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What does it mean to proclaim good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1)?

proclaim good news to the poor

In Isaiah 61:1–3, the prophet described the Messiah’s God-ordained mission to minister to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. He began, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim 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” (Isaiah 61:1).

Seven hundred years later, Jesus Christ launched His public ministry by preaching from this exact text, applying Isaiah’s words to Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). Jesus concluded, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21), identifying Himself as Israel’s promised Messiah and Servant-King who would proclaim good news to the poor.

“Good news” is a favorable announcement. To “proclaim good news” is to announce or convey a message of positive information about important or recent events. The Greek verb describing this action is euangelizomai. The writers of the New Testament assigned this word specifically to the preaching or proclaiming of the gospel (evangelion). Proclaiming the good news means preaching God’s message of redemption of sinful humanity through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. From the verb euangelizomai, we get our English term evangelize. We proclaim the good news or evangelize when we preach the message of salvation in Jesus Christ—that the kingdom of God has come to earth in the person of God’s own Son, who brings with Him the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life (Matthew 4:23; Romans 10:15).

In the Old Testament, “the poor” were those who had no inheritance, who were financially impoverished and of low social status, or who were downtrodden, oppressed, disadvantaged, and destitute. The poor were helpless and dependent upon powerful people and unfavorable circumstances.

“The poor” are also those who live in dependence on God. The Psalms, especially, use the concept of poverty literally and symbolically to express reliance on God as protector, deliverer, and Savior of the poor (Psalm 12:6; 35:10; 102:17; 116:6). These concepts of “the poor” continue into the New Testament, as people living in poverty and the humble who live by faith in God are “the poor.” In Jesus Christ’s great Sermon on the Mount, the Lord begins with the Beatitudes, preaching, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours” (Luke 6:20, NLT). The “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) are people who recognize their own spiritual poverty—they realize their desperate need for God, turn to Him, and receive the richest blessings He graciously offers through faith in Jesus Christ.

From prison, John the Baptist sent word to ask Jesus if He was indeed the promised Messiah of Israel. Jesus answered, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Luke 7:22). The fact that Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor was one of the authoritative marks of His Messiahship (Matthew 11:2).

James contended, “Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5, NLT). The apostle Paul explained the extent of Christ’s unselfish kindness to the poor ones He came to save: “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NLT).

The prime objective of Jesus Christ’s entire ministry was proclaiming the good news of salvation to the poor. He is a Savior who meets the needs of the poor—both materially and spiritually. What’s more, He thoroughly satisfies them (Luke 1:53; 6:20–21; Matthew 5:6).

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What does it mean to proclaim good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1)?
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This page last updated: January 30, 2023