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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Lev 25; Isa 61; Luk 4; The Favorable Year of the Lord

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Portraits of Christ
“The Favorable Year of the Lord” (Leviticus 25; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21)

  1. On a very special Sabbath day of the Jewish calendar, a familiar figure appeared in the synagogue of Nazareth.
    • All eyes were upon this Rabbi who had returned to His hometown after teaching and healing in the region of Galilee.
    • He grew up in Nazareth in the home of a carpenter by the name of Joseph.
    • His mother, brothers and sister were also known throughout the town.
    • As Jesus entered the synagogue, people may have quietly whispered to each other about the claims He made and the miracles He reportedly had performed.
    • They may have heard what He said when He welcomed the multitudes of Galilee, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
    • They likely pondered, “How could He offer rest when life was filled with such toil and heartbreak?”
    • As worship began the people turned their attention to the reading of the Scriptures.
    • After a Scripture from the Law had been read, Jesus stood up to read a preselected, prescribed Scripture from the prophets.
    • The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. (Luke 4:16-19)
    • He unrolled it and turned to Isaiah 61:1-2.
    • His voice pierced the silence as He read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the 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.”
    • He stopped and read no more.
    • He then rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the synagogue attendant.
    • He sat down, as was the practice of a rabbi, before he began to teach from the text.
    • All eyes were riveted on Him.
    • The people anxiously waited for Him to explain the significance of Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah.
    • Jesus turned to His hearers and simply said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
    • At first the people were relieved by the brevity and sincerity of His words.
    • People even spoke under their breath favorable affirmation about Joseph’s son.
    • After Jesus spoke about His refusal to perform miracles for the fascination of the hometown, and that He—like the prophets Elijah and Elisha—would be rejected by those listening, things turned sour.
    • Christ’s claim that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” stirred up enmity and wrath against Him.
    • His identity with Isaiah’s prophecy, as the promised Messiah, was astonishing—even blasphemous.
    • What was it Jesus was claiming to fulfill?
    • Why were His words so scandalous?
    • And how had He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy to proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor”?
  2. Christ’s claim must be examined to better understand what He meant when He proclaimed “the year of the Lord’s favor.”
    • Jesus claimed to be something very profound.
    • He was affirming that He had come to liberate His people from sin, just as in the Jubilee year the people were liberated from their guilt, debt and crimes.
    • In other words, Jesus proclaimed He was the “Year of Jubilee.”
    • This was the year following 49 sabbatical years. (Leviticus 25)
    • That year the land was to lay dormant, prisoners were to be released and debtors to be forgiven.
    • “Jubilee” meant a year of rest, a time to rest from labor, a time for grace, and a time to celebrate freedom set forth by God.
    • It was a time of deliverance and restoration.
    • Jubilee demonstrated that everything Israel had belonged to God.
    • He was the Master and they were the stewards of His resources. (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)
    • Trumpets were blown on the first Sabbath at the beginning of Jubilee.
    • That day was also known as the “Day of Atonement.”
    • While the trumpets sounded throughout the land, lambs were sacrificed to the Lord in the tabernacle, and later in the temple in Jerusalem.
    • The lamb’s blood was sprinkled over the Mercy Seat above the Ark of the Covenant.
    • All of this foreshadowed or spoke of Christ and what He would come to do.
    • And what was their inheritance they awaited? The Lord Himself—Messiah!
    • He would come to deliver them and give them rest.
  3. Jesus’ claim to be the fulfillment of Jubilee outraged the people.
    • Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled just as he foretold.
    • The Spirit of the Lord had come upon Jesus when He stood in the Jordan River.
    • He was anointed and affirmed to be Messiah, when the voice from heaven above spoke to Jesus quoting Psalm two, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
    • Jesus had proclaimed good news to the multitudes huddled around Him on the hillsides of Galilee.
    • He promised blessing for the poor, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
    • He proclaimed liberty to those held captive by guilt and disease.
    • He touched the eyes of the blind and the head of lepers.
    • They were miraculously and instantly healed.
    • He cast out demons from those oppressed and possessed.
    • So when Jesus claimed, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” He was saying He was their Jubilee.
    • His words were like the trumpet on Jubilee, announcing the Day of Atonement had come.
    • He was the Lamb of God whose blood would be spilt on the altar of Golgotha.
  4. But what Jesus didn’t read from Isaiah 61:2 is also significant.
    • The line following “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” read: “And to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.”
    • The time of deliverance and rest promised by God in the Law and the Prophets had come.
    • The day of God’s vengeance is yet to come.
    • Until then, the last words of Isaiah 61 offer hope.
    • “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.” (Isaiah 61:11)
    • We live in the day of deliverance and rest, not the day of God’s righteous wrath.
    • This is the good news we are to preach to all the nations.
    • He clothes the unrighteous with garments of salvation and covers them with the robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10)
    • The truth of Christ sets prisoners free from bondage to sin. (John 8:32)
    • The righteous are set free from condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
    • “For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)
  5. The One Who proclaimed the “year of God’s favor” is the same One Isaiah foresaw in Isaiah 49:1-3.
    • “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in Whom I will display my splendor.’”
    • Let us join with the Apostle Peter in joyous words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)
    • This is the Day of Jubilee.
    • The Trumpet of Atonement has been blown.
    • The day of vengeance has not yet come.
    • May the Gospel of Christ be proclaimed boldly to all peoples everywhere!

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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