Can you identify what book begins with the following classic first lines? Answers are at the end of the post, if you wish to quiz yourself.
- ”It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
- ”Call me Ishmael.”
- ”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
- ”All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
- ”You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.”
- ”It was a pleasure to burn.”
- ”You better not never tell nobody but God.”
- ”In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.”
- ”Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
- “All children, except one, grow up.”
Sometimes the first lines of a book or the first words of a character let you know all you need to know about that book or character right from the start. Remember this first line from Darth Vader in Star Wars?
“Commander, tear this ship apart until you find those plans.”
Today, Luke gives us Jesus’ first public words in his adult ministry, a quote from the beginning of Isaiah 61:
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, to tell the poor the good news. He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners, and sight to the blind, to set the wounded victims free, to announce the year of God’s special favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
More about that later.
Sin is big and pervasive. We are kidding ourselves if we think sin only affects our relationship with God, as if it is some cosmic, spiritual black dot on our heavenly record, which if not dealt with will adversely affect our afterlife in some way. Sin affects every square inch of our lives. Sin has a spiritual effect, to be sure. But it also has social, physical, and psychological effects on life here and now as well.
Think about Adam and Eve and effects of the first, prototypical sin:
- They are declared guilty and are cursed by God for their actions (spiritual)
- They are separated from God’s presence, alienation begins between the two of them, and Adam is placed in a position of dominance over Eve (social)
- They suffer a loss of innocence and feel shame and fear for the first time, all the while trying to shift blame off out themselves (psychological/emotional)
- The physical hide then must cover themselves, they will experience pain in childbirth and in their work, the ground will be less fertile, and they begin to decay and die bodily (physical)
Sin is an all-encompassing problem that affects all corners of our life.
Now, back to Luke 4. Jesus arrives on the scene. Interestingly, Paul will call Jesus the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45; c.f., Romans 5:12). We have the start of something new as Jesus steps back into the synagogue in Nazareth, his childhood home. Luke makes it clear this is a fulfillment of prophecy: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your own hearing” (4:21). Like a good opening line, we are introduced to the redemptive ministry that will be Jesus’ sole concern for the next three years. This is Jesus’ raison d’être: I came to reverse and release, heal and forgive, to make new. True to Luke’s concern for the marginalized, the people mentioned here are the harassed, harried, and undesirables. For the rest of the book we will watch Jesus accomplish this mission in his short life.
The interesting thing, though, is how Jesus’ declares his redemptive mission will be equally as pervasive as the sin he has come to address. If sin affects all corners of our lives, Christ’s salvation will cover just as much ground. Jesus has come to reverse the curse every human has been under since we moved east of Eden. Notice how all four areas of life in the diagram above are also found here in this statement from Luke 4:
- Announce the year of God’s special favor (spiritual)
- Release to the prisoners (social)
- Set the wounded victims free from “oppression” as the NIV says (psychological/emotional)
- Recovery of sight for the blind (physical)
Salvation is not only a matter of forgiveness of sin. Jesus has come to save every inch of us, our relationships, and our world. Salvation is an all-encompassing solution that affects all corners of our life.
Now that is something to get excited about!
(Answers: Pride and Prejudice; Moby Dick, Tale of Two Cities; Anna Karenina; Huckleberry Finn; Farenheit 451; The Color Purple; A River Runs Through It; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Peter Pan)