The Gospel is Good News to the Poor

by Catherine McNiel on June 29, 2022

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

—Isaiah 61:1-4

 Did you read the full chapter of Isaiah 61 this morning? If you didn’t, please don’t wait another second. There is so much gospel—so much good news—in these ancient verses. In fact, when Jesus began His ministry (according to Luke’s book) He do so by reading from this very chapter. In me, Jesus was saying, this chapter is fulfilled: the poor have heard good news, the brokenhearted are healed, the captives and prisoners are freed, and all those who mourn have been comforted.

 In other words, this is what God’s kingdom and gospel look like: good news to the poor. We can tell that Jesus was the real thing because the sick and needy were cared for, the sorrowful and oppressed seen and lifted up. That’s what the prophets of old called for, and that’s who Jesus was in the flesh. And, that’s what both the prophets and Jesus called for us to do with our lives too, if we love God.

 Is that what “gospel” looks like to us, today? Does it come with good news for the poor, sick, and oppressed in our actual neighborhoods and communities?

 We’ve already seen this week how the prophets and the Gospels have a lot in common. What the prophets taught the people to do, Jesus did—and taught His followers to do. Now that we’ve reflected on Isaiah 61, it’s amazing to turn to our reading in Matthew 9. After preaching His Sermon on the Mount, after demonstrating His authority over all things by impacting the real lives of real people, Jesus sent His followers to preach the gospel, “the good news of the kingdom.” Of course, Jesus hadn’t died yet, much less resurrected or ascended to Heaven. And yet, Jesus and His followers are proclaiming what Jesus calls the good news, the gospel.

 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38)

 Questions for reflection and discussion: How does Matthew (and Jesus) define “gospel” in this passage? What does it have to do with the good news promised in Isaiah? What does it have to do with what we describe as the gospel? How is it good news for the poor, sick, or oppressed people you know?

 

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