Tomorrow, President-elect Donald Trump will stand before a crowd of thousands to take the oath of office. Just as George Washington did when he was sworn into office as President in 1789, then Trump will deliver a traditional inaugural address. On the eve of this historic occasion, I’ve been listening to excerpts from previous Presidents’ speeches.
Most of these historical addresses have stressed unity, like our third President, Thomas Jefferson, saying, “Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind.”
During Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural speech, delivered Saturday, March 4, 1865, while planning the difficult process of reunification after the divisive and bloody Civil War, he concluded with these words:
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
Other Presidents have sought to reassure and inspire. Franklin D. Roosevelt declared in 1933, “So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
John F. Kennedy’s iconic statement from 1961 still rings loudly in our ears: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
As we wait to hear the next installment of these speeches, it is instructive for us who follow Jesus to reflect on His “inaugural speech,” delivered in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth, in classical rabbinic style.
The Gospel-writer Luke records in chapter four that a “buzz” was building about Jesus throughout the region of Galilee, home to about 3 million people at that time (Josephus). He had just returned from 40 days in the desert wilderness, having been led there by the Holy Spirit, having defeated there the temptations of the devil himself. Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and praised by the people who had started following Him.
The usual order of service in a synagogue began with the declaration of the “Shema” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), along with additional prayers, followed by a reading from the Torah [Law], then a reading from the Prophets, followed by a sermon, perhaps from a “learned visitor” … on this occasion, Jesus. Since Jesus had been raised in Nazareth, He most likely would have attended the synagogue here many times before. But today, He will intentionally read and teach in His hometown synagogue, effectively inaugurating His public ministry.
Jesus stands, is handed the scroll of Isaiah, then deliberately unrolls it to the portion that we know as chapter 61, and reads …
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted [poor]. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; [Luke adds, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed], to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
Then Jesus sat down and calmly proclaimed: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).
Wow! … what a contrast to the carefully crafted slogans and empty promises from past Presidents.
Jesus speaks truth, rooted in Scripture, defining His identity as Messiah, God’s “anointed one,” while also outlining the parameters of His ministry. He came to earth to heal the damages that sin has wrought on humanity. He came to serve, not be served (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 9:56).
Unlike our Presidents, Jesus didn’t come to merely deliver speeches about healing, nor did He come to only bring deliverance. Jesus came to BE our deliverance (Philippians 2:5-11):
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, Who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
That’s my King! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Peace & Joy!