What is the Gospel? Who are the Poor?

Luke 4:18-19 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”(NKJV)

I love those moments when I’m reflecting on a beloved and familiar passage like this and suddenly a whole new way of seeing it emerges. I’ve always viewed this passage as a list of SIX things Jesus was anointed to do. The list looked like this.

Jesus is anointed to:
1. Preach the gospel to the poor
2. Heal the broken hearted
3. Proclaim liberty to the captives
4. Proclaim recovery of sight to the blind
5. Set at liberty those who are oppressed
6. Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord

Because I’ve seen this passage organized in my head in this manner, I’ve seen “preach the gospel to the poor” as being a distinct item from the following five items. Because of this, I’ve simply read into the word “preach the gospel” my contemporary understanding and use of this phrase and thought of it in terms of evangelism – proclaiming the good news of the salvation provided through the death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. I don’t think this actually works here as an interpretation of that passage for the simple reason that he had not yet died, risen or ascended. If “preach the gospel to the poor” had referred to a proclamation of that particular good news, then in no way could Jesus have legitimately claimed, at that point, that this had been fulfilled.

Today it occured to me that the text actually lends itself to a different reading. Jesus is here speaking of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in his life. The Spirit has come upon Jesus for a specific reason – to preach the gospel to the poor. He then proceeds to unpack exactly what this means. The following statements give us specific insight into what the gospel is and who we should understand to be poor. “He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” is a summary statement. “He has sent me to…” begins an explanation of exactly what this means.

Who are the poor Jesus has been anointed to preach good news to?
1. The broken hearted
2. The captives (those who are conquered)
3. The blind
4. The oppressed (those who are crushed)

What is the good news that Jesus is anointed to preach to the broken hearted, captives, blind and oppressed?
1. Healing
2. Deliverance / Liberation
3. Sight
4. Freedom / Healing

The passage then closes with another summary statement – “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” – a phrase that hints at the year of Jubilee (Lev 25:10), where all things would be restored, a 50 year practice that pointed toward the coming Messiah.

Are we preaching good news to the poor?


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