“To proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,” Luke 4:18 (NABRE).
This text is more apt to evoke images of Civil Rights marches and speeches given in the 1950s/1960s more than a picture of a Middle-Eastern Jewish man at a synagogue a couple thousand years ago. However, as much as the first grouping of images come to mind when reading these lines, so too should the second image of Jesus proclaiming his calling on Earth, as detailed in passage from Luke quoted above.
These verses seem to give way to a newer and deeper understanding of Jesus as a man exemplifying peace and justice. Maybe he becomes a little more three dimensional than before. Ordinarily when asked to think about any story with scenes of Jesus, i remember him doing insane miracles. These could include, but are not limited to, walking on water, casting out demons, turning water into wine, rising from the dead, things that would make for interesting party or reality TV show. But they are not necessarily anything that would cause me to rethink my role as someone attempting to be a follower of Christ.
However, it becomes essential to remember that as much as Jesus did rather odd and peculiar things, they were intentional, purposeful and designed to make people actually stop and react- not just blindly accept. Maybe it’s time to start taking what Jesus said and did a little more literally, particularly in his promotion of peace and justice. He sided constantly with those who are vulnerable in society. I know for myself that it is relatively easy to get swept up into reducing Jesus to just a “nice guy” instead of truly reflecting on how he responded to the needs of the poor and oppressed because that can quickly become a little uncomfortable. When I do start thinking about what Jesus literally did rather than simply writing it off as just “another miracle,” then Jesus gets a little more dangerous than an average “nice guy”. I feel convicted then to branch out of my comfort zone to interact and encounter the world in ways that challenge me to live a more humble and just life.
So who would Jesus be reaching out to in 2017? Who would Jesus identify as oppressed and how would he act in a way that recognizes the difficulty of their situation and respects their personhood? How are we called, based on our strengths, to encounter others in an attitude of promoting peace and justice as exemplified by Christ?