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TO PROCLAIM THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOUR

Luke 4:14-4:30
Key Verse: 4:19

Thank God for the Lord Jesus who overcame the devil’s temptation and opened the way for us to win the victory over the temptation of the devil. The devil tempts us through our need, worldly desire, and humanistic thinking. Our feelings and life situations change, human laws change, the trends of the world change, and generations change, but the word of God remains unchanged. May we treasure up the written words of the Scriptures in our hearts and keep them so as to use them as our weapon to defeat the devil at each critical time. Now Jesus begins his messianic ministry. Unlike other synoptic gospels Luke places Jesus’ rejection by his hometown people at the outset of his messianic ministry here in today’s passage. This is a very unpleasant event, yet this passage well shows the general picture of the Messiah’s role is and what attitude we should have to receive God’s blessing through the Messiah.

First, the role of the Messiah (14-21). Look at verse 14. “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and news about him spread through the whole countryside.” Here Luke makes sure that Jesus returned to Galilee, where he began the messianic ministry (Lk 23:5; Ac 10:37). And he returned in the power of the Spirit. Jesus had rejected the power and glory of the world the devil offered. The power of the Spirit was within him, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. We believe that we can also do the work of God in the power of the Spirit, not with the power of the flesh or the power of the world.

Then in the power of the Spirit what did Jesus do? Verse 15 says, “He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” According to Luke the first image of the Messiah in his messianic ministry was the teaching Messiah. Also, the last image of the Messiah in his messianic ministry before the Last Supper was the teaching Messiah. Luke 21:37 says, “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple…” Undoubtedly he taught the word of God. The people’s response was to praise him. All must have been thirsty for the word of God.

Now Luke records what happened in his hometown when he visited the town of Nazareth. Look at verse 16. “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.” Why did Luke write, “as was his custom”? Of course, in his messianic ministry teaching in synagogues was his custom. However, when Luke used this expression as Jesus entered into the synagogue of his hometown Nazareth, it can imply that before his public life Jesus had gone into the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day and seen what people were doing there. Now Jesus himself stood up to read as the Messiah. It draws our attention that what the Messiah was doing was in the part of the ordinary life of people, not doing something extraordinary in the eyes of people like throwing himself from a high place and being lifted up by the angels. As he stood to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Certainly, Jesus found and read this passage. Then he rolled up the scroll, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. Until this point, what Jesus did was just what ordinary people had done in the synagogue.

But something extraordinary was going on. Verse 20b says, “The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.” We can imagine that Jesus’ reading on the passage was different from the reading of other people. Jesus’ reading spirit was not that of ordinary people, but indeed the Spirit of the Lord. That’s why the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fully drawn to him. Then Jesus began his teaching in sitting position. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Here what Jesus said was really extraordinary. No one had ever said what Jesus said here. In fact Jesus was indirectly revealing himself as the Messiah. He did so, based on the Scriptures.

Again, the Messiah’s role seemed to be that of the ordinary outwardly: preaching and proclaiming. But the contents of his preaching and proclaiming would not be like those of ordinary preaching and proclaiming. He would preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery sight for the blind and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. And he would release the oppressed. These would be uniquely the role and work of the Messiah.

He would preach good news to the poor. In his gospel Luke contrasts the rich and the poor or the hungry, and the proud and the humble (1:52,53; 16:19-31; 18:9-14; 21:1-2). The poor are those who are hungry for God. Good news is preached to the poor. Yet, nothing from heaven will be good news to the rich who are satisfied with the things of the world. To preach good news is related to the followings.

To proclaim freedom for the prisoners: here prisoners refers to prisoners of the law of sin and death. Prisoners whose physical bodies are in the prison cell can be freed by the authorities of the world. As we have studied, Jesus had rejected the authorities and glory of the world. In truth all men are the invisible prisoners of sin and death. No one would free from such prison state. But the Messiah came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. This freedom is through the forgiveness of sins. Luke’s gospel particularly emphasizes forgiveness of sin (1:77; 3:3; 7:47; 23:34; 24:47).

