Summary: Jesus announced the Jubilee and set the tone for what Christian ministry must be.
Vendee- September 24, 2003
After Jesus was baptized, he spent 40 days in a wilderness area, in prayer and drawing close to God, and under attack from the one who wanted to topple him from his high position of Messiah. Jesus won! He returned from the wilderness ready for his ministry and ready to fulfill the mission he was sent to fulfill. Then he went home, and we can read of this in:
Luke 4.14, 16-21. I’d like you to try to place yourself there, in that synagogue in Nazareth as Jesus read this portion of OT scripture, which all recognized as a prophecy of the Messiah proclaiming the Jubilee. What was the Jubilee? In the sequence of holy occasions that God prescribed for Israel, there was a weekly gathering (Sabbath), there were monthly gatherings (new moons), and there were annual gatherings (special holy days). Finally, there was to be an incredible occasion each 50 years (called Jubilee) in which all debt was forgiven and slaves were able to return to their properties- it was a time of release. We have no record that this ever occurred; maybe Israel was too selfish to permit it, or maybe other factors prohibited its occurrence- we don’t know.
However, in Nazareth, Jesus proclaimed the Jubilee- the favourable year of the Lord. Then he took his seat, which was the proper place for a teacher to give further comments on the reading, and he said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!”
This first sermon of Jesus consisted of three points: He was Messiah, the Jubilee had come, and His mission was one of liberation- of setting the captives free! Imagine how this would stir you, as you sat there. You’d be stirred with hope, wanting to believe this was true. You’d be skeptical, too, likely, as this homegrown boy made such a declaration. You might be stirred with some anger at the audacious statement. However, you’d want to believe it, too, as generations before you had wanted to experience what you had just experienced.
Jesus’ ministry can be called “Jubilee”. I’ve thought this would be a great name for a church, actually- “Jubilee”- as a body that reflects what Jesus’ ministry was, and is, all about. Let’s think about the points of Jesus’ sermon.
Jesus declared that he was Messiah. He quoted Isa.61.1, which is a messianic prophecy couched in Jubilee language and a phrase from Isaiah 42.7, “To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” Let’s turn there to see the context:
Isa. 42.1, 6, 7, 9, 10. This tells us about Jesus, the “Servant”, and the Messiah.
1. He is God’s chosen (elect) One (v.1).
2. He has the Spirit of God upon Him (v. 1).
3. His ministry brings justice to the nations (plural) (v. 1).
4. He is a covenant to the people (v. 6).
5. His work is to free those living in bondage (v. 7).
6. He declares “new things” (v. 9).
This ministry cannot fit within the framework of the old covenant. Let us remember the Jesus ministered before the New Covenant began- at the very end of the Old Covenant. Not until he died and rose did the New take effect. Jesus’ ministry, without question, was transitional, as he ministered to an old covenant people and under old covenant stipulations, while he began to inaugurate the new. The Messiah is now the elect One. Through the long centuries from the day when God told Abraham “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” God had slowly been narrowing ‘the elect’. First, it was through Isaac, and then it was narrowed as only Jacob, of Isaac’s sons, was chosen. Then the promise of rulership was narrowed to the house of David. Then it was narrowed even further to One who was to be born in Bethlehem. In fact, the prophecy of Isaiah speaks of ‘the elect ONE’. The disciples believed they had found him when they announced (John 1.41), “We have found the Messiah!” Jesus was the One, and from him flows out an incredible and joyful proclamation of blessing and forgiveness to all nations.
The ministry of the Messiah was to be a Spirit-filled ministry, and Jesus came that way (Lk.4.1, 14). No longer is the covenant limited to the ‘sons of Israel throughout their generations,’ but Jesus is to bring justice to the nations. No longer is the covenant the words engraved on two tablets of stone; Jesus is the covenant (Isa.42.6!). The ministry of this Servant is a liberating ministry. We see Jesus releasing the demonized (Lk. 4.31-36), rebuking fever (Lk. 4.38, 39), healing various diseases (Lk. 4.40) and preaching the gospel to the oppressed poor (Lk. 7.22). The coming of the Messiah is a new revelation- Lk. 4.36.