The Year of the Lord’s Favor
In our Harvesters’ bible study last week, we looked at the passage where Jesus commences his public ministry by reading the scripture in the synagogue. Luke 4:17-21 says “He stood up to read, and 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 proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Isaiah 61:1-2) Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'”
This is a very dramatic passage of scripture because Jesus is reading from Isaiah and then he sits down and, in everyone’s presence, he says that he is the fulfillment of this prophecy. This is a remarkable statement about who he is and what his ministry is all about. In verse 19, where he says he’s been anointed to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” Jesus is referring to the Old Testament observance of Jubilee. Jubilee is where every fifty years, the land and the people rest, property is returned to former owners, debts are forgiven, slaves are set free to return home. Leviticus 25:10 says “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.” The Jubilee laws given by God indicate his desire for the security, stability, and wellbeing of the people. He wants them to live in ways that reflect good relationships with him, with each other, and with creation. Doesn’t this sound like Jesus’ ministry?
I love this Luke 4 passage and how it relates to Isaiah and Jubilee because it reflects God’s heart for the people. Jesus has come to bring a ministry of release to you and me; release from the things that oppress us, that weigh us down, and keep us from experiencing God’s abundant life. He is especially concerned about those who suffer, struggle, and mourn (like we see in the beatitudes). As we know, God’s kingdom is both here and now, and still yet to come. While things will never be perfect in our lives here on earth, and these are certainly difficult times we’re living in, we can still experience the year of the Lord’s favor and his release in our lives. Jesus has been anointed to proclaim good news, freedom, recovery of sight, and to set the oppressed free. Let us draw near to him.