The other day I was sharing the Gospel, and centered my thoughts on Jesus’ message in the Nazareth synagogue. Though I used to work my way down the Romans Road–we are sinners, the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus, believe in this message–I have focused lately on the message of Jesus.
Though the message of Jesus certainly implies the mechanics of salvation detailed in the letters of Paul, I find it most helpful to steal the sermons of Jesus when sharing the Gospel. Remember that the book of Romans, the book Christians typically draw from when explaining salvation, was addressed to a church, not to people who were new to Christianity. Jesus clearly states the goal of salvation: reconciliation and healing. The better phrase for that is: God’s Kingdom.
When Jesus returns to his home town, the text clearly states that the Holy Spirit is at work in him, empowering him to do his ministry. I believe that Jesus’ scripture passage for the day has a clever double-meaning.
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “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 proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:14-19)
Since Jesus healed many, there is no doubt that he intended to say that a time of physical restoration was at hand. On the other hand, he also tried to open the “eyes” and “ears” of many who were spiritually blind and deaf. In other words, Jesus brought physical and spiritual restoration by inaugurating God’s Kingdom.
When sharing the Gospel, I find that this simple message of restoration and healing connects with many people. Of course this world is not as it should be and of course most everyone wants to see the elimination of injustice (provided that it doesn’t inconvenience them personally, but we’ll get there). We can begin with a lot of common ground.
The key is moving from the common ground–our mutual longing and need for God’s Kingdom or something like it–and inviting others to receive Jesus, living under his caring rule.