Fifty-four years ago this month, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most stirring speeches of the Twentieth Century. Delivered on August 28, 1963 to over two hundred fifty thousand people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., he proclaimed:
“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. … I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. … I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. … Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside. Let freedom ring… When we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last’.”
Within five years, Dr. King was dead – murdered by an assassin. Also dead, and also murdered by assassins, were President John Kennedy and his brother, Bobby Kennedy.
The dream had not died, but the bodies of its prophets were falling in a nightmare of anger and hatred.
Fast forward to 2017, and the dream is still just a dream.
Anger and hatred still abound.
True equality is still beyond our reach.
Real freedom still eludes us.
Five decades later, the sadness is almost too much for us to bear – until we journey back in time almost two thousand years ago to a small town in ancient Galilee. The Word of God describes the events that day:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
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.
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:14-21, NIV
When Dr. King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech, he was speaking of the future – of what could be.
When Jesus of Nazareth spoke in the synagogue in the town in which He was raised, He was speaking of the present – of what was fulfilled that very day.
Two thousand years later, however, the poor are still poor, the prisoners are still imprisoned, the blind are still without sight, the oppressed are still captive, and the Lord’s favor seems unreachably far away.
Was Dr. King wrong to dream his dream?
Was Jesus wrong to proclaim what He proclaimed?
Not at all on either count – and especially not if you could see things from God’s perspective.
For Martin Luther King, Jr., he needed to dream. Just as importantly, America needed to hear his dream. And most of all, we today need to revisit his dream and work to make it a reality.
For the Son of God, He knew exactly what He was saying as He read from what is now known as the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The prophecy was fulfilled that day, just as Jesus said. However, the fulfillment occurred not in the natural but in the supernatural:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus announced, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3-10, NIV)
The poor are still impoverished in the eyes of this fallen world, but they are rich in the graces of God.
Prisoners are still held behind bars made by human hands, but their spirits are free to soar into the arms of God.
The blind are still without physical sight, but their souls can see into the heart of God.
The oppressed are still captive in the world, but they are free in the Kingdom of God.
The Lord’s favor still appears to be just a dream to most of the human race, but it is a reality if they choose to see it with eyes of faith.
Today, dream God’s dream. No matter what the world is telling you or what others are doing against you, know that God’s plan is fulfilled and that you and your loved ones are part of it.
God is on your side, and no one can separate you from His love (Romans 8:31-39).
-- Dr. John Morris