A Rescue Mission
Shortly after Jesus began His ministry, He went to the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth on the Sabbath and stood up to read. The Book of Luke records that He was handed the scroll of Isaiah and, turning to a certain passage, read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” After reading, Jesus closed the book and sat down. Then, with all eyes still fastened on Him, He declared, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:18-19, 21).
Jesus came to this earth with a mission, and we can see that mission outlined in these verses. It was not to set up an earthly kingdom as some were expecting of the Messiah. His mission was to do the will of His Father. It was to preach, to heal, and to deliver. Ultimately, He came to die so we could be set free!
There are elite groups in America known for being able to carry out difficult missions. One of these is the Navy Seals. When an American citizen is taken captive on foreign soil, the Navy Seals are among those called upon to perform a search and rescue operation. For example, in October 2020, Seal Team 6 rescued an American taken hostage in the country of Niger. Another of these elite groups, called the Green Berets, was active during the Vietnam War era. As part of the Army Special Forces, these soldiers were trained to go behind enemy lines and recover downed pilots or rescue prisoners of war. They were prepared to carry out the most dangerous operations at all costs. In some situations, they expected to either be wounded in action or give their lives for the success of the mission. Not to discredit the rest of our military, but the members of the U.S. Special Forces are called when there is a specific mission others cannot do.
Jesus came with a specific mission, and He did not allow anything to deter Him. When He first told the disciples of how He would suffer and die before rising again, Peter tried to rebuke Him. Peter said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” However, Jesus responded, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:22-23). He had a mission! He came to die, to give His life for us as our sacrifice, and He went all the way to Calvary.
The Navy Seals and the Green Berets carry out their duties no matter how difficult or dangerous the assignment. If men can be that dedicated and focused, how much more the Son of God? He set aside His Heavenly authority for us. At any time, He could have called legions of angels to come to His rescue, but He did not. The Creator allowed Himself to be abused and scorned by the created, because He had a mission.
Today, we can be glad nothing deterred Jesus from His purpose. We can still benefit from everything He came to accomplish.
To preach the Gospel
The first part of the mission Jesus came to fulfill was to “preach the Gospel to the poor.” Jesus came to earth bringing good news for all, but not everyone was willing to receive it. Therefore, He preached to a select group of people—the poor in spirit. When people are poor in spirit, they know they have a need, and they are more open to receiving. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, His answer was, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11). His message was to those who were able to recognize their need.
In any church service, there could be some who have never heard the good news that Jesus saves from sin, and they have an obvious need. We never know who is in the mix, but God knows every heart. At the other end of the spectrum, are those of us who have been saved for a long time, and our need to hear the Gospel message may not seem so obvious. However, to grow spiritually, we must continually receive God’s Word into our hearts and apply it to our lives. When we are too satisfied with our current spiritual state, we risk becoming stagnant. May God help us to be needy; the good news is precious to those who are poor in spirit.
To heal the brokenhearted
Jesus also came “to heal the brokenhearted,” including those who are grieved by their sins. We learn from Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” True repentance comes from brokenness. We cannot receive salvation until we can see ourselves as God sees us. We must come to a place where we stop making excuses for our sinful actions and admit, “I am a sinner in need of a Savior.”
That is what the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart when God saved me. I was raised in a Christian home and had a spiritual pedigree. The names of my paternal grandparents were on a plaque at our church, and I saw this every time I walked by. I know what religious pride looks like, but I thank God for a broken spirit. One day a bus driver tried to witness to me by asking if I was saved, and I became defensive. The “lawyer” in me came out and pled my case. I gave the man my credentials. I let him know I was not a heathen; I was raised in the church. I went to Sunday school every Sunday, and we had family devotions. In response, he said, “I didn’t ask you about any of that. I asked if you are saved.” I got the message, and my heart was broken. The Lord caused me to see myself as a sinner in need of a Savior.
God calls us to brokenness, but He does not leave us broken. When we repent of our sins, He forgives us and brings healing to our lives. Before salvation, my Christianity was superficial. This left me with an emptiness in my heart, so when the bus driver invited me to church, I went. During the service, I felt true Holy Ghost conviction for my sins and wept, because I needed Jesus. After the meeting, I went to the front and knelt by the little wooden altar bench and prayed, “Lord, save me!” Jesus came into my heart in a way I never knew was possible. He did something real in my life. He took away my sin and filled the emptiness in my heart with His love.
