I love this passage. Today we’re going to think about where Jesus was, what he said and what he didn’t say. To read the passage online, please click here.
The action takes place in the synagogue in Nazareth. This was the town where Jesus had lived for nearly all of his life and the synagogue was where people met to worship God. Luke writes; “on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” In other words, Jesus had a habit of attending the synagogue. We know from tomorrow’s passage that the people present were not the most in tune with God, I’m sure the programme would have left something to be desired and as for the sermons, well Jesus was the Son of God with an outstanding grasp of the scriptures, you could almost guarantee there would be things he would not enjoy. Yet he went, it was his custom, he was a trusted member of the congregation, there were things wrong but he was there. If we are followers of Jesus, we should, if at all possible, be regularly attending a place of worship, a church. It will not be perfect, they never are, but we should be there.
Jesus read publicly from Isaiah 61:1-2. The prophecy, written 700 hundred years earlier tells of the ministry of the promised messiah. Having finished the reading, he handed the scroll back to the attendant whose duty it was to place the scroll back into the cabernet and sat down, not returning to his place in the congregation but sitting down to teach as was the custom. It seems Jesus already had a reputation, it’s easy to imagine the scene in the synagogue, the passage from Isaiah, the waiting whilst the scroll is put away must have seemed endless as everyone stared directly at him. When finally Jesus speaks, he drops the bombshell; “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He is saying; ‘these verses are about me’, he is the one anointed by the Spirit; he is the one to announce the good news and do the things Messiah does. It’s a startling claim, Jesus is the promised Messiah.
To understand what Jesus didn’t say, we have to look at the scripture he was reading. Jesus read from ‘the scroll of the prophet Isaiah’ (4:17), he then ‘found the place where it is written:’ and after reading it; “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.” (4:20) this was not a ‘read at random’, where he started and where he stopped was planned. We’ve already discussed why he read this particular passage, to answer the question why did he end the reading where he did? We have to look at Isaiah 61. Jesus ended the reading with; ‘to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. When we look at Isaiah 61:2 it says; “to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favour and the day of vengeance of our God” Jesus stopped reading midsentence. When we consider what he said immediately after the reading; ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’, things become clear. Jesus was proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour (the word ‘favour’ means acceptance), a time when people can receive God’s favour and be reconciled to him. He was not declaring the day of vengeance or judgement. That does not mean that God has changed his mind on judgement, it means it was not being fulfilled at that time. We are still living in a time of God’s favour, we can be reconciled to God through Christ. The other side of that coin is that God will still judge the world and each of us will stand before him. Paul would later tell the people of Athens; “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) Now is the time to receive Jesus Christ.
We thank you Lord for Jesus the fulfilment of prophecy. We pray that we would respond appropriately to the good news, that we too will know the anointing of the Spirit as we proclaim the good news of Jesus.