To proclaim recovery of sight for the blind: how pitiful the blind are! So one clear work of the Messiah is to open the eyes of the blind (Isa 35:5; Lk 7:22). In deed Jesus opened the eyes of the blind on several occasions (Lk 7:21; 18:42-43). However, in God’s sight the spiritually blind are more pitiful than the physically blind. One good example of the blind is Jesus’ hometown people. The Messiah was right there before their eyes. But they drove him out of their town, for they were blind to see Jesus the Son of God. Nicodemus in John 3 had a great success in the world, but he was blind to see the kingdom of God. And the spiritually blind are those who know scientifically how the universe operates, but cannot see the Creator God. They are those who want to live longer and longer in this world but reject eternal life, for they cannot see beyond this world. No one but the Messiah would proclaim recovery of sight for the blind.

To release the oppressed: People are oppressed by the burdens of life, poverty, heavy loads of work, uncertain futures, illness, family matters, complicated relationships, etc. But mostly they are burdened and oppressed by sin and Satan. The slavery of the Israelites under the power of Pharaoh in Egypt is the vivid picture of the oppression of Satan. The Messiah Jesus can release from any kind of oppression.

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour: In the Old Testament the entire chapter of Leviticus 25 is about the Year of Jubilee and it is the background to "the year of the Lord’s favour". Every seventh year was the Sabbath year and in that year the land was to rest. Then the fiftieth year, the year after seven Sabbaths of years—seven times seven years—was to be the Year of Jubilee. For this they were to have the trumpet sounded everywhere. They were to consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. In that year everyone was to return to his own property. Of particular note: a poor Israelite who was hired to his fellow Israelite would be released along with his children and go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. For land and people fundamentally belonged to God. It was God’s proclamation of liberty and jubilee for all the Israelites. In most cases this year would fall upon an Israelite once in a lifetime. This would be the year of liberation and great joy for each Israelite. Indeed it was the year of the Lord’s favour. The prophecy in Isaiah 61 was a great comfort and hope for the Israelites who were in Babylonian captivity. But ultimately, this prophecy was foretelling the coming of the year of the Lord’s favour for all mankind through the Messiah. Now the Messiah came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. Jesus said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” At the time of Jesus’ birth, an angel said to the shepherds in the fields, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Then suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” The year of the Lord’s favour for all people of the world came through the birth of Jesus, Christ the Lord. Since then people are to live in the year of the Lord’s favour until the year of the Lord’s judgment. So the year of the Lord’s favour is between his first coming and the second coming. And “today” is the day of hearing the proclamation of the good news, the year of the Lord’s favour. So Jesus said to his hometown people, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” “Today” is also the day of salvation to those who accept the good news. In Luke 19, when Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, repented and welcomed Jesus into his life and house, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (19:9). On the cross Jesus said to a repentant criminal, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). To some people “today” is a certain day, and to others, a certain period. In any case it is the time of the arrival of God’s favour. Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” People of this generation should know that they are living in the year of the Lord’s favour. What grace it is that we are living in the year of the Lord’s favour! Those who have received God’s favour should keep the grace today, so that God’s grace may not in vain in their lives. God’s grace should be always present. The righteous are those who live by faith, not those who lived by faith or who will live by faith. Truly, God’s grace upon us should not be in vain and we are to proclaim the good news of the Lord’s favour to the people of our generation so that the time of God’s favour and the day of salvation may come to each of them. We need to know that because of the year of the Lord’s favour, history becomes extraordinary and life is extraordinary as one lives in the year of the Lord’s favour. We pray that 2014 may be the year of the Lord’s favour and each day be the day of the Lord’s favour.

