The Prophetic Manifesto of Jesus: a Liberating Gospel

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When you think of the future, what do you long for? What is your vision? Your motivation in life? Here’s mine:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

As my body wears out and as I see more and more pain and suffering in our world, I long for that day. But how will God’s glorious vision of the future be realized?  Our gospel reading tells us. Please turn with me to Luke 4. Observe:

The Messiah Preaching: God’s Spirit who leads
The Messiah Predicted: God’s Anointed has arrived
The Messiah Presented: God’s Timing is fulfilled

  1. The Messiah Preaching: God’s Spirit who Leads

“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.” (Luke 4:14-17)

Jesus returned to Nazareth having just spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan (Luke 4:1-13). The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and now the Holy Spirit leads Jesus to Nazareth. Jesus is guided by the Holy Spirit.  He is responsive to God’s leading. And so must we. How does God guide? Through His Word. Trust God to guide you as you read, understand and obey His Word.

Notice it says Jesus “went to the synagogue, as was his custom.” A typical synagogue service would begin with an opening prayer. There would be a reading from the Law of Moses. Then a reading from one of the Prophets. A sermon would be preached by a rabbi or a learned visitor.
The service would close with a benediction. We are told Jesus attended the Synagogue services as a habit.

He was obedient to God’s law, with God’s people, on God’s day, reading God’s word, doing God’s will. Is it your custom to be in Church on the Lords Day, or is it optional? God expects each one of us to be here weekly and read the scriptures daily. Jesus has set an example for us.  He may not have gifted you to teach publicly, but you can still read the scriptures. You can lead your family in Bible study.

You can teach your children. You can pass on what you are learning to neighbours and friends, by your words and actions.  Ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit and use you powerfully like Jesus. Let God’s Spirit lead you as he did Jesus. The Messiah preaching: God’s Spirit who leads.

  1. The Messiah Predicted: God’s Anointed has Arrived

“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 favour. (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus was invited to read from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus could have chosen any passage but he chose to read Isaiah 61:1-2. The passage describes the long awaited Messiah, the anointed one the Lord will send to save his people. What does the phrase “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” mean?  The Hebrew calendar was based on the number seven. Every seventh day is called the “Sabbath.” Based on creation the seventh day is set apart by God (Exodus 20:8-10), for worship and fellowship. It was to be a day free from work, a day holy to the Lord. Every seven years there was also to be a “Sabbath Year.” In that year, no sowing or reaping could be done.

The Lord provided enough crops in the preceding year to last two years. This was a reminder of how he provided manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:26). And every seventh Sabbath year, (seven times 7) would usher in a year called the “the Year of Jubilee.” So at the end of every forty-nine years, the year of Jubilee would begin.

The Year of Jubilee is described in Leviticus 25.

“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.” (Leviticus 25:10-13)

What do we learn about the Year of Jubilee?  It was the great equalizer. Every fifty years, all slaves were set free, all rental leases expired, all debts forgiven, and property returned to its original owner. It was God’s way of reminding them the land was his not theirs. They were to share his blessings. The jubilee ensured no one could grow very rich, and no one would be perpetually poor. However bleak your life was, the year of Jubilee provided hope.

Everything would be made right at the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee is a powerful principle. It was a symbol, a vision of the future. This is what the Prophet Isaiah foresaw in chapter 61.  The Messiah, God’s Anointed one would not just announce but achieve a jubilee for all.  Lets briefly consider the passage Jesus read and consider what the idea of Jubilee might mean for us today.

“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 favour. (Luke 4:18-19)

2.1 Proclaim good news to the poor

We know Jesus had compassion for the physically poor but Jesus also has in mind those who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). The word Jesus uses means “having nothing” and “to beg.” This implies hopelessness. This is the first step in becoming a Christ follower. When we recognize our spiritual poverty. We are sinners and cannot save ourselves. A Christian is simply a beggar who shares with other beggars where they too can find food.  Jesus is indeed good news to the poor.

2.2 Proclaim freedom for the prisoners

The word “freedom” means much more than being released from jail. It is a powerful promise of release from something far worse, from captivity in exile far from home. Jesus’ ministry was the new Exodus. He did not come to free us from Pharaoh’s slavery; he came to set us free from our slavery to sin. Scripture teaches that we are slaves to sin and that we needed something we cannot obtain ourselves – freedom. You may be a slave of alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or over-eating, it may be fear, or bitterness and anger. Jesus promises, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).  Good news for the poor. Freedom for the prisoners.

2.3 Recovery of sight for the blind

One of the marks of the Messiah would be the ability to give the blind back their sight. Again and again, we see Jesus heal the blind (Luke 18:35; John 9:1). The word “blind” means “darkened by smoke.” There is of course a deeper spiritual meaning here. Jesus came to restore our spiritual sight for we are all blind in some sense before we encounter Jesus. This is why you cannot argue anyone into the Kingdom. Only God can open blind eyes.

The Saviour would come to proclaim good news for the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind and

2.4 Set the oppressed free

Whether the oppression comes from a government or another majority religious faith, or from our own ultra-sensitive conscience, ultimately if it is oppressive, it is satanic in source. Remember Satan is a “thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” But Jesus says “I have come that you may have life and life to the full.” (John 10:10). If you feel oppressed, call on Jesus to set you free. If you feel you are running on empty, ask Jesus to fill you to overflowing. Listen to the encouraging voice of the Lord: “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9).  One further observation.  There is one thing Jesus did not come to do. What was it? Jesus doesn’t quote the whole of Isaiah 61:2. He finishes the reading mid-sentence. What does Jesus omit?

“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 favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.” (Isaiah 61:1-2).

Why does Jesus omit the reference to God’s vengence? Because Jesus came to seek and save the lost. When Jesus returns he will fulfill the second part of Isaiah 61:2. Then he will indeed judge the living and the dead.

The Messiah preaching: God’s Spirit who leads
The Messiah Predicted: God’s Anointed has arrived

  1. The Messiah Presented: God’s Timing is Fulfilled

“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 4:20-21)

Jesus sat down because that was how a preacher delivered his sermon. This was probably the shortest sermon in history. It had only one sentence. “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4: 21). Although just one sentence, it has three points:  Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Jubilee Age has arrived, and Jesus has come to liberate them. He had not come to usher in a year of Jubilee, but an everlasting age of Jubilee. Jesus is the Jubilee!  The promised Messiah was sitting right in front of them. And by His Spirit he is with us now also.

So let me ask you again, what is your vision of the future?

What are you longing for? Have you found it? Or rather have you found him? Have you realized,

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Next week we will consider what happened next in the synagogue in Nazareth.  But in our gospel reading today we have been reflecting on the Manifesto of Jesus.

The Messiah preaching: God’s Spirit who leads
The Messiah Predicted: God’s Anointed has arrived
The Messiah Presented: God’s Timing is Fulfilled

Remember Jesus did not come to re-institute the practice of the year of Jubilee. Jesus is your Jubilee! He came to be your deliverer, your healer, your Saviour, your Lord and your King. Have you welcomed him? Are you following him? Lets us pray.

 

Sources:

Darrell Bock: The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan)
Bruce Larson: The Communicator’s Commentary Luke (Word)
Campbell Morgan: The Gospel According to Luke (Oliphants)
Warren Wiersbe: Luke 1-13 Be Compassionate (Scripture Press)
Michael Wilcock: The Saviour of the World, Luke’s Gospel (IVP)
Jefferson Williams: Jesus is the Jubilee (sermoncentral.com)
Tom Wright: Luke for Everyone (SPCK)

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