Every so often, something or someone comes along that radically transforms the way we think or the way we do things. An event happens, a product is invented, an event transpires, a person is born, and life as we know it is changed forever.
For years and years, if you wanted to talk to someone on the phone, you did it standing next to a device that was on a shelf or hanging on the wall. And if you wanted to walk around while you talked, you had to go buy one crazy, long cord that always got twisted and tangled.
And then at some point in the 1990s, cell phones became mainstream and anyone could own one. And you could almost afford it! You couldn’t talk on it long because it cost you about $100 for 60 minutes of call time. But you were no longer restricted to your house or have to make a call standing in place.
One day, text messaging came about. And we all stayed hitting those buttons multiple times to spell words. “w-h-h-e-e-r-r-r-e-e, a-r-r-r-e-e, y-y-y-o-o-o-u-u” Wait, is there even a question mark on this thing? It was frustrating but we didn’t know any better.
Then in 2007, Steve Jobs took the stage and revealed to us the iPhone. “Ahhhhh!” And even if you don’t own an iPhone, the smart phone industry was radically transformed and the way we communicate has never been the same.
Other events just in my short lifetime have happened that have radically changed the world. I tell my kids about how the airport used to be. When you checked in, they used to ask you those two silly questions, “Have your bags been with you at all times and has anyone asked you to carry anything?” You went through one metal detector. Everyone you knew could walk right up to the gate with you and stand there to watch the plane take off.
But September 11 happened and changed all that. And it didn’t just change how we go through the airport. It changed our perception of security in the US. Before that, we never considered someone attacking us on our own soil. Not so today.
The internet. Vaccinations. Civil Rights. Electricity. World War II. Even, soap. Things that all radically changed how we live. And behind each of these inventions, a person with a desire to change the world in some shape or fashion with an invention or an idea that changed the way we think or live.
But with all the technology, the advancements in science, and the reshaping of the world through geo-political conflict, there is one person who rises to the top of the list of those who radically changed life as we know it forever. And that person is Jesus.
The reason I say that Jesus rises to the top isn’t because I’m a pastor and I’m paid to say that. I say it because of how radically different the world is because he was here. And not only is the world different because he WAS here, it is still changing today because of his presence in the world today.
And because of his impact on history and life as we know it, one of life’s most important questions that we must wrestle with is what will I do with Jesus? We can’t ignore him, hoping he will go away. We can’t refuse to answer thinking a non-answer allows us to escape his influence.
In Luke’s gospel in the New Testament, we read early on a story of Jesus, where he reveals to those around him jut exactly who he was. This story take place in Luke 4 beginning at verse 14.
As Luke tells the story, Jesus returns to Galilee. He is getting a reputation, a good reputation, as a great teacher. He has been teaching in the synagogues, the Jewish places of worship and people are praising him for his teaching.
He returns to his home town of Nazareth. It’s a small town. Everyone knows him. He grew up here. They know his parents. And he is going to the synagogue there. This is his home church. And today, he plans to teach there.
At the synagogue, there was no paid staff or paid pastors. When they would gather to worship, someone would pray. Then someone would get up and read from the law, one of the first five books of the Bible. Then someone would read from the prophets. And today, that someone to read from the prophets is Jesus.
He is handed a scroll. It is the prophet Isaiah. Jesus unrolls the scroll and finds the passage he wishes to read today. His eyes focus in on the passages and he begins to read:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)
As was the custom, Jesus rolls up the scroll and passes it to the attendant. He then sits in his seat. All eyes are on him. “What will he have to say? What will he teach us from Isaiah?” Everyone is on the edge of their seat.
And Jesus speaks. “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He tells them, today, what Isaiah wrote about over 700 years ago, the person Isaiah is talking about, it is me.
And as these words passed his lips, you could here the gasps in the crowd. “What did he just say? Did he say that passage is about him?” “Can he say that?” They were astonished.
Jesus’ Impact – The Message
This event may not have happened at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but Luke places it where he does for a very important reason. As he is about to lay out for us the rest of Jesus’ ministry, he doesn’t want us to miss this point. Jesus changes everything.
The quote from Isaiah reminds the crowd gathered that day that this message will be good news. This good news is an announcement of a new way of doing things. And it is an invitation to be a part of something different.
These people were part of an oppressive religious system. Over 600 laws to follow to “be right with God.” And now Jesus is saying there is something new. And it is good news.
