Releasing the captives

Under the cover of darkness and utilizing stealth technologies, a couple of Black Hawk helicopters approach a political prisoner compound. Deploying with rapid descent a team of highly specialized soldiers drop into the compound neutralizing opposing forces. The prisoners suddenly realize they are being rescued. The thought of release flooding their minds quickly evolves into experiencing good news.

Such storylines comprise action filled cinematic drama. The New Testament recounts a story no less dramatic and exquisitely more applicable to each of our lives. Why? Because it is an historical story revealing good news for our lives. The good news of the kingdom is more than just a story about God making forgiveness possible. It announces the complete triumph of God’s power through Christ.

Nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth walked into his hometown synagogue at Nazareth. Luke tells us the scroll of Isaiah was handed to him. Jesus searched for a particular text. Finding it he read:

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 release to the captives
and the regaining of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lords favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

In reading this text Jesus foretold the nature of his ministry. It would be characterized by proclaiming release and setting free the oppressed. In word and deed Jesus would reveal the good news of the kingdom.

He immediately set to work. In Capernaum Jesus encountered a man dominated by an unclean spirit. With just a word Jesus liberated him. The people responded by praising God. They recognized the power and authority at work within Jesus.

After releasing Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever, Jesus continued to liberate people from all sorts of diseases and unclean spirits. His Galilean ministry would be characterized by miracles of healing and casting out demons.

What did all of this powerful activity mean? Jesus provided a succinct answer.

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and conquers him, he takes away the first man’s armor on which the man relied and divides up his plunder” (Luke 11:21-22).

Satan had used his tools to bind and inflict humanity. Jesus, however, had come onto the scene attacking Satan’s work by the more powerful authority of God. In Jesus’ person the reign of God was overrunning evil, thereby releasing those oppressed by Satan’s work (Luke 11:20).

Liberty did not just come in the form of physical healing and exorcism. One early event in Jesus’ ministry underscores this truth. Jesus had watched faith in action as a group of friends tore up a roof to lower their friend before him. Jesus chose to exercise the authority of God to release this paralyzed man from his sins. Then, in order to mercifully teach the skeptical and scandalized onlookers that he did indeed wield the power to forgive, Jesus also freed the paralyzed man from his paralysis (Luke 5:17-26).

Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8). While our thoughts about salvation might tend to limit themselves to the spiritual realm, Luke used the word “save” to describe how Jesus released people from all of Satan’s inflictions whether physical, mental, spiritual or even death (Luke 7:48-50; 8:36,48,50; 17:19; 18:42; 19:10). Modern translations will often obscure this detail by rendering the original word for save with the language of being healed.

Significantly, after Jesus’ first flourish of exorcisms and healing various illnesses Jesus departed the vicinity of Capernaum saying, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).

The point is God’s power is exhaustive. God can release people from every form of affliction that evil might wield. The kingdom of God is good news!

When God’s reign was breaking into history under the lordship of Christ, God confirmed the reality of the kingdom by visibly triumphing over every type of bondage evil might muster. Power accompanied the gospel proclamation confirming its message. This is not to say that every person was healed, as even Paul’s example demonstrates (2 Corinthians 12:7). Rather, these exorcisms and healings confirmed the kingdom of God’s arrival.

With Jesus’ death and resurrection, the kingdom’s beachhead was firmly established. Under the power of the Spirit, the apostles and other early disciples would carry the mission forward.

Today, Jesus’ good news promises to all who will rely upon him freedom from sin. Yet, the day is coming when all of Satan’s tools will be permanently destroyed. The last weapon of the enemy to be abolished will be death. Then the Son will hand over the kingdom to the Father.

No wonder the early church proclaimed the kingdom of God (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23). Through Christ, God releases us and will liberate us from all of the effects of the evil one. The kingdom of God is good news!

The first article in this series was: Thy Kingdom Come – The Synoptic Gospels’ Perspective

The next article in this series is: God’s Kingdom Is Not New

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