“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners…”Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)
After a year of physical separation and perpetual anxiety, many of us have felt our sense of hope and security fading away. As Christians, we should be among the most hopeful people on earth. Jesus’ reassurance of God’s daily provision in our lives (Matthew 6:25-27) should be sufficient to quell our fears. Yet, I more often relate to the disciples shaking Jesus amidst the storm and pleading, “Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).
In a Lenten sermon by Dr. Jeff Ebert, he noted Isaiah 61 might be the most hopeful passage in all of Scripture. We are given a foretaste of what Jesus will proclaim, when the prophet says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the captives…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
A Christian, derived from the Greek word Christianos, is a “little Christ.” Jesus is The Anointed One, and through our transformation in Baptism, we too, become God’s anointed followers. We inherit the same Spirit to proclaim hope to a broken world.
Jesus knows the task of spreading hope is not an easy one. After spending 40 days in the wilderness tempted to turn away from God, Jesus returns to Nazareth, His childhood home. In Luke’s Gospel, the first words of Jesus’ adult ministry are delivered to publicly affirm Isaiah 61 in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-19). Jesus asserts that He is the fulfillment of the law, and is He then heralded as God’s Son? No, He is scorned, driven out of town, and taken to the top of a hill to be thrown off the cliff (Luke 4:29). Imagine if the Gospel ended there!
As “little Christs,” we are called to offer hope to others. That work is much easier when you have seen the transformative love of Christ in action. For the past 19 years, my hope in the Sovereign Lord has been renewed through regular visits to Amistad Mission in Bolivia. Amistad is a Christian community that raises biological siblings from infancy through young adulthood. These children have experienced abuse and abandonment from a young age and have every reason to be resentful. Yet, their capacity to love feels limitless. As a U.S. visitor entering their home, I am enveloped with hugs and smiling faces that convey their hope and sense of security. They know the Captain of the Storm and are not bent by the winds of struggle and uncertainty.
As much as I would like to be the one sowing hope in these precious children who have endured early traumas, they are the ones who provide sustenance to a materially rich and spiritually poor man. In them, hope produces perseverance and confidence. Their eyes reflect the gaze of the Savior. My worried mind is calmed in their presence, as I think of an old hymn.
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace." (Helen Howarth Lemmel, "The Heavenly Vision," 1922)
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