The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. ~ (Luke 4:18)
(This article is # 3 in a series on the Trinity)
Frequently the long awaited Christ would speak in Old Testament prophecies by using the first person (“I” or “me”). In one such prophecy, Isaiah 61:1, the Christ says: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor… The identity of the speaker in this verse is the anointed one (“me”), who is to bring good news to the poor. Though any legitimate king of the Jews was an anointed one, the Christ, by definition, is the Anointed One. This is the meaning of “Christ” or “Messiah”…the Anointed One.
When Jesus read this Isaiah text in His hometown synagogue, He began His sermon by stating, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing [Lu 4:21]. In saying this Jesus is explaining that in His very reading of the text, it is being fulfilled while they are hearing it. That is, what He is reading is to be recognized as a statement about Him, that He is the “me” speaking in this prophecy. He is the Christ! The Christ prophesied by Old Testament prophets is identified as true man and true God. It was obvious to the people of Nazareth who were hearing Jesus preach this sermon that He is a man. As a child He had played with their children, and likely some of His playmates were now adults in His audience at the synagogue. On the one hand they had to be proud that this famous prophet was their own home-town boy. Yet how can this Jesus be the Christ, the Anointed One, for the Christ is also frequently identified by the prophets as true God? Isaiah predicted the Christ to be “Immanuel” (God-with-us), and to be the “Mighty God” (Is 7:14; 9:6). Numerous other prophecies clearly portrayed the Christ as God…for He is God’s Son. The people of Nazareth wondered, How can this preacher—our childhood buddy—be true God?
In this initial sermon Jesus not only identifies Himself as the long-awaited Christ, but He presents to God’s people at that backwater Nazareth synagogue the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. In this, His first sermon, Jesus uses the prophet Isaiah to present (as it had already been presented from the beginning by God’s prophets) the foundational doctrine of God’s identity: He is Triune. Jesus accomplishes this in the very short statement from Isaiah 61:1: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me. We have already identified the “me” in this quote to be the Christ who is—uniquely strange to the ears of the people of Nazareth—true God. The other two persons of the Trinity are presented to us by the simple phrase, The Spirit of the Lord God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord God. We explained in last week’s Cross Words how the preposition of is here understood to mean who comes from. Even as Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus who comes from Nazareth, so also the Spirit of God is the Spirit who comes from God. Thus in this Trinitarian statement, we observe how each person of the Trinity is distinct from the other. The Father (the Lord GOD) sends forth the Spirit, and the Christ stands uniquely endowed by that Spirit.
Each of God’s prophets was given a special gift of the Holy Spirit, for they were called upon to preach and teach the Word of God that was directly given to them by the Spirit. In this regard it is “normal” that the Spirit of the Lord God should rest uniquely upon the Christ, for He is the greatest prophet. Though His greatest act prescribed by God was to go to the cross for mankind’s salvation, yet it is also clear that one of His primary purposes was to preach the Word (which is what a prophet does). Appropriately this chapter of Luke closes with Jesus explaining, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose. Observe the necessity of this work of Jesus: I must preach the good news…I was sent for this purpose. This good news (or “gospel” as it is often translated in the NT), centers in the fact that the Christ has come to save. It is the ultimate good news that Jesus would die and rise again for our forgiveness and eternal life. As Jesus would preach about the kingdom of God, it was like a rose gradually unfolding. In His preaching Jesus revealed more and more about heading to the cross, until there it was…the unfolded magnificent rose of the Gospel, the good news fully accomplished and revealed in the Son of God.