What About Helpless People?

Explore the Bible Series

January 16, 2005


Background Passages: Luke 4:17-21; 6:18-21; 9:46-48; 18:15-17

Lesson Passages:  Luke 4:17-21; 6: 18-21; 9:46-48; 18:15-17





I.                   The Measure of the Lord’s Ministry (Luke 4:17-21)

A.    Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth (vv. 16-17): Luke placed this event at the very outset of Jesus’ public life (This may not fit the chronology of the accounts in Matthew and Mark.  Please recall that Luke often arranged his material in theological order rather than following a strict chronological sequence).  This passage, it seems, sets the tone for the entirety of the Lord’s earthly ministry.  He attended synagogue worship on the Sabbath Day, and, at an appropriate time in the service, the Lord stood to read from the Book of Isaiah.  Rabbis stood for the reading of Scripture; then, they took a seat on a small platform to teach (See v.20).  Jesus followed this practice.

B.     The Lord read two passages from the Prophecy of Isaiah (49:8-9 and 61:1-2).  Geldenhuys surmised that Jesus probably read in the Hebrew language and translated into Aramaic, the common tongue of the people.  Most of the quotation came from Isaiah 61, but the Lord did highlight a phrase or two from Isaiah 49.  The texts clearly have a Messianic overtone, and they describe the special concerns of the coming Messiah. 

1.      “…to preach the gospel to the poor (the destitute)”

2.      “… to proclaim release to the captives (the exiles)”

3.      “… recovery of sight to the blind”

4.      “… to set at liberty the them that are bruised (the oppressed)

5.      “… to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”: This last phrase reflects the imagery of the Year of Jubilee (See Leviticus 25:8f).

            Application: The measure of a society is its attitude toward the oppressed and helpless.  The Law, the Prophets, and the teachings of Jesus abound with references to this concern.  Moreover, the Book James summarizes that true religion centers on caring for orphans and widows (James 1:27). 

C.    Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah (v. 21): Jesus focused much of his ministry on the poor, the blind and lame, the oppressed, the unwanted, and the helpless.  In part, he did this in order to demonstrate that he fulfilled the Old Testament promises regarding the Messiah.


II.                Jesus Among the Hurting People (Luke 6:18-21)

A.    The setting of the Lord’s ministry: Luke indicated that Jesus had spent the night in the mountainous region near Capernaum, praying for his disciples.  As he descended from the heights, the multitudes, from every part of this region, came to him.  They purposed to hear him teach and to be healed of their diseases.

B.     The kinds of people who came to Jesus:  Luke pointed out three kinds of needs that the people had.  Some came to hear him teach.  These spiritually hungry persons attended to the Lord’s word of power and authority.  Others came because of physical affliction.  Still others came because of demon possession.  Bible students find a few, scattered references to demon possession in other parts of the Bible; but Satan seems to have concentrated this particular form of oppression during the earthly ministry of the Savior.  Jesus healed them all!  Luke, the beloved physician, states this with majestic simplicity.

C.    Jesus’ teaching concerning his ministry to hurting people: When he finished healing the multitudes, Jesus lifted up his eyes and preached the “Sermon on the Plain.”   He began this great discourse with a clear description of those who could expect the special blessing of the Lord. 

1.      “Blessed are the poor…”

2.      “Blessed are you who hunger…”

3.      “Blessed are you who weep now…”


III.             Jesus’ Teaching on Greatness in the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:46-48)

A.    The disciple’s dispute:  Mark tells us that the disciples had engaged in a dispute while they traveled with Jesus to Capernaum.  The disagreement focused on their station in the Kingdom of God.  The quarrel must have continued for some time, and Jesus asked the men about their argument when they entered a house in Capernaum. Marks reflects that the Twelve felt some shame because of their unworthy discussion, and Luke pointed out that Jesus knew their hearts perfectly.

B.     The Lord’s object lesson:  To correct the vain wranglings of the Twelve, Jesus drew a little child to his side.  This little one, trusting and unpretentious, served as a humbling corrective to the arrogant, self-seeking disciples. Hendriksen points out that the Gospels often highlight Jesus’ availability to children.  Bible students often find the Savior in the presence of little ones.  The one who would find greatness in the Kingdom of God must reflect the spirit of the Master.  They must unreservedly devote themselves to serve the tender, vulnerable children.


IV.              A Prerequisite for Entering the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:15-17)

A.    The mistake of the Twelve: Again, we observe a grave error on the part of the disciples.  Some families brought their children to see Jesus, and the disciples felt “put upon.”  No doubt, they believed the Lord had more important things to do than entertain children.  The word “rebuke” denotes a sharp reprimand.

B.     Jesus, in contrast, welcomed the little ones and chastened the disciples for their insensitivity.  The only way to receive the Kingdom of God is to embrace it, as a small child would receive a gift: humbly, trustingly, and gently.

Conclusion: Jesus, of course, grew up reading the Old Testament, and he had great familiarity with the teaching of the Law and the prophets concerning the godly treatment of the poor and vulnerable.  Perhaps a brief rehearsal of some of these principles will prove helpful to our meditations on the Lord’s dealings with the helpless and oppressed. As you consider these ideas, please understand that the Old Testament did not condone laziness or wastefulness.  However, the Bible has much to say about those who suffered, innocently, from the evils of poverty and social oppression.


1.                  The Lord commanded his people to have an open heart and hand to the poor (Leviticus 25:18-22; Deuteronomy 15:7-11)

2.                  Those who lent money to the poor of Israel were not allowed to collect interest on their loans (Exodus 22:25-27)

3.                  Lenders were not allowed to take away the bare necessities of life (such as a coat) as a pledge for a loan (Deuteronomy 24:10-13).

4.                  Moses required that employers pay their employees every day before the sun went down.  In other words, the workers were to receive their wages promptly (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).

5.                  The Scriptures forbid farmers from reaping all of their crops, but leave some of the bounty for the gleanings of the poor.  They were to leave the edges of the field, some grapes on the vines, and some olives on the bows (Deuteronomy 24:19-22).



Questions for Thought and Meditation:

  1. How do you imagine Christians in Third World, developing nations view their brothers and sisters in the United States?
  2. What special responsibilities does the church have to children? The poor?  The ill?
  3. What does your church do to address the physical needs of people in your congregation?  In what ways could you improve your ministry to the helpless and poor?
  4. What special needs do the elderly have in your congregation?  How could you address those needs more effectively?
  5. When you consider your church budget, how much does the church give to meet the legitimate needs of the poor, the helpless, the ill, or mission concerns?