Today we continue our study of Isaiah, but we’re going to begin in the Gospel of Luke. Luke tells us how one of Isaiah’s prophecies came to be fulfilled. And even though Isaiah delivered this prophecy about 2,700 years ago, it is one that directly impacts the way we live out our faith today.
Today we look at Luke 4. To set the scene: Jesus has been baptized; at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and indwelled Him in a powerful way. Luke says that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and that He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil (4:1). Sidebar: in a few weeks, we will return to this episode; immediately after Easter, we will launch a new series about resisting temptation. So be praying about that.
Everything about the ministry of Jesus reflects the Kingdom of God.
Following this time of temptation, Jesus begins His public ministry. Here’s how Luke describes it:
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.Luke 4:14-15
So Jesus has officially launched His ministry which is powered by the Holy Spirit. We know that this ministry included healing and feeding and — most importantly — teaching about the Kingdom of God. Everything about the ministry of Jesus reflects the Kingdom of God. It reflects this new day that Isaiah envisioned all those centuries earlier.
When Jesus heals someone, He does so because the Kingdom of God is the place of ultimate restoration. When He feeds someone, it’s because the Kingdom of God is the place of true sustenance and satisfaction. He teaches the truth because the truthfulness of God’s Word is foundational to the Kingdom of God.
And His ministry takes place in public view. As Paul would later say to Festus and King Agrippa, these things were not done in a corner (Acts 26:26). Word begins to spread about the ministry of Jesus. And Luke says that Jesus was being glorified by all. People are saying a lot of good things about Jesus at this point.
The Year of the Lord’s favor
And then Luke records an incident that takes place in Nazareth, the place where Jesus grew up. And this is where we find the fulfillment of one of Isaiah’s most important prophecies.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”Luke 4:16-22
After a successful teaching tour throughout Galilee, Jesus returns to Nazareth, His hometown; and He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, according to Jewish custom. Synagogue services usually consisted of singing a psalm, several Scripture readings, and then a sermon. So Jesus has been invited to read the text and deliver the sermon in his “home church.”
Jesus reads from Isaiah 61. Isaiah envisioned a new day in this passage, a day when God’s Messiah would arrive. In the time of Jesus, this section of Isaiah was read frequently with a fervent hope that God would fulfill it sometime soon. The hope was that God would send His Messiah to kickstart the Kingdom of God here on earth.
But it’s interesting to note what Jesus read — and what part of this passage he did NOT read.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God…Isaiah 61:1-2
Notice that Jesus stopped just short of the line about the day of vengeance. We should ask, “Why does Jesus do this?” I think it’s simply because He wasn’t ready to fulfill the day of the Lord’s vengeance just yet. The fulfillment of that day will come later — at the second coming. But at this “first coming,” Jesus announces the availability of the Kingdom as “the year of the Lord’s favor.” He later says in John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Instead of declaring the day of vengeance, Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor, which is connected with the Year of Jubilee in the Old Testament.