Jesus Proclaims His Mission at the Beginning of His Ministry

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of the one who sent me.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.”

  Jesus, John 6:38, 40

It has been noted that in the light of the New Testament, the remarkable truth is not so much that Jesus is Godlike, but rather that God is actually Christlike.  In light of the New Testament revelation, all who wish to know who God is and what he is like, need look no further than the person of Jesus.  The genius of this aspect of New Testament revelation is that Jesus Christ provides the basis of all imitation of [God].  From our perspective as human beings Jesus becomes the reference point for all genuine knowing, all true loving and all authentic following of God. 

  – Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come 

The Encounter 

 14Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 

 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17The 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 preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
    19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 20Then 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, 21and he began by saying to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Luke 4:14-21

Some Observations

Jesus continues to be led by the Holy Spirit and draws his power from the Spirit as he returns to Galilee after being tempted in the desert.  His wisdom is evident and he is praised for it as he begins teaching in the synagogues in Galilee.

In his teaching, Jesus is making use of his years of study, questioning and learning (his preparation); he is believed to be about 30 in this episode and our first encounter in the temple was when he was 12.  In other words, he has been preparing for 18± years, not just “showing up” now with some clever new ideas.  Wisdom takes time, patience, learning and discipline . . . if for Jesus, how much more for us.  We should be fervent in our desire to learn as we follow Jesus, yet patient in our desire to have “impact.”  As we grow spiritually, God will provide the timing and opportunities in how he seeks to use us.

Jesus returns to his hometown Nazareth and goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath “as was his custom” – Jesus was an observant Jew seeking to spend time in his Father’s house.  There he stands up and reads directly from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 61 verses 1 and 2 in our Bibles).

So far, very similar to his temptation in the desert . . . Jesus is being “led” by the Spirit into various places and circumstances and his words and responses are directly drawn from Scripture.  He is not acting on his own, but rather by the Spirit’s leading, shaped around the words of God.  Our lives should be guided similarly.

Jesus’ use of Isaiah 61 declares his mission as bringing good news where there is brokenness, proclaiming freedom for those held captive, healing and leading people out of oppression . . . all while proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.  Note that Jesus’ first expression of his mission does not focus on getting people to make some behavior modifications.  His first statement of mission is one of offense rather than defense . . . what TO do versus what NOT to do.  Jesus has come to bring healing and liberating change to where there is brokenness, bondage and oppression.  

We will see how sharply this mission contrasts against the teaching of the religious leaders of the day, whose primary focus was legalistic outward obedience to the law and judgment/exclusion of those not making the cut.

Jesus’ statement that, “today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” is hinting at his coming claims of deity, just as he did when he referred to “my Father’s house” when in Jerusalem.  

Jesus’ mission is at its essence redemptive; in following and becoming like Christ, this call should become the center of our mission as well.  We ourselves are redeemed through Christ and our purpose is lovingly participating in God’s redemption and restoration of those around us and the world.  Talk about purpose, that is a beautiful life!

Jesus’ “call” comes directly from Scripture and the leading of the Spirit.  He does not sit around in frustration impatiently waiting for God to mysteriously reveal what his “call is for my life.”  Our call in the macro sense is very clearly revealed in Scripture.  Jesus himself uses Scripture to define his ministry.  This is not to say that we should not be seeking God’s wisdom and guidance through prayer in all the many decisions we face day-to-day.

As we study Jesus’ life, we will see what our lives are to look like in a detailed fashion, presuming we believe that in following him we are to become more like him.


“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.  He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path.  For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.  Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.”

  Proverbs 2:1-11

A Prayer

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.  For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

  Psalm 5:3, 1