Summary: This is the long awaited and anticipated promised Messiah of Israel. He is speaking in the fullness of time to a chosen nation composed of God's precious, peculiar and particular people.
The Great Physician
Jesus stands up in the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth to announce the good news. As the prophets have predicted, the Messiah, Redeemer and eternal King has arrived and is present with His people. (See Isa. 61:1-3) He simply restates the promise and purpose of His mission, message and ministry among them. Without hesitation, He clearly and candidly lays claim to deity and divinity; confirming that He is the Christ, the Anointed One of Israel.
If we are to clearly and correctly comprehend the meaning and message of this passage, we should, as is always the case, consider the context and the simple and logical rules of Bible analysis and exegesis. This is the long awaited and anticipated promised Messiah of Israel. He is speaking in the fullness of time to a chosen nation composed of God's precious, peculiar and particular people. His message must be understood in the light of the Law that has long been the rule of faith and practice for these people. The law had been, and remained, their tutor and schoolmaster. Its primary purpose and function was to lead people to the knowledge of their sin and its wages of eternal death. It had not been given to give life, but death. Paul clearly points this out again and again. He acknowledges that he would not have known life eternal if he had not faced death eternal by being spiritually slain by the law.
He calls the law the ministration of death and condemnation. (See II Cor. 3:6- 11, Ro. 3-7, Gal. 3 etc.)
To fully and freely feel the impact His message must have had upon His hearers; we must understand who they really were. It is reasonable and logical to assume they were a microcosm of the wider population of the nation. Such sects as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and even Zealots, would probably have been represented. Although they held widely divergent and conflicting theologies, philosophies and practices, their uniform response would ultimately be negative. They were not prepared to repent or turn from their preconceived notions about their law and their own special understanding of it. Jesus later defined their position in these words, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7) "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39)
The one common thread woven in the fabric of the philosophy of each group was the concept of the law being the means and method of obtaining eternal life. Jesus focused upon this during His ministry. The record of His encounters with and response to those such as the lawyer, the rich young ruler and the Pharisees, confirms the commonality and centrality of their problem. His stories and parables about such people as the Pharisee and Publican are clearly designed to convince His hearers of the fallacy and futility of trusting in the law and their imagined good works for salvation. But they would not accept that their law made them horribly and irreversibly guilty and condemned before God; leaving them without hope or life. In the end their consistent rejection of the message of repentance preached by both John and Jesus would lead to John's decapitation and Jesus' crucifixion.
The message of hope and salvation found in this passage was spoken to those who, if they had taken the Law seriously and understood its message, were spiritually broken and burdened down with the weight of their sin. Their case is clearly stated by Paul, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:"
(Gal. 3:10-13) It is only the promised sacrifice of the Kinsman Redeemer, fulfilling all the types, figures, shadows and sacrifices of their Law, that can give them life and hope.
It is important for those today who are sinners before God to also realize the seriousness of their transgression. Man must know his utter lostness before he will approach God in true repentance and faith. To truly understand this he must also be spiritually slain by God's holy and eternal law. Many preach an easy-believism gospel today that aids and abets man in his propensity to reject and misunderstand this. It is a positive gospel that implies man is really good and that if he will just believe and receive, all his problems will be solved and he will feel better. Then he will be borne to heaven on beds of flowery ease. The eternal law of God is ignored and there is no real challenge to become guilty before God.