Monday – Jesus’ Mission and Identity
At the time of recording, this is Easter 2013 and it is Monday. We start a week of looking at Jesus Christ. Together, every night this week, we are going to look at different aspects of Jesus’ final week.
- Tuesday Last Prayers
- Wednesday Last Teaching
- Thursday Last Night
- Friday Dead
- Sunday Risen
Luke writes in Luke 4v42-44: “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.”
This is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry on earth! These verses at the end of Luke 4 tell us that His mission is to preach God’s Kingdom. A reluctant John the Baptist baptized him and the crowds heard God the Father speaking to Him. He underwent temptations by the arch-seducer, satan and emerged victorious from that ordeal. Now Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, has returned home to Galilee (Luke 4v14).
- Jesus at home (Luke 4v14-30)
Jesus is back in home territory and because of the power of His teaching, He is becoming known as a great teacher (Luke 4v15). Jesus spent some time in Galilee, become known and is arousing the interest, curiosity and excitement of people.
- Worshipping (Luke 4v14-18) – It was Jesus’ habit to attend public worship wherever he was. He would have worshipped as any Jewish man would have.
A typical synagogue service
- Opened with a prayer for God’s blessing
- Traditional Hebrew confession of faith (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21)
- Prayer and readings from the Law and the Prophets
- Brief talk given by one of the men or a visiting rabbi (Acts 13:14-16)
- Benediction or prayer
Because of His growing renown as a teacher, it is no surprise that he should be asked to read the Scripture and give a short teaching session regarding it. Here in Nazareth, Jesus declared that the day for demonstrating God’s salvation had arrived and the day the prophets looked forward to, was going to be fulfilled in Jesus Himself (Luke 4v20). He was the Servant Isaiah had talked about long ago (Isaiah 61v1-2). His ministry was divinely directed; it was a ministry of hope for all people and a ministry to free the spiritually oppressed (Luke 4v18).
Acceptable Year of the Lord (Luke 4:19)
When Jesus said in Luke 4v19 “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”, Jesus was referring to the “Year of Jubilee” (Leviticus 25). Every fiftieth year, this special year was the balancing of the economic system.
- Slaves were set free and returned to their families
- Property that was sold back to the original owners
- All debts were cancelled
- Lands lay bare to rest and rejoice in the Lord
The local reaction was at first one of astonishment (Luke 4v22) and telling each other he was the son of Joseph! But Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but rather the Son of God, the new Adam and the founder of a new humanity as he goes on to explain.
They saw Him as the son of Joseph. Admiration turned to anger, because Jesus began to remind them of God’s goodness to the Gentiles.
- The prophet Elijah bypassed all the Jewish widows and helped a Gentile widow in Sidon (1 Kings 17:8-16)
- Elisha healed a Gentile leper from Syria (2 Kings 5:1-15)
Whilst those in Nazareth could only see Jesus in the local setting, He told them His mission was for all Israel! And if Israel rejected this message of Good News, then the Gentiles would be blessed by it (Luke 4v25-27). Upon hearing this, the astonished admiration turned to furious anger (Luke 4v28-30)! Salvation is no longer restricted to Israel but for every child of Adam – every human. Jesus’ mission was not to be Israel’s saviour but the world’s saviour.
When Jesus quoted the proverb “no prophet is accepted in his hometown”, he revealed his knowledge of Old Testament history. He knew that God’s messengers often were rejected, and even as God’s Son, he was rejected as well.
Jesus’ mission was to be the saviour of the world as God’s Son (John 3v16) and the Servant of the Lord. His mission was to give a message of hope for the spiritually poor and spiritually oppressed people. Not only people in his hometown, nor only in Israel, but rather for the whole world. People have two choices when faced with this fact: accept or reject. There is no other option.
And what of his identity? In Mark 8v27-33: Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say I am?”
This section of the Bible contains the verse, when Peter calls Jesus the Christ or Messiah or Saviour (Mark 8v29), this divulges Jesus’ true identity, In the preceding few verses Jesus and the disciples were in Bethsaida and there is the incident where Jesus healed the blind man. When the man is healed, Jesus instructs the man not to tell anybody! Why did Jesus stipulate taht? Because Jesus didn’t want to be seen as only a healer and miracle worker.
Now we come back to that climactic part of the Gospels when Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do people say that I am?
Some say John the Baptist
- Jesus and John had been seen together in public and they were different in personality and ministry
- John came ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1v17), in a ministry of judgement, whereas Jesus came in a spirit of meekness and service.
- John performed no miracles (John 10v41), but Jesus was a miracle worker.
- John even dressed like the Prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1v8; Mark 1v6)
Others say Jeremiah (Matthew 16v14)
- Jeremiah was the ‘weeping prophet’, and Jesus was the ‘man of sorrows’
- Jeremiah called the people to true repentance from the heart, and so did Jesus.
- Both men were misunderstood and rejected by their own people.
- Both men condemned the false religious leaders and the hypocritical worship in the temple.
- Those in authority persecuted both men.
In both His works and words, Jesus gave evidence to the people that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, and yet they did not get the message. The disciples had much to learn about Him and what it meant to follow Him. The Jews were expecting a victorious Messiah (Isaiah 11v1-5). But they had forgotten that the Messiah must also suffer and die (Isaiah 53v1-12; Luke 24v26). The Jewish people thought that the Messiah would set up an earthly political kingdom, but Jesus came to set up a spiritual kingdom that would last forever (Isaiah 9v7; Daniel 7v13-14; Luke 1v33; Revelation 11v15)
What was the purpose of the Messiah? (Mk10v45)
Jesus’ mission was to be the Servant of the Lord, and therefore, the saviour of the world as God’s Son (John 3v16). His purpose as the Messiah was neither that He be served nor that He will lead a political overthrow of the Roman government as some had hoped. Rather, His purpose as the Messiah was to be God’s servant and give a message of hope for the spiritually poor and spiritually oppressed people.
Follow who Jesus is
When Jesus rebuked Peter, he was also telling off the other disciples (Mark 8v33). Remember that they did not yet understand the relationship between suffering and glory. By the time Peter had written his epistle 1 Peter, he did (1 Peter1v6-8, 1 Peter 4v13-5v10).
Some Jewish leaders taught of 2 Messiahs – one to suffer and one who would reign (1Peter 1v10-12)
There is a price to pay for true followers:
- Surrender completely to Him.
- Identify with Him in His suffering and death.
- Follow Him obediently, wherever He leads.
What is the reward for the true disciple of Jesus?
- Satan promises glory now, but in the end suffering comes.
- God promises suffering now, but the suffering turns to glory.
Spiritually, at this time, the disciples were still blind to who Jesus was, just as the man who was physically blind. Our confession of Jesus is a matter of life and death (John 8v21;1 John 4v1-3). Confession of Jesus as Lord is necessary for salvation (1 Corinthians 12v1-3), when that confession is from the heart (Romans 10v9-10). Christians are called to follow Jesus, to take up their cross and this could mean nothing less than being ready to suffer and die for Jesus. If we are ashamed of Him on earth, He will be ashamed of us when the end of the world has come. He will reward those deserving the reward, and deny those who deny Him.
Finally, who do you say this Jesus is? What have you done with this Jesus – accepted or rejected Him?