Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry Part V: The Year of God's Favor (Luke 4:16-30)

The Inauguration of Jesus’ Ministry Part V: The Year of God’s Favor (Luke 4:16-30)
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[This blog is the fifth in its series.  To read the first four, please visit]

In this blog, we move to the fourth parallelism that Jesus quoted in Luke 4:19 from Isaiah 61:2, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.  Isaiah’s parallelism, however, does not end there.  He goes on to say “And the day of vengeance of our God.”  That Jesus did not quote this is significant.
The “acceptable” year of the Lord can also be translated as the year of the Lord’s favor.  This phrase was understood by the Jews as a reference to the Year of Jubilee, which was set in place by God through Moses in Leviticus 25 and was to be held once every fifty years.  Consistent with the theme of liberation that runs through the passage we are considering, the year of Jubilee called for rest, relief and release that had both economic and social implications. There were four requirements:

1. The land was to lie fallow for one year, giving the land a Sabbath rest. (Leviticus 25:11-12)
2.  All debts were cancelled (Leviticus 25:31, 40-41, 54)
3.  Any Israelite who had become an indentured servant to another Israelite was freed (Leviticus 25:40-41).
4.  Ancestral lands that had been sold were returned to the original owner, serving as a reminder that the land was ultimately God’s (Leviticus 25:27-28) (m/gospel-jubilee-luke-4-19-bible-commentary-for-the-new-baptist-covenant-cms, accessed 15 August 2011.)

Practicing this would bring two positive results.  One, poverty would be greatly alleviated, if not eliminated altogether as no family would lose their most valuable asset—their land.  Two, all Israelites would live on approximately the same economic level, with no one having the economic leverage to oppress others.  Like the other commands that God had given to the children of Israel, the Year of Jubilee had been forgotten or ignored over the years.  Jesus’ statement in Luke 4:21 that this passage was being fulfilled strongly suggests that he was unilaterally instigating a Year of Jubilee as he spoke.

But what kind of Jubilee would it be?  Jesus’ hearers certainly would have expected it to be a Jubilee much like the ones in the past of which they had heard.  In order to enact a Jubilee, they would first have to get rid of the Romans and establish their government. That Jesus never lifted even a finger against Rome’s rule suggests he had another kind of Jubilee in mind. 

The Jubilee Jesus had in mind involved the cancellation of sin’s penalty and power.  Mankind would indeed be released from slavery—the slavery to sin.  At the Cross, as the old hymn goes, “mercy there was great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me.”  By finishing the reading of the text here, he was emphasizing what the focus of his ministry would be.  But there is a deeper reason why he did not finish the parallelism.

In I Peter 1:9-12, we learn that while the Old Testament prophets did understand part of their prophecies, they did not know the time or manner in which they would be fulfilled.  This is especially true in regards to Messianic prophecies where the prophet could not tell the difference between the first coming of Christ and his second advent and would often mix the two in one prophecy. They saw the two advents of Christ like mountain peaks.  From a distance the peaks appeared to be right next to each other.  From the prophet’s vantage point, they could not see that there was a wide valley in between them.

The implications of this for all of Jesus’ followers in our generation should be abundantly clear.  We are still living in the Jubilee, the time of God’s favor.  Now is the season or day of salvation.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.  What we must do, we must do quickly, because judgment is coming. When Christ returns he will come as King of Kings and Judge over all the earth. Just as sure as he can the first time, he shall remain.

The fact that Jesus did not include the last part of this parallelism was undoubtedly part of what irked his listeners.  Ardent nationalists that they were, they longed for the Messiah to come and throw off Rome’s oppressive rule. But this part of the story, as well as a summation of Jesus’ claim to be the expected Messiah, are still ahead of us. 

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

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