Jesus’ First Sermon (And Why It Matters)

Part I of our series on Ransoming the Captive

If you like to put bookmarks in your Bible, you may want to stick one at Luke 4:16-21:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16–21, ESV)

So there you go: Jesus’ first sermon. His first public speech. The initial announcement of his ministry. And what was front and center in that announcement and in that ministry?

Ransoming Captives.

Given the way Jesus highlights the topic, then, it should be no surprise that for the first eighteen centuries of the church’s existence, the Work of Mercy of ransoming the captive in Jesus’ name was front and center in the church’s practice as well.

And, to be real clear about it (and to telegraph the punch of where we’re going this month):

For the first eighteen centuries of the church’s existence, ransoming the captive in Jesus’ name meant literally ransoming literal captives

In other words, the Work of Mercy of ransoming the captives is a whole life Work. It’s spiritual, to be sure, but it doesn’t stop there. Because the human being is more than spirit, and captivity is always more than spiritual. Ransoming is a spirit-soul-body activity, and I think we’ll be surprised to learn how seriously not only Jesus but the whole church took each dimension of that Work.

Ransoming the captive means the expensive day-to-day function of redeeming, or buying back, individuals taken captive by their enemies through war or kidnapping or imprisonment.

In the ancient world, families ransomed captive family members, armies ransomed captive soldiers, and whole nations ransomed their citizens.

And for eighteen centuries, the church ransomed its people, too.  This month we’re going to see how and why, and how it all connects right back to that first sermon that Jesus ever preached, and to Jesus’ ransoming of each of us.

We’ll start that in the next blog post.

In the meantime, answer this: what do you think ransoming the captive looks like for the church today?  What about for you individually?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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13 Responses to Jesus’ First Sermon (And Why It Matters)

  1. Jim Lewis says:

    In late 1989 I “escaped” from LA to beautiful northern Idaho. It was paradise. And, it lasted six weeks. As I drove the U-Haul back to LA, Luke 4:18-19 weighed heavily on my heart. It brought tears to my eyes. The drive to LA was defining of my service in the Kingdom. I wasn’t spiritual or smart enough to figure it out. God graciously promoted me to skidrow downtown to the Los Angeles Mission. It was a new idea of paradise…one with the opportunity to captives set free in spirit, soul and body.
    Frequently we hear sermons on the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20). We believe and obey the Great Commission; however, I believe it is to be balanced with the rescue mission of Jesus in Luke 4:16-21 with the specifics provided in Matthew 25:31-46.

  2. Pingback: Myth: Jesus Came to Pay The Ransom for All People | Rev. Eric Foley

  3. Pingback: Really Amazed « Afflicted 4 Christ

  4. Lamar says:

    Wouldn’t Mark 1:14-15 be Jesus’ first sermon? A message of repentance.

  5. James Alexander Lano says:

    Man how i love this, it Tell’s us what we are to be doing mentor go to the dark and bring light. I say mentor because that’s how we win souls for the kingdom. It takes time spent with someone to show them change, show them a different life than what they have been raised up in. Show them true meaning, show them the love of christ Jesus. Amen.

  6. Yes I read part 1 on your jubilee series can you email me the rest?

  7. Munda Squire says:

    Yes, it does seem his first sermon was about social justice. We need to keep that in mind today anot make Jesus’s teachings just about the next life, but making a better, fairer, more just world in this one Thank you for pointing that out.

    • tseongyosa says:

      Hello Munda,
      Thank you for your heart to mirror God in the here and now, not just in the future.
      One thing we have learned about mirroring God through ransoming the captives that is surprising to us is that many mature persecuted Christians want to stay in their areas despite persecution, believing that God has called them there.
      In fact, it is they who do a lot of ransoming!
      What we have learned from them is that ransoming is not about improving the world, but mirroring God’s character, since He has ransomed us, even when we were his enemies (see Romans 6:5-10)

  8. Bonifacio Sosing says:

    Thank you so much for an important issue you have made. Indeed this is very helpful for me as I prepare to do a sermon for Sunday. May the Lord continually use you to help others in the ministry seeking for a balanced insights from the word of God guarding the tendency of being derailed in the truth.
    Thank you sir.

    • tseongyosa says:

      Thank you for being open to the Spirit helping you to keep in step with Him, whether through us our otherwise. Please send us your sermon, if you plan to record it!

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