In a campaign season for political office, we become quite accustomed to candidates making speeches. Sometimes they are called a stump speech. A political stump speech is a standard speech used by a politician running for office. In such a speech, the candidate usually reiterates their talking points, several things they want to accomplish or stop from happening by the other candidate. Such speeches usually fire up the base, who are the ones who attend the events where the candidate is speaking. Such events can draw a crowd.
Jesus drew a lot of crowds. Throughout the gospels, you read the phrase, “and the crowds followed him.” Jesus was used to having people hang on his every word. In Luke 4, you might find what you could call Jesus’ first stump speech. Jesus had just spent 40 days in the wilderness being tested by Satan. Satan’s temptation was to be Jesus’ primary campaign advisor as he began his ministry. Satan presented Jesus with all kinds of scenarios where he could gain a following. Yet, with each temptation, Jesus refused to bow to Satan and remained committed to what God had called him to do.
On the Sabbath, Jesus arrives at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. Luke tells us that Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit as news about him began to spread. While attending a synagogue meeting, Jesus was asked to read from the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus stood and took the scroll and found a reading from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61: 1-2
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
You might say, Isaiah’s words became Jesus’ first speech in his campaign to announce the Kingdom of God. Jesus spoke about bringing good news to the poor, releasing captives, healing the blind, freeing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord. The crowd reacted favorably to Jesus’ remarks. But when Jesus began to teach that his mission would also be to the Gentiles, then things went downhill fast. The people became furious that Jesus would extend God’s blessings to the Gentiles; they were outsiders to the faith. They grabbed Jesus, took him outside, and prepared to throw him downhill off a cliff for his words. Somehow Jesus simply walked away from the mob.
Jesus would build his ministry around the coming of God’s Kingdom. A Kingdom where all would be welcomed, none would be excluded, and all could enjoy the blessings of God. Jesus’ message of inclusion was met by strong resistance, not only that day in the synagogue but throughout Jesus’ ministry. Eventually, Jesus’ enemies would have him put to death on a cross. They assumed that by silencing Jesus permanently, his mission would come to an end. Little did they know that three days later, Jesus’ resurrection would inaugurate a whole new age.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to continue his message and ministry in the world. Like Jesus, we must seek to bring the Kingdom of God to all people. We are to actively seek to bring the Kingdom of God or Heaven to earth. The Christian campaign is not merely a promise of future heaven but also a diligent work to bring God’s work and will into a broken world. These are not campaign promises but Gospel reality. We can never be content as followers of Jesus as long as individuals suffer in the present and until Jesus’ words in the synagogue become a reality: “Today this scripture is fulfilled.”