In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Luke 4: 14-21 and Matthew 25: 31-46
After being released from the wilderness experience of successfully rejecting the devil’s temptations, Jesus returns to his hometown Nazareth. On the Sabbath he enters the synagogue, as was his custom, and he stood up to read from the prophet Isaiah, “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
After his baptism in the Jordan, clearly declared the beloved Son of God from heaven, and being consecrated for sacrificial service in the desert, Jesus reenters the synagogue with a renewed holy confidence. Even though in his hometown he was not valued as anything more than Joseph the carpenter’s son, he was now validated as the fulfillment of a word spoken long before his earthly arrival. And on that day the prophetic word spoken by Isaiah so long before came to fulfillment in Jesus.
Jesus’ mission statement expresses his call to preach good news, proclaiming freedom, recovery, and release to those in bondage to poverty, prison, blindness and oppression. Those who were witnesses of his presence and power would see this made manifest in his life, witness and service to all who will henceforth cross his path. That’s exactly what Jesus does for a three-year period, with his arms outstretched in love. As his disciples see this with their own eyes, Jesus instructs them to do likewise.
By the time he was nearing the end of his earthly ministry, just prior to when he would be handed over to be crucified, Jesus reminds his disciples of their mission statement in the analogy of the separation of the sheep and the goats. The King will call those righteous who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, clothing to the poor, healing to the sick, and liberty to those who are in prison. To all who do not heed this mission will be called goats, and they will be sent away to eternal punishment. But, to the righteous who do as Jesus suggest, they will experience eternal life.
This concise summary of mission is a great starting point for all healthy disciples who long to be in the center of God’s will. To offer the gospel of freedom and joy in Jesus is to invite another to belong to Jesus and in doing so to listen attentively to his voice and live abundantly for his glory. During Lent we will have many opportunities to offer our own outstretched arms of love to others in need of a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. We will come across the hungry, the hurting, and the homeless, and we’ll be faced with the opportunity to offer healing in Jesus’ name. What will you choose?
Behold Jesus In the synagogue as he proclaims his mission; believe firmly in the truth that sets us free; belong to those who pursue Kingdom values; and become a loving disciple with holy determination.