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 4:16–21)
This is what biblical scholars refer to as a “mic drop moment.” Okay, maybe they don’t. But they should.
In his hometown synagogue, Jesus announces the launch of his ministry and frames the scope of his mission by reading from Isaiah 61. To the shock of the crowd, he offers a one-line commentary on this beloved passage. He declares that the hope buried in this prophecy has finally been fulfilled through him, right before their eyes.
Many scholars think (for real this time) that the phrase, “the year of the Lord’s favor,” referred to the ancient practice of the Year of Jubilee. According to the Jewish law, the Jubilee was a sort of hyper-Sabbath year, set to occur once every fifty years. To observe the Jubilee, the people were commanded to release all of their slaves, remove all debt they were owed, and return all land to those who were forced to sell because of financial hardship. Because of the Jubilee rhythm, every Israelite was endowed with an ongoing sense of hope that freedom was always on the horizon. When hardship struck, oppression and poverty would not be their permanent reality, and slavery would not be their unshakable future. It was designed so that most everyone would experience it once in their lifetime.
There was only one problem. It never happened. Historians cannot find evidence that it was ever fully practiced and put into effect by the people because it was simply too difficult to carry out and those who owned the slaves, resources, and property were not willing to let them go. Jubilee was a promise left unfulfilled.
Until, of course, the day that Jesus shows up and announces that the year of the Lord’s favor has finally arrived. He is the Jubilee. He is freedom from slavery, and release from oppression, and sight for the blind, and good news for the poor. And, as his people in the world, he commands and empowers us to be the same.
Jesus, may your jubilee be unleashed through us. May our churches and our lives become good news for the poor and release for the captives. May the blind see you through us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What would it look like if Jesus brought jubilee through you? How would that affect your family? Your work place? Your community? Is your life freedom and release and good news?
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