Nothing defines your purpose better than standing up and announcing it in front of everybody you know. Have you ever done that? According to Dr. Luke, Jesus did it in his hometown, at his home church:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, “ (Isaiah 61:1-2, NIV) These were the words Jesus read in Luke 4:16-19 at his home synagogue in Nazareth to proclaim his purpose and begin his public ministry.
Luke’s account of it says, “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He [read from Isaiah 61].” Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, where apparently it was his normal practice to attend synagogue on the Sabbath. He announced his mission to a group who probably found it surprising that an apprentice carpenter would claim to be called to devote his life to fulfilling the word of God.
As the eldest son in Mary’s house after the death of Joseph (sometime after Jesus was 12), he had probably been fulfilling his obligation of working to take care of his mother, brothers and sisters. He was undoubtedly part of the village landscape, and people there were familiar with him. I’m sure most of them assumed they knew what his station in life would be. But things had recently changed.
He had been baptized by John the Baptist and allowed his connection to the Spirit of God to go public. He had been tempted by Satan in the wilderness and had offered the Word of God as his defense. He had gone and preached to great acclaim in Galilee. Now he began his public ministry with a proclamation from Scripture. He read from Isaiah with conviction and understanding, and his commentary on the meaning of these verses put a stake in the ground about his identity and his purpose.
This was a Good Thing, Right?
So, what happened next? The very people he grew up around tried to stop him! “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way…” (Luke 4:28-30) This somewhat surprising turn of events is really not all that surprising. The people in the village had labeled Jesus, and assumed he would be a tradesman like Joseph before him. Their culture was not ready for such radical change, and Jesus’ announcement scared and intimidated them.
He announced he had a mission from God, so they suddenly saw him differently and treated him differently. But wait, you say, that doesn’t happen in our enlightened and tolerant culture! Hmm… why does the media follow the Kardashians and the Jenner’s but ignore all the good things that happen through every church in America each week? Why does it criticize Tim Tebow so much but celebrate the shallow and self-absorbed? Why was Martin Luther King killed for proclaiming a dream? If you ever proclaim a godly purpose, there are plenty of dream-killers ready to halt your progress.
What’s YOUR Purpose?
Have you ever wondered about God’s purpose for your life? He has one, you know. There is something to be done in the Kingdom of God that only you were created to do. It has nothing to do with worldly assumptions, money, fame, or self-importance; it could very well involve helping the poor, healing those who are broken-hearted, and sharing freedom with those who are bound. It may be that your purpose is connected to whatever your dream is; when you discover that purpose, you may be surprised at who supports you and who tears you down. When you decide to better yourself, to commit yourself to the Lord, to pursue His mission for you, there will be someone around you who wants to keep you down, and wants things to stay the way they are.
The example of Jesus says, “When God calls you to do something, don’t listen to the discouragers, the labelers, the dream killers, the ones who will try to stop you and tear you down. Follow your calling above all else.” If you are surrounded by naysayers and skeptics, pass through the midst of them, and go on your way. The Kingdom of God should always get priority over the labels and assumptions of culture.
A Surprising Announcement
Jesus stood before his friends and chose Isaiah’s scroll,
And there proclaimed his mission from the words upon the roll.
The Spirit is upon me, and my mission has been started
To preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted.
I’ve come to set the captives free! To all of you I say:
The Kingdom of the Lord is now upon you. Here. Today.
The people almost came undone! Why, how could this man be the one?
How has the Kingdom now begun? Isn’t this Joseph and Mary’s son?
They formed an angry mob and tried to throw him from a hill,
But Jesus slipped among them through the power of his will,
Committed to the mission he had come here to fulfill.
His purpose was compelling then; it is compelling still.
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