Jesus and Broken People

Jim Petersen , NavPress

Jesus described His work in terms of healing the broken. He came to give us the solution to the question we are asking. In Luke 4 we find Him returning to His hometown after being out and about in public ministry in the surrounding towns. The news of His extraordinary works had found their way back to Nazareth, so attendance was good at the synagogue that Sabbath morning.


At one point in the service, Jesus got up, took the scroll of Isaiah, and read out of it. It was a prophetic passage about the Messiah, whom every good Jew was expecting to appear. When He finished the reading, He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He left no doubt. He was in essence saying, “I am the Messiah!”


That was a very interesting morning in the town of Nazareth, but of more interest to us here is the content of what He read. Let’s look at the unabridged version out of Isaiah 61 from which Jesus read:


The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the Lord

for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.


This is one of the most hope-inspiring passages in the entire Bible. We would do well to commit it to memory. Jesus is saying that the raw materials for His redemptive work are the poor, the heartbroken, and those who are enslaved. He will comfort such people and provide for them. He will exchange their sadness and despair for beauty and praise. He will not just heal them but transform them into “oaks of righteousness.” Then they will be towers of strength and He will put them to work rebuilding the ruins.



Some people have claimed this passage as their proof text for giving priority to ministering to the materially poor and the politically oppressed. This diminishes the text and disproportionately elevates material injustices. Poverty comes in many forms. Who can say which kind hurts the most? God opposes oppression no matter what form it comes in, material or spiritual.


This American society of ours is certainly broken and in pain. We now know that modernity’s promise, that progress is a road to paradise, is a lie. We were promised affluence and security but got fear and alienation instead.

Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and former CBS news writer for Dan Rather, described the angst we are talking about. She said,


Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such — unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe this is your only chance at happiness — if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches; you are despairing.

In our attempts to cope with this despair, we have created the therapist as our secular priest. His job is to help alleviate the pain. But he too tells us lies and will leave us broken still. His message is that it’s all there inside us. He asserts that the individual must find and assert his or her true self because this self is the only source of genuine relationships with other people. One must know and accept one’s self, he insists, in order to enter into valid relationships with others. One must become independent of others to come to where one doesn’t need another’s love to feel complete. People need self-validation, says the therapist. They need to be able to say, “I’m okay,” independent of what others might think or say about them.


In contrast, Jesus calls our attention to the cross, not to make us feel good about ourselves, but to make us realize that in spite of ourselves, all is forgiven. Rather than instructing us to shift the blame to our deprived childhood or abusive parents, He takes it all upon Himself, making it vanish forever. He holds us responsible for our own behavior because we are really the only ones

who can do anything about it. He assures us that if we are willing, He will help us get started and also empower us to keep going. Then He calls us into a set of interdependent relationships, with Him and with our brothers and sisters. We are in these relationships,

He says, not just for what we can get out of them, but also for what we can bring to them. Self-fulfillment is the wrong pursuit.


Healing, according to Jesus, is for those who are broken and admit it. The incompatibility of these two messages — of the secular therapist and of Jesus — is almost total. Both cannot be true.|

Article taken from Lifestyle Discipleship by Jim Petersen and used by permission of NavPress.


Copyright © 2007 NavPress Publishing. All rights reserved. To order copies of this resource, come back to


  • Editors' Picks

    Stop Trying to Read the Bible in a Year!
    Stop Trying to Read the Bible in a Year!
  • The God of All Weather
    The God of All Weather
  • Does Islam Promote Violence?
    Does Islam Promote Violence?