Jesus was a practical minister. He held many elements—truth and love, grace and rebuke, spiritual and cultural, religious and political—in tension, because he was God dwelling as a human among humans. He understood the fallenness of our humanity and the responsibility his disciples would have in the new kingdom he was ushering in.
We do not serve a high priest who is far removed and unacquainted with our temptations. We serve a high priest who was tempted in every way, and remained sinless (Heb. 4:14-16). This is why he extends grace to us in our times of need and this is how he prepares us to make disciples.
Making disciples requires three elements of conviction and compassion: We must have a strong desire to share the good news of Jesus. That’s evangelism. We must teach and train people to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and to obey the righteous standards he commands. That’s discipleship. We must equip people to live compassionately and to sacrificially love their neighbors as they love themselves. That’s service.
Jesus covers these elements when he reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and announces his public ministry in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the 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.”
The gospel is good news for the poor—those who are physically impoverished and those who are spiritually bankrupt. The gospel is the good news of freedom for all prisoners—those who are physically bound by enslavement or imprisonment, and those who are enslaved by their own sin and addictions. The gospel is the good news of sight to those who are physically blind and those who are spiritually blind, so they cannot rightly discern spiritual things. The gospel is good news because those who are oppressed can put down their yokes, off-load their burdens and find liberation through Christ, The gospel is good news because Christ has ushered in a new kingdom and pronounced the year of the Lord’s favor now.
As believers, we are called to evangelize, to make disciples and to serve now. Today, we are living in what scholars refer to as the “now-and-not-yet” kingdom of God. Jesus has made it possible for us to reflect God’s original desire for his creation. In God’s kingdom, there was no division and there was no sin. Sin made us all poor prisoners who were blind and oppressed, but Christ has redeemed us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace, we can now choose to live as citizens of the new kingdom Christ has ushered in.
In this kingdom, we are required to work—not out of obligation but rather out of our love for God, out of our gratitude for his choosing us, and because we look forward with a blessed hope to the “not-yet” kingdom that is to come. Our kingdom work is to make disciples who intentionally evangelize, make disciples and serve God and others. This is the way we model and honor Jesus, and proclaim that now is always the year of the Lord’s favor.
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is the visionary founder of Leadership LINKS Inc. and is the author of Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship.