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  • Writer's pictureRobin Smit

A Light to the Nations --

In Luke 4, we’re told that Jesus goes into the synagogue, which was his custom, to read and teach the Word. I love it!! The Word was teaching the Word! So, the scroll was handed to Him, and it was Isaiah 61:1-2. Isaiah 61:1-2 says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus stood to read, and here is what Luke tells us that He said that day. Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Notice that Jesus changed the verses a bit when He reads them. Instead of ending verse 18 with “and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (like Isaiah did in 61:1), Jesus added the words — “and the recovery of sight to the blind.” And in verse 18, He also adds — “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” which wasn’t in Isaiah 61:1. AND He left off “the day of vengeance of our God”. Let’s look at what those words mean, and then in a bit, we’ll look closer at why Jesus might have added those things in. In verse 18, recovery of sight for the blind suggests in the Greek a complete change of perspective, or a looking upward. And I like the Mirror Bible’s translation of to proclaim liberty to the captives. It says, “He has commissioned me to announce the freedom of forgiveness [their true I-am-ness] to those held captive at spear-point by their guilt and shame.” Mirror Bible notes on this verse says — the word forgiveness is aphieimi, it is from two words -- apo, meaning away from, and hieimi which is an intensive form of eimi, meaning I am. Forgiveness is in essence a restoring to your true ‘I-am-ness’ – your Christ-like-ness! And in verse 19, Jesus leaves off the day of vengeance and ONLY mentions JUBILEE – the acceptable year of the Lord, or the year of the Lord’s favor!! Although this verse doesn’t specifically say Jubilee, it says year of the Lord’s favor, all of the hearers that day would’ve known Jesus was talking about Jubilee. In Leviticus 25:10 we read about Jubilee -- “You will declare this fiftieth year sacred and proclaim the liberation (Greek aphesis) of all the inhabitants of the land. This is to be a jubilee for you.” In the Greek Septuagint the word jubilee is aphesis meaning liberation. In ancient Hebrew, jubilee is a word picture of shepherding someone safely and securely home. There was NO day of vengeance coming – the Shepherd was bringing the Father’s sons safely home! And then it says that He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, AND SAT DOWN. The big question on everyone’s mind would be, WHEN will this happen? In other words, when is this liberation coming? This year of Jubilee? And then He said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Verse 21 in the Mirror Bible says, “He then proceeded to say to them, “Everything contained in this scripture, its complete prophetic, Messianic and Jubilee significance is now fulfilled - in your ears! You don’t have to wait for another day or another time! Within your grasping and accurate hearing, today becomes your day! This is the fulness of time!” Not only did He change the words of Isaiah in His opening teaching of this verse but added that it was ALL fulfilled on that day. I love the Mirror Bibles interpretation – within your grasping and accurate hearing, TODAY becomes YOUR DAY! The same is true for us today… it is all FULFILLED, COMPLETED – FINISHED! TODAY becomes your day to experience your COMPLETE freedom when you hear and grasp the truth of it being FINISHED! And verse 22 in the Mirror Bible, “For a moment, everyone was touched and filled with wonder at the words of grace that poured out of his mouth. Until they began to mutter amongst themselves and said, “Hey, but this is Joseph’s son, no?” — knowing Jesus from a mere human point of view, veils Him from you, and blocks the mirror impact for you to now also discover yourself! Can't you just hear the confused mutterings and whisperings starting to circulate in the room? The people knew these two verses very well. BUT Jesus had changed these verses. His changes may not sound like much of a difference to our Western ears, but it was a BIG change to them! This promise in Scripture was what they were waiting for, deliverance from their oppressor (Rome). They believed the hope of deliverance and freedom from oppression was for THEM… NOT the Gentiles. BUT Jesus, after reading what God would do for them, healing and delivering them, NOW He adds Isaiah 42:7 and Isaiah 58:6 to His reading of Isaiah 61:1-2! Why? Because He is reminding them of what they are to do for the nations! Isaiah 42:7 says, "To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house." And