We know very little of Jesus’ childhood. We do know that at the age of twelve he went to Jerusalem with his mother and Joseph. On the trip home, Jesus’ parents returned to Jerusalem to find him in the temple talking to the theologians. His wisdom, coming from one so young, surprised everyone.
Jesus continued to work in Joseph’s carpenter shop at Nazareth and went to the synagogue each Sabbath. Not having any faith clergy; the man in charge simply selected a leader from among those in attendance that day. The people liked Jesus to lead them, because he could interpret the scriptures in a very real way, and the people would be very blessed on that day.
On this particular day, Jesus spoke these prophetic words from Isaiah 61 telling them that he is the Messiah. He was preparing them to receive his message of salvation. “The Spirit of the Lord . . . has anointed me to preach good news.” But they could not accept his words and were so angry that they threw him not only out of the synagogue, but also out of town and wanted to kill him.
Many of the people believed in life after death, for it was part of their Jewish confession. But they could not understand the good news that the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life is only through Jesus. Those who trust in him as their Savior and Lord will live forever in the kingdom of God.
When Jesus said he was sent to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners,” he was speaking about all of us who are spiritual captives. We have sins that control us and from which we are not able to free ourselves. Jesus came to live in our hearts, so we could then, for example, love those whom we have hated.
I have told this story from my youth before, but I wish to tell it again today. I was acquainted with two grown men Ð church men Ð who hated one another. For years they never spoke to one another. Then one day one of them became sick and was dying. The other one went to his hospital room, knelt down by his bedside and said, “I have been a fool! I hated you. But I have come to tell you today that I love you, and I hope you will love me too.” Those two grown men Ð in their 60s Ð embraced one another and were freed from the element of hatred that held them captive for so long.
That is what can happen when Jesus gets hold of a man’s heart. He came to give us freedom from our sin. We can give him any of our cares, and he will take care of them.
Jesus also said he came to bring recovery of sight for the blind. Our world is filled with marvelous people, and yet we find so much wrong with it. However, when we look at it through the eyes of Jesus Christ, we see things in an entirely different light.
Shortly after Christmas, we were visited by our grandson and his wife, who brought along their new baby, our great-grandson. This little child was busily crawling around, giggling, and doing his own thing. As I sat there watching him, I thought about the life that is ahead of him. I pray to God that he will have a good life, become employed in a meaningful occupation, and do much good for people. But most importantly, I pray he will live and die as one of Jesus’ own and do great things for the kingdom of God.
If Jesus were not part of my life, my desires for him might only be that he become a good student, athlete, musician, or friend who helps others by making this world a better place in which to live. I do desire these things for him, but I also know that he can only accomplish them in Christ. That is seeing him through the eyes of Jesus Christ, and it is what Jesus meant when he said he had come to bring sight to the blind.
Jesus came to bring release to the oppressed. Many people in our world today are oppressed, for life is not a bowl of cherries and we have many heavy hours. But Jesus comes to lift us us. He is our promised Messiah. When he walks by our side, we under-stand his words, “I have come to usher in the year of the Lord’s favor.” He promises, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The people in Jesus’ day in Nazareth spoke well of him because he was a great teacher, but they didn’t want to hear that, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, at the end of the day when we are tired and heavy laden, we give those cares to him and receive rest for our weary souls. Every eye was on Jesus in his hometown. We don’t know why the people renounced him and even tried to kill him, but they did.
This was the beginning of Jesus’ three-year ministry finally ending in Pontius Pilate’s court and on the cross of Calvary. But he rose from his tomb on the third day with the promise that he is coming once more.
Through the years I was a pastor, working in service clubs and various committees, playing on the golf course, people talked with me about Jesus’ ethics. But when I told them that Jesus is more than a great moral influence, he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world and he can empower us, they sometimes said, “I can accept him as a great teacher, but nothing more.”
That, however, is not enough, for if we stop there, we have rejected him and are lost. He holds out his arms to us, but if we die without him, he will turn from us.
The first question I would ask a person in counseling was about their relationship with Jesus Christ, for it was the basis upon which I had to counsel. I knew that counseling alone is not enough to help one get over his short comings. Even Alcohol Anonymous teaches that in order to overcome alcohol addiction, one must have a higher power Ð Jesus. When we lean on that power, great things can happen. Marriages could be changed, young people could be raised in a different way.
In many cases, we can sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and say we adore him, but he is not really our friend. The basis of the Christian faith is accepting him as the God Incarnate.
What about you? Who is Jesus in your life? Is he simply a great teacher or is he the One you really count on. His teachings are very important, but he has come to give you life everlasting. It is the joy of his heart, and he wants that joy to be in your heart.
As our government leaders seek to solve the serious problems of today, unless they look to Jesus for the answers, they simply won’t have power enough to find the solutions. And so the problems will continue.
The Savior still stands by our side, as our Redeemer/Counselor. While many claim him as their Savior and Lord, many others accept him as a great teacher only and not welcome in any greater sense.
Grant in this new year, that we may take a little different look at Jesus and see all he has to offer, not only to the people Nazareth of old, but also to ourselves.