The gospel as preached by Jesus was the announcement of a momentous event that would change the course of the world forever. The gospel is revolutionary in the truest sense. The event at its centre was the coming of God’s kingdom to earth, with Jesus as its undisputed King. It can be summarised in one profound affirmation:
JESUS IS LORD!
In today’s devotion, we will look at Christ’s stunning gospel announcement in Galilee in 28AD. We will think through its profound implications for the world, as well the lives of those who accept Jesus as their King.
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.
A staggering broadcast
To grasp the potency of the gospel, we must look to the chief gospeller himself, Jesus of Nazareth. That day in AD 28, in his home town, Jesus broadcast the momentous gospel that God’s kingdom had come to earth. Most stunning of all was his radical commentary in lieu of a sermon,
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
No ordinary Bible reading
This was no ordinary Bible reading from Isaiah 61:1-2. It also echoed the 700-year old prophecies of Isaiah 58:6 and 42:7, that God’s anointed Servant would “untie the cords of the yoke” and “release from the dungeon those sitting in darkness.” What visceral images of the Messiah’s redemptive power! The Jews who heard Jesus’s reading would have been familiar with their history: how Yahweh had made a way for them through the Red Sea, leaving their Egyptian slave drivers to lie at the bottom of the sea, “never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick” (Isa 43:17).
No ordinary claim
Jesus was making an unmistakable declaration that he was the promised Messiah ushering in a new kingdom: a new dawn of freedom, forgiveness and restoration for the poor and the blind, the oppressed and captives. He was the liberator of his people held in dark dungeons of exile far from home.
“The year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:19) is an allusion to Israel’s 50-year Jubilee, when all debts were cancelled and slaves were freed (Lev 25:8-55). The poor were given a fresh start with a clear slate. “Favour” is the Greek word dekton, which links with “being accepted”. The announcement clearly suggested that Jesus would make sinful people acceptable to God and break the chains of sin. The Jews understood this language of redemption clearly and would have had no doubt that Jesus was pointing to himself as the great Deliverer.
The time is now!
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus proclaims the good news of God, “The time has come. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15).
But instead of accepting the gospel as good news, it caused great offence to those who did not believe the prophet from next door (Luke 4:28-29), was God’s anointed king (John 8:46-47). Jesus’s claim to be Messiah and Yahweh himself was the ultimate blasphemy for them. It was this stunning confession that ultimately got Jesus condemned by the Jewish rulers, and crucified (Mark 14:62; 63). It still offends today, as human rebels want to establish their own kingdoms. Apart from being an unambiguous declaration of kingship, it was also a declaration of war.
Jesus bound the strong man
We live in a world at war. The enemy of the King is Satan, the ruler of this world since Genesis 3. In Jesus’ own words, he is the murderer from the beginning, a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44-45). He has held creation and its occupants in captivity to sin, death and brokenness ever since Adam and Eve chose to obey the cunning serpent instead of God. But as far back as Genesis 3:15, God promised that one of Eve’s descendants would crush the devil’s head. Jesus came to do just exactly that.
He started his ministry by driving out a demon (Mark 1:25-26). When accused of working with Satan, Jesus explained that he came to bind the strong man (Satan) so that he, the stronger man, could plunder the strong man’s house (Mark 3:27). Jesus clearly taught that he would judge the ruler of this world and recover what Satan had robbed. But instead of doing it with a spectacle of greatness, Jesus bound the “strong man” when he became a “servant” and died on the cross.
The cross is the bedrock of Christ’s reign
In what seemed like the ultimate defeat and humiliation, Jesus sacrificed his life on a Roman cross, in the greatest miscarriage of human justice, to establish his reign on earth. It is scandalous that the all-powerful King of the universe should die for his rebellious people, but this is what grace is. Paul says, “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:13-15). The great defeat was the ultimate triumph.
On the basis of his obedience to God, even to the point of death, Jesus bound the “strong man”, Satan himself. Jesus bought us forgiveness and life by obeying God instead of listening to Satan and grasping onto power for himself.
On the cross Jesus reversed the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, when they obeyed the serpent and brought death. When Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, He resisted the enemy because his kingdom was not of this world. Jesus knew that he had to die to redeem spiritual captives (Luke 4:5; 6; 7; 8). “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-33.) When Jesus returns as King and Judge, he comes to finally destroy Satan and his demons (Rev 20:2; 9-10), and to take his people home.
