Summary: The Word of God stands forever, because the Word gives us life. Jesus’ obedience to God created the foundation upon which God can build and enter the temple called our heart.
There’s a story about an elderly couple that was walking out of church one Sunday. The wife said to the husband, “Did you see the strange hat Mrs. O’Brien was wearing?” “No, I didn’t,” replied her husband. “Bill smith badly needs a haircut, doesn’t he?” commented the wife. “Sorry, I didn’t notice,” replied the husband. “You know John,” said the wife impatiently,”Sometimes I wonder if you get anything at all out of going to church”.
People get different things out of going to church, depending, it would seem, on what they expect to get when they go there. For example, I wonder what the people who were in the synagogue in today’s Gospel reading expected to get out of the service. Certainly they didn’t expect to see Jesus stand and read a portion of Scripture, let alone comment on it. His sermon was and is one of the shortest on record-“Today, the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.
What did this message mean to the people in the synagogue? What does it mean to us today? To the people in the synagogue, it meant that Jesus WAS the promised Messiah, the anointed one sent by God to redeem his people. It means the same thing for us today. Christ loosens sinners from the bonds of sin, guilt and corruption.
Luke places this story near the start of Jesus’ ministry because it is the foundation of the Gospels of Luke and Acts. He emphasizes God’s openness to the Gentiles. This favoritism offended the Jews and eventually led to his crucifixion. He was rejected by the multitude, who heard him, and they crucified him because of their sins; however, WE must honour and obey him as our Saviour, the son of God.
By this time, Jesus had already been tempted in the wilderness. He was prepared for this experience because of the foundation built by attendance at services in the synagogue, starting when he was a child. We also need to prepare for our wilderness experiences. The best way for us to prepare is to have a strong faith, especially through regular attendance at church, particularly if we start attending as children.
Isaiah’s commission as read by Jesus is similar to the Great Commission; namely, to bring good news and proclaim release to the captives, restore the sight of the blind, free the oppressed. This set Christ’s agenda, and it is also our commission and agenda today. Jesus’ ministry involved loving the unloved and serving the undeserving. He wants us to do the same today, especially since human weakness has both [physical and spiritual dimensions. What Jesus said about the Scriptures being fulfilled reads like a revolution, especially when it referred to ending the world as people knew it and creating a new one. When the poor hear the Good News, when captives are set free, and when the oppressed are liberated, God is working in their lives and in our own lives. The revolution happens when we walk with Jesus. The narrow focus on the downtrodden does not take away from the broader vision, including the restoration of Israel as referred to in Acts 15.
Jesus knew exactly what the people needed to hear that day, and he knew exactly what he wanted to share with them. All of the people in the synagogue, and all of us today, were the poor, the hungry, the oppressed the imprisoned and the blind. Christ looks beyond the surface to the core of our soul. He wants us to repent-to make a radical shift in how we see ourselves. The doctrine of the Trinity is interwoven here. He, as the son of God, is uniquely qualified to help us. He sets us free because of his death and resurrection. It is a victory over sin and death, but only if we stop trying to solve our problems ourselves and turn to God instead. We are all captives to something, whether it is our jobs, television, radio or something else. All of us can awaken to God’s anointing power. It constantly inspires, enlivens and guides us and also soothes, comforts, welcomes and transforms us.
When he read the Scriptures in the synagogue, Jesus announced a “jubilee”, a forgiveness of sin debt. In Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, which is found in Luke 11:3, there is a sentence that reads as follows: “Forgive us our debts for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us”. The biblical Jubilee was held every 50 years when fields lay fallow, families returned to their ancestral homelands, debts were cancelled and slaves set free. The jubilee restored a rough equality between families and clans. The inevitable increase in inequality and injustice over the years had to be leveled every half century. Faith in a sovereign God was reflected in the structures of social and economic life which, in turn, echoed the pattern of God’s realm. The community started afresh. Jesus “jubilee” allows us to have a fresh start in our walk of faith. The jubilee is a time in which followers of Christ are told that God’s promises shall come true in our midst and that God will favour us with his blessings. The reality of God’s law is that it embraces and welcomes “the least of these” in the community. All we have to do is remember Jesus’ words, “Inasmuch as you do for the least of these, you do for me” .