“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
Jesus heard from the Father that he was His Messiah when he got baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist. Then he knocked around for a few weeks, performing a few early miracles. And then, driven by a desire to know exactly what a Son of God was supposed to do, he spent 40 days fasting in a lonely place and praying. And after he returned from that period of prayer and testing, he walked into a synagogue in Galilee, took the initiative to read the haftorah portion of the week*, and read the passage at the top of this post. “Today,” he told them, “this is fulfilled in your hearing.” (See Luke 4:14-21)
When Jesus was first asked to declare the good news, full of the Holy Spirit and after seeking God earnestly, that’s what he said. So if we want to understand the good news, we need to pay attention to how he described it.
When Jesus is fully present and we have received goodness from his hand:
- Broken hearts are healed
- Captives are liberated
- Prisoners are freed
- People who have been waiting for God’s favor, receive it
- People who have been waiting for God to execute vengeance for them, see it
- Those who have been mourning rejoice instead
- They wear garlands instead of ashes
- Where they used to faint, now they praise
Short version, the good news is that whatever is wrong in the absence of God, gets fixed in His presence.
Now, that’s good news — if it’s true.
And it’s true, but a lot of us have yet to experience it in full. God’s work is seldom instantaneous, it unfolds over time. This is why it is important to persevere in God — because those who wait on the Lord always eventually receive what has been promised. But sometimes it takes Him a while to bring us to the place where we can receive from Him what He wants to give us.
We get only as much of God as we are willing to expose of ourselves to Him. Most of the time we are not ready to draw close to God. We keep ourselves aloof from Him, afraid of what He might demand of us if we get too close. We busy ourselves with distractions and imagine that we already have everything that’s available. Meanwhile, the solution to every need of ours is in Him, and He will make it available to us if we will only draw close to receive it. The absence of an answer is never because God does not want us to have it; it’s always because we’re far away from Him. His will is always “Yes.”
I explain this in more detail in the sermon entitled “The Eternal Yes,” on the sermons page. Give it a listen.
You may be thinking “this is the prosperity gospel,” and that it is too good to be true. You’d be half right. I’m not saying that God wants us all to be as rich as Donald Trump and live in huge houses, but I am saying that whatever we need is available in Him, in proportion to how deeply we are willing to surrender to Him. And yes, it is too good to be true. But it’s true nonetheless.
Just because few of us have drawn close enough to God to receive as much of Him as is available, does not mean it’s not available. It means we have been content with sub-normal Christianity. There’s no virtue in that.
He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, give us all things? (Rom 8:32) If your experience of God has not been like that, you are missing things that are yours by inheritance. Setting right whatever has been wrong is the good news. It is God’s nature to heal what is broken. It is always — always — His will to do so.
Never doubt the goodness of God. Never doubt His will to do good… to you. Instead, set yourself to draw close to God persistently, expecting that the closer you get to Him, the more of His goodness (as well as His truth, His correction, and His cleansing) will be yours.
*Normal synagogue practice would call for a reading from the Torah, followed by a reading from the prophets. The second reading is called the haftorah portion. Any Jewish male who has received bar mitzvah is qualified to read either of these portions. Apparently visitors were invited to speak to the gathering and sometimes to read the haftorah, since both Jesus (Luke 4:16-17) and Paul (Acts 13:14-15) took advantage of this practice.