Summary: As Christians who have been set free by Christ, we are called to be liberating people
As we bring our series of sermons on life rhythms to a close, we think of the role of liberation in our lives, and when we think of ’liberation’ we think,usually, don’t we, in terms of freedom; of ’setting free’
Now, I think you’d all agree that freedom is an important ingredient in life. One of the main ways of punishing somebody is to restrict of for a time to take away from them their freedom. Thus, the most common form of punishment for many a criminal offence is a term of imprisonment; taking away from someone their freedom to do, or to go where they wish. Politically, the most tyrannical of regimes, the dictatorships work by restricting or warping the freedom of the populace. And for people suffering any of these things, the most important thing they look for is the restoration of freedom, of liberation from the restrictions they live under.
Similarly, we have come here tonight because we chose to come. It was a decision freely made. Nobody made us come here, no-one stopped us. We are free people, living in a free country, though one does wonder if our freedoms are being eroded? But, basically we are free. Yet- how free are we? Are all our choices totally free, totally of our own volition, totally unfettered.
Surely, there’s one way in which we are conscious of a lack of freedom and it’s a lack from within our own personality. It’s a lack of freedom in the moral sphere. It’s a freedom to which the apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the Romans:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (Romans 7:15) Now scholars will argue over whether this is a pre- or post-conversion experience Paul is describing, but I think the main point is that he is highlighting a common human experience. For all our much-vaunted liberty, that liberty is limited; limited by our own inability to do what our conscience tells us we ought to be doing.
As we read this evening that account in Luke’s gospel of Jesus starting his public ministry in the synagogue we note from the first verses that Jesus, led by the Spirit, had allowed his own personal freedom to be severely restricted as he goes into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the Devil, and for those forty days to go without any food. By the end of that period, his body would have exhausted its own reserves fully and true hunger where the body starts to live off itself would have begun, and Jesus would have experienced a true hunger, a hunger which would be obsessive and without let-up, and it’s then that the Devil started to tempt and taunt him. His self-control at that point demonstrated a remarkable degree of true freedom.
So, then, he was able to go to the synagogue ’in the power of the Spirit’. In Capernaum, we’re told, he took the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read that passage about the Spirit of the Lord anointing him the declare ’good news to the poor’- this good news comprising release for captives, recovery of sight for the blind. We hear Jesus then saying that he was declaring the year of the Lord’s favour. His hearers must straightway have noted that he had omitted the last phrase from Isaiah concerning the day of vengeance of our God. If they were surprised by this then their focus would have been on that term ’the year of the Lord’s favour’ By it they would have understood the concept of the ’Jubilee Year’
If we would understand this aright we need to understand the concept of the ’Jubilee Year’; an idea found in the book of Leviticus chapter 27. By it, once every 50 years, slaves were freed, debts were cancelled and ancestral property returned to the original family. Basically it was an act of liberation from the debts of the past. Historically Isaiah had prophesied in the context of the people’s captivity in Babylon, and looked forward to release from that captivity, but Jesus was here pointing out a much greater release; a release from the captivity to sin, and it was that captivity which led Paul to that great outburst in Romans that I mentioned earlier; it is that captivity which enthralls every person in the human race.
Well, Isaiah’s prophecy had never been fully effected, even though the people had returned from captivity in Babylon, they had remained in the thrall of foreign nations and still were as Jesus spoke- there was the small matter of the Roman occupying army. So,.imagine their thoughts when Jesus concluded by saying Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.