Christ's Method of Emancipation
Luke 4:18-22
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted…

How strangely Christ comported Himself! The Jewish people were at that time living under one of the worst forms of Roman despotism, and there was a universal desire all over Palestine that the land should be emancipated; yet He never said one word to that effect, or performed one act towards that purpose. The prisons of Judea were crowded, to be emptied by the executioner, and hundreds of thousands were lying in hopeless darkness; yet we do not hear of Him taking up a single case. There was slavery, with all its cursed attendant influences, spread through the civilized world; yet in all our Lord's discourses we do not find a single word of reference to this condition of affairs. When He died there was not one prison less in the land, nor one prisoner; there had been no casting away of chains or manacles, and the black darkness of the people had not been lightened. Nor did His apostles, when they took up His work after Him, disturb the order of society, or revolutionize government by the sword. On the contrary, they enjoin most explicitly, " Obey the magistrates; obey the powers that be; obey the laws that are meant for good, however badly they may be administered." And so men sometimes say that Christ did nothing at all, that He came on a fool's errand. But, remember, there are different ways of doing the same thing. Christ came to raise the human race, to develop it one step higher, to construct kingdoms, establish arts, rear manufactories, elevate knowledge — to make men happier, truer, more perfect everywhere. He came to do this, not by working outwardly, but by working inwardly. He did not come to found new institutions, or to overturn old institutions. He came to produce such a state of heart in man throughout the whole race, that the unavoidable outworkings of this new power would be Ultimately to change all institutions and redeem the world from animalism, crime, and oppression. Look at this internal working of Christ. He deals with men, not in the mass, but one by one; and He deals with the moral sentiments, subjecting all the others to them. The whole order inside a man is changed by the influence of Christianity from lower to higher, from flesh-man to spirit-man. The sovereign and central force employed in this transformation is love. Christ undertakes to reconstruct the dispositions of men by bringing into supreme agency this transcendent love.

1. Christ's gospel was a more perfect disclosure of the great natural law as applied to men than had ever been understood, or is understood to-day. There is an unused principle in the human soul which, brought out by the stimulus of the Divine afflatus, can cleanse the whole lower nature of man and deaden the passions, not by direct attack, but by giving principle and authority to their opposites, and shape to the inspiration-the central principle — love. It was there before Christ came, only men did not know it; and so, until brought out by Christ, it was a dead thing. He has put life into it, and through it into men.

2. Christianity never has been, and never can be, contained wholly in the New Testament. The gospel is only a hint and a guide to a higher nature, which needs to be developed. If I take a handful of wheat from my granary, there is a promise of a hundred bushels in it — only a promise, however. It must be sown before the promise can be realized. So with the gospel. Everything of knowledge that tends to the elevation of the human family is an unfolding of Christianity. If there is anything good for man, capable of reconstructing his nature, it is part and parcel of that human nature which is broader than the earth and deeper than eternity; it is part of that Divine nature by which a man is raised up to the glorious florescence of manhood and carried up to the angels; and I hold and rejoice in everything that develops man, and assists in the building of the new world.

3. The progress of this new kingdom has been very much hindered by the materializing influences of man.

(1) The incarnation of spiritual forces in outward institutions. Men are always apt to pay more attention to the form than to the spiritual reality it embodies.

(2) The substitution of ideas for forces. What is being a Christian but to be the embodiment of tender-heartedness, generosity, self-denial, self-sacrifice — a desire for the welfare of others, even though at the expense of your own? What is Christianity, if not this? Names are nothing; being is everything. The power of the gospel is the promulgation of dispositions. It is the heart-life. The heart wears the crown, ,and the intellect is its servant, walking behind it, asking what it shall and shall not do.

(3) The substitution of worship for morality. How can a man who is living in sin love God? How can a man be a partaker of the love of peace and joy if he has not the spirit of long-suffering, gentleness, forgiveness, within him? Morality is God's method when developed to the uttermost. Men will not be accepted for being so obsequious to God, while they remain indifferent to their fellows.

(4) The substitution of justice for Divine love. When we can open spring flowers by spring frosts, when we can ripen summer fruits by summer thunder-storms, and bring tranquillity by tempests, then you may by rigour and threat have God's work in the soul — God's humility, love, patience, self-sacrifice, forbearance, temperance. We hardly know our God under such doctrine. Oh, Sun of Righteousness! Thou art not known by the tempest, nor by the earthquake, but by-the still, small voice — love; and religious truth will never be thoroughly understood until men are transformed into love, with that system which enthrones God as the universal cause, who knows how to suffer most because He loves.

4. The road to liberty is a very simple one. Once change the unit and you change the sum; begin with changing individuals, and you transform local public sentiment. Laws, customs, and institutions must take on the same form. No royal road to liberty, largeness, and freedom, except that which comes from the perfection and exaltation of human nature; no true nobility until mankind touch mankind, neighbourhood neighbourhood, nation nation. We are scattered here and there. When are we to collect in communities like bands of Christian graces all attuned to each other, working out a visible result? When that time comes men will say, "Human nature never was so beautiful before as it is here." That is gospel. It appeals to, and changes, the heart.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

WEB: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed,

Christ the True Liberator and Enlightener of the World
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