Imagine the scene in Nazareth: village folk having set aside their work for the weekly Sabbath are sitting down in the relative coolness of the synagogue building to listen – as generations before them had – to the local rabbi teach. A shaft of sunlight through a window reflects on the gold gilt of the hallowed scroll, as it is passed with care from the attendant to a young man of good reputation and recent eminence who would read the next verses from the ancient prophecy of Isaiah. Nothing would seem unusual as the Lord Jesus Christ would read with clarity and reverence from the scroll:
‘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, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’, Luke 4. 18-19. Suddenly the atmosphere inside the Synagogue changed as the Lord closed the book, sat down and declared that the scripture was fulfilled that day in their ears. No wonder they described His words as gracious or kind – if ever there was a need for one to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, preach deliverance to the captives and give sight back to the blind, it was there and then in needy Nazareth!
Surely the same is true today: if ever there was a need to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, preach deliverance to the captives and give sight back to the blind is it not today in our communities? The deep needs of those around us haven’t changed from those back in the days when the Lord walked on this earth. Nor has the answer to man’s need changed, it is still Christ. Yet it seems that the ones who, then and now, were the most despised by society were also the ones most likely to be open to accepting the grace and love of the Saviour.
The Lord has called believers to ‘go … into all the world and preach the gospel’, Mark 16. 15. Yet many of us find it hard to witness for the Saviour. The question, ‘Who should I witness to?’ might be in your mind! I would like to share a handful of personal experiences where the Lord has graciously given me the opportunity to witness to someone who I feel could be described by the same words of Isaiah that the Lord applied to Himself in that Nazareth synagogue. For confidentiality I have not used their real names.
Eric was somebody I met whilst giving out gospel leaflets as a student. Despite a relatively wealthy upbringing, a descent into drugs and eventually contracting the AIDS virus meant that he was poor in every way. The Lord said that the poor would always be with us, and even in a wealthy country such as England, many are debt and poverty-ridden – and hungry. Unsure what to do for the best, my flatmate and I cooked him a simple meal and cycled to his squat with the pan of hot food. It was clear that he appreciated the small token of friendship and respect, and the door was opened to the preaching of the gospel to poor Eric.
I am haunted by Harry’s words to me on a recent car journey, ‘Is it too much to ask for just one person to love me unconditionally?’ As well as suffering abuse as a child his mother still reminds him that she wishes she had aborted the pregnancy before he was born. Harry is broken-hearted. He is reading God’s word, but he needs to see the love of God through the people of God before he can understand that God loves him unconditionally.
At a recent visit to Jake’s house I counted three full bin bags of empty beer cans. Jake is captive to alcohol and has been since he became broken-hearted at the suicide of his partner. Earlier in life Jake had been a professional with a wife, two children, and a secure home. People like Jake don’t just live in poor communities: the needy are all around us – sometimes behind closed doors. Jake needs the deliverance that the Lord spoke of. He attends gospel meetings readily, and the Lord has convicted him of his need of salvation. We pray that in the Lord’s time he will know the deliverance of the Lord, not only from death by alcohol poisoning but from eternal death.
Simon was an intelligent and likeable work colleague with whom I shared a love for the outdoors. Turning the conversation one day to the God who made everything, Simon replied, ‘It’s not that I have chosen to believe in evolution, I’ve just never been told there was a rational alternative’. Simon was blind to the truth of creation and needed someone to at least describe what they can see.
These are four real people that God has graciously given me the opportunity to witness to. I don’t know of any of these who have repented and believed the gospel as yet, but as Paul writes in Romans chapter 10 verse 14, ‘How shall they hear without a preacher?’
If you are burdened about who God would have you witness to concerning His lovely Son, look around and you will see individuals who are poor, broken-hearted, captive, blind, or even bruised. These are the people who the Saviour came to and for; as the Lord said in Luke chapter 4 verse 19, ‘This is the acceptable year of the Lord’.