Infusing the gospel of the kingdom
“Make your bed!” This is the most famous rule of Jordan Peterson’s bestselling 12 Rules for Life –An antidote to chaos. It is another way of saying that before we try to fix others or the world around us, we should attend to the brokenness inside us. In other words, set your own house in order before criticising the world, and start with the small things.
It is the same for the gospel. Before Christians can DIFFUSE the world with the fragrance of the gospel (the subject of next week’s devotion), the gospel must first INFUSE our own hearts and minds. It is easy to say that Jesus is King and his kingdom has come to earth, but quite another thing to think and live with this mindset when assaulted by the daily struggles of life.
I can hear you say, “What practical difference can the Kingdom Gospel make to my life today? Isn’t redemption just about going to heaven one day?” Let me try to convince you that it makes all the difference in the world– right now!
Time to bear arms!
Right now, in this world, every Christian is at war. We are in a cosmic war on the side of Christ’s Kingdom against Satan’s kingdom. As the King’s recruits, each of us is called up to serve and bear arms (Eph 6:12)! There is no “peace in our time” even if final victory is certain. There is also no neutral territory. The kingdom of Self is just another province of the kingdom of Satan.
Most of this war is fought on the turf of our hearts. Our enemy is tough and we may get injured on the messy battlefield of life. But if the gospel is a life-saving, health-infusing drip, we need the constant trickle of God’s word into our broken lives to remind us of the truth that we have been set free. Free to serve, free to fight and free to live as the King’s redeemed people (Gal 5:13). Sometimes this drip may be akin to chemotherapy, which destroys the toxic lies of Satan and our sinful nature with painful side effects. But only if the light of Christ the King reigns in our inner world, will we reflect his light in our households, communities, nations and the world.
Let me give three concrete examples of how to infuse the gospel of Christ’s Kingdom in our lives:
1. Resisting dark feelings
Every time you fight feelings of anxiety, hopelessness or shame using the word of God (Romans 8:1), thinking on his promises and lovely things (Phil 4:8), you are standing against the Kingdom of darkness. Every time you turn your eyes on Jesus the King, instead of bowing to your feelings, Jesus is reigning in your heart (Ps 42:11). Click on Lily Million’s beautiful rendition of the classic song “Turn your eyes upon Jesus”, and fight to live the lyrics.
2. Resisting temptation
Every time you pray against temptation to lust, gossip, be bitter, take revenge, wallow in self pity or criticise, you are choking the power of Satan over you (Eph 4:26-27). When you oppose an addiction or self harm, or when you flee from evil, you are standing firm against the yoke of slavery. You are living as a free person, not entangled by sin (Gal 5:1). Every time you submit yourself to the King and resist the devil, your enemy flees from you (James 4:7). You were not freed by Jesus to remain a captive to the enemy, for “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
3. Resisting disorder
When you forgive, act as a peacemaker, or create order out of chaos in your home, you are agreeing with Jesus’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus is reigning in the small slither of the world you call home.
Before you can diffuse the gospel’s fragrance to the world, Jesus must first reign as King in your own life.
Live it out!
Spiritual blindness and illusions of goodness are much more dangerous than physical shackles or cataracts on the eyes. Jesus gives sight to the blind and preaches good news to the “poor”—those that know they need him. Is your heart like a beggar’s? Do you find it easy to submit and depend on Jesus as King?
If you are not sure you are part of Christ’s Kingdom, this is a matter to be settled! If Jesus is who He claimed to be, he requires a personal response to his gospel (Mark 1:14-15). I implore you to read one of the New Testament Gospels to get a firsthand account of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many were astonished at his teaching and even demons recognized Jesus as “the Holy one of God,” (Mark 1:24), but being part of his Kingdom means bowing the knee to the King.
Are you bearing arms and fighting for the Kingdom of light in your inner world? What daily habits might you consider to ensure the drip of the Kingdom gospel infuses your bloodstream?
Pray Colossians 2:13-15:
Father, today we turn our eyes on your Son, Jesus, who has brought us from the kingdom of death into the kingdom of life. Thank you for freeing us from the chains of sin and death. Thank you that we are forgiven and free indeed. Thank you that every shameful thing we think, say or do has been nailed to the cross and can never rise up to condemn us. Help us, by your Spirit, to fight against the darkness within us and stand firm in our freedom. We praise you as the victorious King. Help us to live as ambassadors of your kingdom in our hearts and homes.
In the name of the king of Kings, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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