Isaiah 58:6 says, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?” He is telling them what they are to do for the Gentiles — for their oppressors! He’s reminding them of their joint participation with God, of their co-laboring with Him. They were chosen to co-labor with God in opening blind eyes, and bringing out people who were bound. They were to be the light. Verse 6 of Isaiah 42 says, "I Yahweh have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant to the people, for a light to the GENTILES!" And Isaiah 58:6 is also a call to their participation with God - to release the oppressed. They were to BE Jubilee to the nations by taking care of the poor and oppressed among them instead of waiting for a "year of Jubilee." They were to be a light to the nations! And as they sat there pretty much stunned at His additions to Isaiah 61:1, He finished verse two BUT left off the part that says, "the day of vengeance of our God." That was probably their favorite part of Isaiah 61:2, just like sometimes in the church, it's ours as well. We LOVE to be vindicated, even at the expense or harm of someone else. We LOVE when God judges us righteous and has vengeance on those who have wronged us. We feel justified!! BUT, that's not God's heart. Jesus is reminding them of God's promise to them in Isaiah 61:1 AND also reminding them of their part in being an expression of Him to the Gentiles. And then He proclaimed NOT God's vengeance upon their enemies but instead His favor, His acceptance, His approval! Jesus was announcing to them that Jubilee wasn't only for the Jews but for the Gentiles… for ALL mankind. For ALL of God's sons! He’s telling them that they had gotten it wrong. They had thought that Jubilee for Israel included God's judgment on their oppressors. But Jesus left that part off! And then He sat down, and all eyes were fixed on Him. And He said, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Everyone else who had read those Scriptures and taught on them had said something like, “Someday, this promise will be fulfilled.” BUT Jesus said, TODAY! Jesus was saying to them, “Everything you've been waiting for is here! The Jubilee you've been hoping for stands before you... I AM your Jubilee... I AM your Messiah.... the Messianic age (the age of Salvation) has begun... it is no longer a future hope.” They no longer had to be poor, broken-hearted, captive, blind, or bruised. Jesus’ words to them were, "Your Messiah is here! Salvation has come!" Jewish expectation was that when Messiah arrived, He would not only restore the fortunes of Israel but would do so by destroying her enemies. They expected a Messiah who was a Warrior King! The inclusion of the Gentiles from this reading of Isaiah was unthinkable for most Jews. Deliverance from captivity for them had always included destructive judgment upon their enemies who enslaved or oppressed them. He had delivered them from Egypt, from the Babylonian Empire, and the Medo-Persian Empire. Why then should the Roman Empire be any different? But what they failed to understand was that God was doing a new thing. He was restoring the ETERNAL covenant He had with ALL men!! So, Jesus continues His teaching, giving them examples of pagan Gentiles that Elijah and Elisha had done miracles among. And in verses 23-27 in Luke 4, He is addressing their neglect of being the people of The Blessing. Genesis 12:2 says, “I have blessed you to be a blessing to ALL families of the earth." And He addresses their neglect of being a light to the nations. In verse 23, Jesus indicates that they are asking for signs and for the blessings to flow in THEIR town. Because so far, Jesus had been doing miracles in Capernaum, which was a city of both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus was indicating that He had also come to be a light and a blessing TO the Gentiles. This would include their Roman oppressors... and to them that was unthinkable! And so they were offended with His gracious words, with His words of grace; because His grace INCLUDED the Gentiles. INCLUDED the outsiders of THEIR covenant with THEIR God! And then Jesus reminds them of God's goodness towards two specific Gentiles. Two "intrinsically impure" outsiders… the widow of Sidon and Naaman the Syrian. God's heart has ALWAYS been for ALL people and for EVERY nation... Jews AND Gentiles. He doesn’t have insiders and outsiders. He has SONS!! Or to put that into language we understand and speak in the church today… God doesn’t see believers AND unbelievers, church people and worldly people, or even saints and sinners… He only sees beloved SONS!! IT IS FINISHED!

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