The Messiah's Mandate

Isaiah 61 contains what has been called the “Messiah’s Mandate.” According to some, in the first century, it was customary for whoever read the Scripture on Sabbath to be seated and to teach while seated. In fact, Jewish synagogues kept a teacher’s chair on the platform for that purpose.

Some scholars also indicate that an empty chair also sat on the platform. This chair was known as the Messiah’s chair. Nobody was allowed to sit in this chair!  Jewish people believed that when the Messiah arrived, he would show up at the synagogue, he would read the Messiah’s mandate contained in Isaiah 61, and then, sit down in the Messiah’s Chair.

Luke 4 contains the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. It takes place right after Jesus was baptized in water and right after He was tempted in the wilderness.  On the heels of both these events, Jesus marched straight out the desert into His hometown synagogue. “Somehow” he was scheduled to be the guest rabbi for the “devotional” that particular Sabbath.

The leader of the synagogue handed Jesus the scroll of Isaiah. Jesus knew exactly what he wanted to read. He unrolled the scroll until he came to Isaiah 61 — the “Messiah’s Mandate” and began to read with authority…

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to 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, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations." —Isaiah 61:1-4 (Cf Lk 4:16-21)

If you’ve ever wanted to know God’s purpose and plan for the church, these verses describe what ministry is supposed to look like!  Keep in mind, this is the “Messiah’s Mandate”.  Jesus is giving us a glimpse of His mission. 

But this is not only the mission and mandate of Jesus, this is the mission and mandate of Jesus’ church.

Evidently, Jesus didn’t follow the customary habit and sit down before he read.  He read the mandate, rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the synagogue leader and then sat down in the Messiah’s Chair and said, “You just witnessed Scripture become history, because the Scripture you just heard and I just read has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:20-21).

If you’ve ever wondered who Jesus came for, it’s announced in Isaiah 61. Jesus came for the POOR, the BROKENHEARTED, the CAPTIVES, the OPPRESSED, people in PRISON, people in PRISONS of OPPRESSION, those who MOURN and those who GRIEVE. Those who feel like there’s nothing left of their life but ASHES and those that struggle with stuff like DESPAIR, REGRET and DESPERATION.

Do any of those apply to you?

Isaiah 61 also tells us what Jesus came to do: bring good news, heal and bind up, release, set free, comfort, provide for, bestow upon and give crowns of beauty for those who have only ashes, give joy to those whose life has been defined by mourning, and, give you a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Have you ever felt like you just didn’t quite fit in?

Then you’re exactly the kind of person Jesus came for!

Jesus came to preach good news to people the world saw and still sees as insignificant and complete lost causes.  He came to preach good news to people the world completely ignores.

1 Corinthians 1:28 describes it like this: “God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’?” (MSG)

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor —Isaiah 61:1

The word for “poor” describes someone who is destitute of wealth, influence, position or honor.  We would use the word outcast.

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…” – Isaiah 61:1

The word “brokenhearted” means “broken in pieces,” “shattered” or “crushed.”  It’s a pretty comprehensive word that refers to about any kind of brokenness. When the Bible talks about “healing the broken hearted,” this isn’t a promise to a group of people who were having a “bad day” or going through a “rough patch.”  It’s a description of a life-changing, gut-wrenching, soul-defining experience that leaves a person completely obliterated and devastated. 

“To proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” (Isaiah 61:1)

This is a reference is to “prisoners of war.” It was originally a promise to people in exile. But, by looking at Luke 4, we know that it’s also a promise to people in bondage to anything — money, sex, lust, pride, hate, self-defeating habits, some persistent sin, you name it…

I love how this phrase reads in The Amplified Bible. It reads, “To proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives and freedom to prisoners…” —Isaiah 61:1b AMP

Jesus came to put broken things back together. 

If you follow Him, that’s your ministry too!