When we come to God with a broken and contrite heart, He will heal us.
To preach deliverance to captives
Another part of Jesus’ mission was “to preach deliverance to the captives.” Sin has us bound from birth. Adam brought sin into this world, and everyone born since has inherited his sinful nature. The Psalmist said, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Whether we know it or not, we are all in need of a Savior.
In our sinful state, we might look upon someone who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol and think, At least I am in better shape than that person. However, we can be just as bound by less visible sins such as pride or being unwilling to forgive, and God takes all sin seriously.
It is even possible to be a respected church member and be captive to sin. We have heard testimonies from people who were faithful in ushering, singing, or teaching while still in captivity. While some were backslidden, others had never been saved and were ignorant of their spiritual condition. Sometimes, people raised in a church environment have learned to behave like Christians and don’t realize their need for salvation.
No matter our circumstance, God does not want us to remain in captivity—the Holy Spirit is faithful to convict of sin, from the most visible to the hidden, and Jesus paid the price for our redemption.
To set at liberty
I believe that when an American is taken captive in a foreign land, that nation knows that our soldiers will be coming. They don’t know how, they don’t know when, but they know someone is coming to deliver the captives. This is a privilege of being an American citizen, but there is a greater assurance of deliverance that God has given to people of all nations. Not only did Jesus preach deliverance, but He provided it. In Romans 6:23 we read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our sins had led us on a path of eternal separation from God, and the only remedy was a perfect sacrifice. That is why Jesus came—He had to pay the price. Nothing and no one else could fulfill the requirement and satisfy our Holy God. Jesus paid the ransom, taking our sins upon Himself and going to the Cross to “set at liberty them that are bruised.”
What happened in our hearts when we repented of our sins was real. Jesus set us free, but we must do our part to remain free. The Word of God says to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). To continue walking in victory, we must daily submit to God’s authority. The Apostle Paul said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). The devil is subtle. Sometimes small irritations can result in negative thoughts. If we allow these thoughts to continue, we can become accustomed to them, and this can lead to sin. We can get used to walking in our own ways. Therefore, it is important to daily ask God to search our hearts and help us submit to His will.
It is also important to be sensitive to God’s Spirit. When we do or say something that is contrary to God’s will, the Holy Spirit will check our hearts, and we must heed the warning. One time, our Superintendent General and his wife were coming to visit our congregation in Washington D.C., and I began preparing. After I had cleaned one office and started on the second, my watch vibrated and displayed the words, “Take a rest.” It did this because it had been programmed to, but God knows all about us. He knows our makeup, what will tempt us, and when we are in spiritual danger. When the Holy Spirit checks us, we must not ignore it. When we are in conversation and the Spirit says, “Check,” we need to listen. The Bible instructs us in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” I felt fine while cleaning and could have continued, but knew the check was for my own good and stopped. If we will ask the Lord to help us yield to the checks of the Spirit, instead of continuing in our own ways, He will keep us.
The acceptable year of the Lord
Jesus came with a mission, and He has never deviated from it. He came preaching “the acceptable year of the Lord,” meaning the door to salvation was open. That door remains open today. The special forces have been sent—the Holy Spirit is calling the captives to deliverance. He is convicting people of sin to bring them to a place of brokenness where they can say, “I need Jesus.”
If you have not experienced salvation, don’t defend how good you are or list your family credentials. God does not have any grandchildren, only children. Jesus accomplished His mission on the Cross, so you could live in newness of life. While the invitation continues to go out, repent and be set free.
We are living in the last days. Jesus is coming back for His Church, and He gave us a prerequisite. He said it would be a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). That “any such thing” concerns those of us who are saved. These are the things the Holy Spirit brings to our attention with a check. If the Holy Spirit is checking your heart, heed the warning and surrender fully to God’s will. If you do, you will be among those Jesus is looking for upon His return.
We thank God that Jesus came and gave His life a ransom that we might walk in freedom. His mission is still in operation today, and if we will take advantage of it, we can have victory.