What is being freed by Christ like?
It is like being literally blind to the beauty around you…being blind to the curly hair of your new baby and suddenly, by God’s grace, you are able to see the little red curls and the giggling smile of recognition that you only get when you look a baby eye to eye and face to face.
What is being freed by Christ like? It is like you are a server in a restaurant who keeps making mistakes all night (wrong drink orders, dropping plates) all because your mind is distracted and concerned about how you are going to pay rent the next day, and a group of five teenage boys who have sat at a table for over an hour and ordered little more than nachos and couple of cokes ends up leaving a $250 tip. It is enough to keep you in your apartment for another month.
What is being freed by Christ like? It is like being trapped in a school where your worst enemies confront you daily just around the corner from the eyes of teachers and administrators. It is not being able to go to the bathroom because you fear the beating that might take place, and then coming home to find out that your family quite suddenly will be moving, to a new place, a new school, and a new chance at having real friends.
What is being freed by Christ like? It is being jailed up, confined, unable to convince anyone you are a person of worth; unable to convince anyone that you are not your past, and then someone comes, unlocks the door, and says, “I believe in you. Now go be the person God created you to be.”
Jesus lays out his purpose quite plainly in his first sermon recorded in Luke. Spoiler alert: Jesus’ purpose has to do with freedom.
Reading from Isaiah, Jesus proclaims, “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" (NRSV, Luke 4:18-19).
If you have ever wondered what salvation is all about in this life, I will give you a hint: it is about freedom.
It is about the poor having worth.
It is about freedom from all that binds you and holds you back.
It is about all of your debts being wiped out in a year of jubilee and having the opportunity to start again.
It is about being able to see, to truly see the world and its need to be loved.
The purpose of Jesus is to go around and free people from whatever holds them down.
He does it you know...frees people.
Jesus frees a boy plagued with a demon and frees him from his past.
His power heals an unclean woman who has suffered from bleeding for 12 years.
He heals a man who the community fears and who lives out in the cemetery.
He feeds more than 5,000 hungry souls who are searching for something more in life.
He tells the story of an outcast in society who is the only one to stop and help.
And, he forgives a criminal with a death sentence who merely asks to be remembered, because, quite frankly, no one wants to remember a criminal. Jesus says to the criminal, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus cares that we are freed from all that keeps us bound, captive, hostage, and unable to move so that we may be able to truly live.
But even more, Jesus cares that this work of freedom continues. It did not stop when Jesus died. It did not stop when Jesus rose up into heaven. The Holy Spirit did not stop working when it came upon Jesus, but the Holy Spirit also descended on Jesus' disciples. The Holy Spirit still descends on us, and sparks a desire of freedom within our own souls.
Jesus, after reading this text of freedom of Isaiah, sits down and declares, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." In other words, this task of freedom does not stop with Jesus.
The grammatical tense of the phrase, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" is not the present tense which indicated that Jesus' work is once and done. Rather, it is the perfect tense which says it is ongoing, even repetitive. Theologian David Lose puts it this way in his Jan. 23rd 2019 "In the Meantime" article: "Jesus is kind of saying, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled and will keep being fulfilled and therefore will keep needing to be fulfilled in your presence.’”
We are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are a people who have been baptized into a life of freedom. We are a people who care about the poor no matter what got them to that place. We are a people who care about the blind, both physically and spiritually. We are a people who care about the detained and imprisoned and thrown away We are a people who care about the world being restored to the way God intended it to be.
We are a people who have been freed and who set free.
And, if you are feeling stuck in the faith, if you are feeling as if you do not know what this salvation of Jesus is all about, then ask yourself, “Where are people trapped?” “Where am I trapped?” And, if you ask those questions, you will find Jesus and you will find purpose.
I have a very practical question to ask you. Which of these items sparks a sense of interest in you? Pay close attention to the one that is calling to you:
Good news to the poor.
Release to those held captive.
Sight to those who cannot see spiritually.
Healing to those who are struck physically.
Giving voice to the voiceless and freeing the oppressed.
Forgiveness from debts.
Which one seems to stick with you. Which one do you have more questions about? Which one is God drawing to your attention?
Focus on that one. Write it down. Keep it on your nightstand. Be open to how Jesus desires to keep this particular task of freedom alive by the power of the Holy Spirit through you.
Be set free by Christ, and set free through Christ.