Summary: A perspective on Luke 4: 14-21. The Jubilee year has no end since forgiveness and renewed life continues to be freely given by Jesus.
Luke 4: 14-21
A Jubilee Year
The writer of this Gospel, Luke has gone to great length and detail in the first three chapters to inform the reader of the exact identity of Jesus. He begins with the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus and shows his impeccable genealogy through the ages to Adam, the son of God. Chapter three concludes with the baptism of Jesus in which a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke’s endeavour is to persuade the reader that Jesus is the Son of God in order to prepare us for the coming ‘punch line’ that is, the good news that Jesus is about to proclaim.
Luke says at the end of chapter three that Jesus was about thirty years old when he started his public ministry, and so begins chapter four and his public ministry. Jesus began his ministry with preaching and teaching of the Good News. He went to the synagogue as was his custom on the Sabbath day and they gave him the book of Isaiah to read. Although they gave him the book, it was Jesus who diligently sought out the text to read. The text would have been the one was most appropriate for the day. With that premise in mind, our current Isaiah text would have been most appropriately read on the Day of Atonement announcing the Jubilee year, and that was the day of the reading. Jesus does two things with this Isaiah text. Firstly, he uses it to make his official public proclamation of his coming ministry. And secondly, he fulfils the scripture in their hearing.
For many Christians today, Jesus’ reading of the Isaiah text is merely further revelation and confirmation that Jesus is the messiah who has come and announces his coming ministry. It is much more than that; Jesus is doing something special, something extraordinary. As Luke pointed out in great detail, this Jesus is the Son of God who is reading the Isaiah text and responding to it. It is more than a reading. All of a sudden the simple reading has become a divine action and fulfilment of a promise, simply because when Jesus speaks things happen. The stunning reply that Jesus gave to the Isaiah reading affects us all and therefore calls for a better understanding of the Isaiah text to find out how it affects us today. Only from studying the Isaiah text can one see and feel the impact of Jesus’ action upon all of us, especially when one considers Jesus as the Son of God with all authority in heaven and on earth.
Jesus reads, “19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,” that is to proclaim the Jubilee year with all its intentions. A Jubilee year is a year of celebration. It is a year to celebrate Israel’s entry into the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. It is a year to celebrated Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. And above all, it is a year in which to celebrate God’s goodness towards his called people, Israel.
The Jubilee year is the year that follows seven Sabbath years. The celebration of a Sabbatical year included such things as allowing the land to lie fallow, a time to give rest to people from much of their ordinary work, it was also a time to be taught and trained in God’s law. Luke, mentions that the beginning of Jesus’ ministry began with preaching and teaching God’s Word. He shows how Jesus was indeed honouring God and celebrating the Sabbatical year.
Furthermore, in a Jubilee year the land lies fallow for an extra year. And it is in this year that debts are cleared: a time when mortgaged land is returned to its owners and Hebrew slaves are freed, it is a time of restoration and fulfilled hope. It did not matter whether a person’s debt was large or small; it was cleared in a Jubilee year.
Both the Sabbatical and Jubilee year both have themes of forgiveness and restoration. These celebration events remind us and continue to declare the nature of God and his will towards all people. God’s will is to forgive and restore all people no matter their sin whether large or small. As Jesus was already honouring and celebrating the Sabbatical year by preaching and teaching, then one can assume that Jesus will also continue to honour and celebrate the Jubilee year according to the will of God.
Unfortunately, the practice in the Jubilee year, the year of forgiveness and restoration was mostly ignored and remained unfulfilled. People continued to ignore and sin against God by going their own way. The Jubilee year was meant to be a means to set people free from poverty and slavery, and to remind people that the land and all that is on it belongs to God. Fortunately, God’s plan for enduring salvation is not dependant upon a sinful people.