Do we really know Him?
Luke 4: 16-30
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him…
Jesus took the scroll and found Isaiah 61 and then read from it,
The Spirit of the Lord is on me
Because he has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor
He then leaves out: He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
He then adds: and recovery of sight for the blind,
(By the time of Christ, Jewish thought was heavy on the idea that the purpose of the Messiah would be to open the eyes of the blind).
He then adds from Isaiah 58:6 to release the oppressed,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
And then leaves out: and the day of vengeance of our God.
V22 “All spoke well of him”
They were initially pleased but when Jesus told 2 stories to illustrate his edited reading, one of the widow of Zaraphath and that of Naaman of Damascus they became furious, they knew why he had edited it, v28.
This was Nazareth, a settler town in Galilee. Galilee had become known as ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ (Matt 4:15).
The Jewish plan was to move Jewish settlers from Judea onto the land in Galilee and take Nazareth. Isaiah 61 was their motivating prophecy.
This prophecy of the coming Messiah promised great things.
Isaiah 61: 2 there would be a day of vengeance of God
V4-11 = there would be rebuilding and restoring places, places like Nazareth.
V7 = there is the promise of a double portion.
V5-6 = the Gentiles around them will be their servants and they will be fed on their wealth.
But Jesus stops reading this popular and well known passage at the point at which judgment and submission is pronounced on the Gentiles whom the Nazareth settlers were there to displace, places like Zarephath and Damascus.
Jesus knew these 2 stories would offend.
So what was Jesus doing?
V21 Today this Scripture is fulfilled and one of the things the Messiah does is what you never expected and it is regarding justice.
To release the oppressed is not in Isaiah 61, but taken from Isaiah 58:6-7 where it is used in the context of God not being impressed with empty religious gestures.
The use of this phrase from that context is significant in that Jesus was communicating to those who carried a sense of justice in their lives.
But by using 2 stories of reaching out to the Gentiles, Jesus is saying the justice of the Messiah is compassion for the weak and exhausted among those who are downtrodden and the outcast.
It amazes me how sure God’s people are to how He will respond to situations especially in terms of judgment.
Jesus took a text of judgment and turned it into a text of mercy. The text of judgment was from Isaiah of all people, passed down generationally, steeped in their culture, thought and word life. Isaiah 61 it is settled, we know what it means. Yet the Messiah turned it upside down into a text of mercy. Mercy offends when you are banking on judgment.
They thought the messianic age would be a golden age for them. In fact it would be all about them. Jesus shifts the text from ‘Here is what you will receive” into “Here is what you are expected to give”.
May Jesus come into our synagogues of life today and drastically change our picture of Himself.
May He unlock us from the many years of carrying an idea of Him that perhaps is not a complete reflection of who He is.
May He take from us that revelation that was given to us from man which didn’t draw us near to Him or others near to us but brought alienation.
May He birth new understanding that God the Judge is but one aspect of His nature which is held by God’s grace, love and mercy.
May this new picture change us. Let it change how we pray and what we expect and may it enable us to step out in faith to do what we would never have done. Let a whole new vocabulary emerge and a new sound be heard in the house of the Lord, in our lives.
And as that happens may our world change, our homes, our work, our communities and our churches. Changed by an understanding of His revelation.