.
Disciples of Jesus who see the “big picture” know their mission is not relegated to “saving souls” and “getting people into heaven.” The mission of Jesus is about how the kingdom of God breaks into the present to reverse the curse and renew blessing–to heal and bless all nations. Every victory now anticipates the future; every victory is a promise of the future. Satan is falling and God is blessing his creation.