Key Text: Luke 4:14-21
Q. When you hear the term “social justice,” what emotion do you feel and what comes to mind?
For some people, the term brings to mind thoughts of “justice” for them personally or for their community. Other people hear the “social” side of the term and equate it with social action by a government or advocacy group. This has resulted in great confusion over the biblical view of social justice. The biblical view is that Christians should aim to make society more just. How we do so is a different question.
If we are to look at the teaching of Jesus as a whole, we start to see the emergence of deep responsibility for every Christian to make the world a more ‘just’ place for all. If we were to look at the injustice in the world, we quickly realise that most of the issues surrounding extreme poverty are preventable. Making sure everyone has access to clean water, access to a stable food supply, a safe home and sustainable job are all doable if everyone focuses and works together.
Q. How would you define social justice?
The definition of injustice we are working with is “a preventable problem that exists because of societal (or global) apathy or corruption”.
It is important to note that justice is the golden thread that runs throughout the work of God in the Old Testament. Amon 5:23-24 reads “Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
God is a God of justice and therefore it is not surprising this is also a central part of Jesus’ ministry. Not just in what he teaches but how he acts. E.g. Liberation for the woman being stoned. Giving attention to the unclean woman at the well. Giving the woman bleeding for 13 years her dignity back and social standing by calling her daughter.
Why is justice important?
Today’s reading brings together Jesus’ prophetic nature with His divine character of being Justice when He reads from the book of Isaiah 61:1-2; Isaiah 58:6 and is called to a life of justice. The reading looks to what a life filled with the Spirit looks like and points to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
What jumps out at you?
What questions do you have?
Q. The Jewish synagogue had a 3 year reading cycle. Meaning that either Jesus didn’t know what the reading would be OR he was well aware of what the reading was, therefore making Jesus’ actions quite deliberate. Do you think this was an accident or a deliberate moment for Jesus?
Q. The quote Jesus reads is often associated with Isaiah 61 but can also be found in Isaiah 42. Isaiah 42 starts with v.1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold.” This is a passage about the Messiah, the servant of the Lord. Isaiah 42:7 then reads “to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”. Jesus stops reading at this point BUT the next line reads v.8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!” Jesus stops one verse off this statement. In this, Jesus is making a point, he is publicly making the hint about his true identity. This is a Jewish teaching mechanism to leave the reader to read the final line. What do you make of Jesus making his Messiah status known?
Q. Traditionally Bible scholars have called this the ‘Nazareth Manifesto”. In other words, like a political figure before they start their political career might set out their manifesto and focus for their work, Jesus is doing the same. Would you say the passage sums up Jesus’ life well?
Q. If the five areas of Jesus’ mission are to be continued by the church, which area of concern do you give priority and which do you neglect?
A. Preaching of the Gospel
B. Helping people to be free from what traps them.
C. Performing acts of mercy.
D. Working for fair and just structures.
E. Explaining God’s grace to disheartened people?
Q. Compare Luke 3:22, Luke 4:1,14 and 18. What is the common element in each of these verses? What does this tell us about justice and about the source of Jesus’ power?
Q. It is important to note the link between being anointed by the Spirit and these acts of justice. The Spirit of God in some Charismatic Churches is about an emotional feeling we get in God’s presence. But the Holy Spirit is much more than this, it is the fuel that fires up our passion for justice. The more we encounter the Spirit of God the more we must live out the work of God. Are you able to name someone who lives out this encounter with the Spirit and a passion for justice?
Q. What are the justice issues today…
How do you see the church responding?
What could we be doing?
Q. We can’t all deal with all of the injustice in the world. It takes a whole community of believers to engage on different issues. What is the issue that you feel passionate about? Are you involved in dealing with it in some way or are you a distant observer?
Come Holy Spirit and break my heart for justice.
Where I am lacking in compassion, make me see things with your eyes.
Where I am overwhelmed, give me peace and clarity.
Where I don’t see the whole picture, give me a wider vision.
Where I have bigoted views, expand my understanding.
Where I see past the problem, bring things into full focus.
Break my heart for what breaks yours.