Unfortunately for many, the message has been distorted. It has been changed from good news to good advice. As NT Wright says in his book Simply Good News,
“the good news has subtly changed into good advice: Here’s how to live, they say. Here’s how to pray. Here are techniques for helping you become a better Christian, a better person, a better wife or husband. And in particular, here’s how to make sure you’re on the right track for what happens after death. Take this advice: say this prayer and you’ll be saved. You won’t go to hell; you’ll go to heaven. Here’s how to do it. This is advice, not news. The whole point of advice is to make you do something to get a desired result. Now, there’s nothing wrong with good advice. We all need it. But it isn’t the same thing as news. News is an announcement that something significant has happened.”
And that is exactly what Jesus is saying. The message I am speaking is not advice. It is an announcement. And the announcement is that the Kingdom of God is here. Right now. Today. Am I am inviting you to be a part of it. So step away from trying to live for yourself. Stop trying to find meaning, purpose, salvation from everything else. Salvation is here, right in front of you. And look at the who Jesus is speaking to.
Jesus Impact – The Audience
This message of good news is for the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed. He is first talking to those who physically have these characteristics. The poor. The uneducated, a certain gender, those from a particular family heritage, those in certain jobs, and those with low economic status. Those with no physical sight. Those that were sitting in jail. Those who were victims of oppression.
But it doesn’t end there. We would be wrong to assume that Jesus is only talking about the physical world here. He is talking spiritually as well. Those who are slaves to sin. Those who are spiritually blind. Spiritually poor. Those who desire to know God, desire to be approved by him, but are spending their lives working hard for it. And whether it applies to you physically or spiritually, Jesus says I have come with a message of hope for the world’s troubled people.
And when you think about the words used to describe who this good news is for, it reveals to us the totality of the deliverance that Jesus is bringing. This isn’t partial salvation. It is total salvation. Redeeming every part.
And what was so shocking about what he said was how far reaching his words were. Jesus words of freedom, sight, his words of grace weren’t just for his audience then and there. It was a message of grace for everyone, all people. All of us, every single one of us, can take advantage of the transformation Jesus is offering. And we don’t have to wait for it. When Jesus speaks it, he is telling the audience that it has started right now.
Jesus Impact – The Time
The people of Jesus time were always looking for salvation. And Jesus confirms to them, “What you have been waiting for is here right now and is found in me.” The time for the power of sin to be broken is now. The time for communion with God is now. The time for God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven is now.
It has started and continues on today. The message Jesus preached that day started into motion what we will one day see come to complete fulfillment.
Jesus Impact – The Result
When Isaiah wrote those words over 700 years before Jesus was born, all he could do was speak the message. There wasn’t anything he could do about it. But Jesus, he was the one who could come and radically transform everything.
He did more than just speak about giving sight to the blind. He actually did it. He did more than just talk about setting captives free. He did it. If you continue to Luke’s gospel and the other gospels you will find story after story of people who’s lives were radically transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.
People like Matthew and Zacchaeus, tax collectors who stopped cheating people. Matthew throws a party so all his tax cheating friends a could meet Jesus as well. Zacchaeus gives back what he had stolen. People like Peter who ran away when times got tough, denied Jesus not once, but three times, but was forgiven and restored and foundational in establishing the first church.
Mary Magdalene, possessed by demons, a prostitute, and yet when encountering Jesus experiences healing and freedom and becomes one of the very first people to testify to his resurrection. And we could go on and on, with story after story in the Bible of people who experienced life change.
Jesus Changes Everything
Jesus isn’t saying I will improve your life. He is saying, I will change it. Completely. And Jesus changes everything. From the inside out.
Jesus gave life to many who probably shouldn’t be here. Left to their own devices, they would be dead. He gives purpose to men and women, a greater purpose to live and work than just for ourselves. He takes away the alcoholic’s desire to drink, even though all human wisdom said it can NEVER overcome it. He can take a drugged out kid and in the middle of a drug binge, Jesus can show up and tell that kid that Jesus came to save even him.
He redeems our past. He gives freedom from our addictions. He gives us sight to see salvation where we never thought it possible before. He give us life, full, complete and abundant life.
At Ashworth, Jesus is our first core value. We value Jesus. But more than that. Jesus is my core value. And he is our core value and he is our value because he changes everything.
What will you do with Jesus? Will you allow him to do what he came to do. Set the captives free. Give sight to the blind. Bring freedom to all oppressed. Jesus’ desire it to do just that. He wants to transform your life. That’s the business that he is in. He truly changes everything.