On February 2, was the Super Bowl game between Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. Seahawks won the game, 43-8, the largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl in 21 years. This game was watched by an average audience of 111.5 million people, more than nay television program in U.S. history. But what surprises us is that Seattle Seahawks players confessed their faith, saying, “Jesus is better than the super bowl”, and “God has put me on the football field for a purpose that’s bigger than football.” They knelt in prayer after the victory. This is also an extraordinary thing amid the ordinary events of the world. May such a thing happen continually in the year of the Lord’s favour so that the good news of the Lord’s favour be spread all the more until the Lord Jesus comes again.

Second, right attitude to Messiah (22-30). Look at verse 22. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.” What a sudden change! This change is from amazement to derision due to their human thinking. It was because of their human familiarity. Familiarity brought contempt. It was simply because Jesus was their hometown person. Jesus’ upbringing in their hometown was supposed to be God’s immeasurable blessing, but turned out to be a great tragedy.

Jesus knew what they said meant. He said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician heal yourself! Do here in your hometown. What we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” Jesus could perceive into their proud thoughts. They did not say in their hearts, “Do here in your hometown what you did in Capernuam”, but “…what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” They were not believing what Jesus did in Capernaum, because they could not see them with their eyes, but just heard.

Jesus continued to say, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” Jesus told them two examples of those who could not receive God’s blessing although it was right there through the great prophets, Elijah and Elisha. A widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon was so poor, with nothing but a single day's portion of food for her and her son, with nothing for the next day. But when she was asked to give the food to God’s servant Elijah, she did so believing in God’s promise. With the servant of God in her house, she was so blessed with overflowing provision of food and even experiencing the resurrection of her son when he was dead. She was supposed to be an outsider of God’s blessing. But because of her faith the blessing of God came to her. However, the widows of Israelites, God’s own people, could not have such blessing, because they had no respect for their prophet. Naaman was a valiant soldier and the commander-in-chief of the armies of Syria, but he had a leprosy. Hearing the news of the prophet Elisha, he came to the prophet for the healing. At first his pride was greatly hurt, when Elisha did not come out even to greet him, and only said, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed” (2 Kings 5:10). But later his changed his mind and obeyed the direction given by the prophet. Then he was cleansed. He was also an outsider of God’s blessing. But because of his faith in obedience God’s healing grace of leprosy came to him, while many with leprosy in Israel could not receive such blessing in their disrespect for the prophet.

This is a sad story of God’s history to the Israelites, God’s chosen people. Yet, this story tells that God’s blessing flows regardless of people’s rejection and the blessing comes to those who are humble before God irrespective of their human conditions. It has been true in Christian history. In Luke 14 Jesus told the parable of the great banquet: a certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servants to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” But sadly all refused to come, making excuses, this and that. When the master heard the report, he became angry and ordered the servants, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” Yet there was still room. Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full” (14:16-23). God’s plan is to be fulfillment anyway. May we be the people on whom God’s blessing stays and through whom God’s blessing flows.

Look at verse 28. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.” They would not be furious, if Jesus had performed miracles like throwing himself from a high place and landing uninjured. But when Jesus spoke the word of God’s truth, they were furious. What did they do? They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was build, in order to throw him down the cliff.” This was a murderous act. They were full of (or possessed by) a murderous spirit. Of course, Jesus could have been thrown down the cliff and let his angels catch him. But that would not help their faith. He walked right through the crowd and went on his way. This was also extraordinary walking in the ordinary looking. Their hands and feet must have been frozen to do anything to Jesus, momentarily perceiving Jesus’ solemn majesty when he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. Still, they were unbelieving. According to Bible description, Jesus never returned to Nazareth. Their rejection was final. This is a contrast to the response of other people in Galilee who praised Jesus when he taught in their synagogues.

We thank and praise God for the year of the Lord’s favour through his Son Jesus Christ. We ask God that we may bear the blessing of living in the year of the Lord’s favour with a right attitude before him and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour to the people of our times, participating in the heart of our God.

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