In Luke 4:16-20, is the story of when, shortly after Jesus returned from His temptation wilderness, He first appeared in the synagogue at Nazareth to announce His ministry. It goes like this: ‘And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
In a number of places in the New Testament, Jesus says that those who believe (trust) in Him will receive the Holy Spirit (That’s Jesus’ Spirit), like John 7:39; John 20:22; and Acts 1:8; I take these verses to mean that because you and I trust Jesus, His Spirit lives in us too, and the passage in Luke quoted above applies to us, just as it applied (applies) to Jesus. We too are to proclaim deliverance to the prisoners.
There are a number of groups who go to prison and talk to the prisoners about Jesus. One of those groups is Kairos Prison Ministry International. They have teams of men and women who go into prisons throughout the U.S., and in a number of foreign countries, to “proclaim liberty to the captives (the prisoners)”. In Texas alone there are 41 prisons that have Kairos teams that present “Kairos Weekends” twice a year. We talk to them about Jesus, about the basic principles of Christianity; we feed them three meals a day for three days (food they seldom get in the prisons), and we have fun and fellowship doing posters and skits, discussions, singing and talking, by the team and by the “brothers in white”. We just had a Kairos weekend last weekend. It was a great blessing to all who attended. The Holy Spirit was truly moving.
Just a couple of points about Jesus, prisons and prisoners: 1] Proclaiming liberty to the captives (the prisoners) is not necessarily concerned with them being released from the incarceration behind bars as much as it is being set free from the bondage that is in their hearts. The reality of the prison is that you have to pay for the wrongs you do. Sometimes you pay for a long time, seemingly a sentence that’s disproportionate to the crime committed. It’s the way life is. But here’s the surprising fact: You don’t have to be in prison in your heart. Jesus has come to set you free from the fear and the anger, the guilt and the shame, the frustration and the hopelessness. That is the message that we bring to the brothers in white in the prison.
2] Even when you’re in prison, you can be a disciple (a follower) of Jesus; and in so doing, you are able to share all the benefits of having Jesus’ Spirit in your very own heart. Like the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Like the whole armor of God, so you can stand against the wiles of the devil: Stand therefore, having [the belt] with truth, having [the breastplate of righteousness], and having shoes [of the gospel of peace]; above all, taking [the shield of faith] with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take [the helmet of salvation], and [the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God]; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. Eph 6:11-18
Here’s the real point: The guys in the prison are people just like me and you. They’ve done things wrong; but Jesus can and does use them to carry His message to the people in their world, just like He can use us to deliver his message of deliverance to people in our world. All we have to do is surrender, trust and obey.