Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
24 June 2018
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost / Ordinary Time

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Our sermon text for today is Luke 4:16-30.

Today I want us to pay special attention to the message that Jesus came preaching—the good news of Jubilee.

Jubilee is not something we know much about or talk about much.

We used to sing a song that mentioned “the year of Jubilee” but other than that Jubilee is not a word we use much.

Hopefully, that will change after today.

The word of God reads:

Luke 4:16-30

May God bless the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word.

We just read the sermon text for today and you saw what happened—Jesus preached from the scroll of Isaiah the prophet and told two stories from the Book of the Kings!

Jesus 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.

Jesus was not a missing person when it came to church attendance. It was his custom to go to church. Jesus was not a church-hopper. He was an active member of the local synagogue in his hometown—a gathering place where the word of God was read, preached, and discussed.

On this occasion Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the text he wanted to preach—what we call the text of Isaiah 61. (That was the text for our OT scripture reading before the sermon.)

One reason he chose this text is because it outlined his mission and purpose as a messenger of redemption and restoration.

Before we delve into our story in Luke 4, I want to fill in some of the biblical-historical background of this text.

Isaiah 61 echoes a merciful and gracious law which is found in Leviticus 25.

According to Leviticus 25, once every 50 years, on the Day of Atonement, God’s people were supposed to observe a Sabbath of Sabbaths and the priests were supposed to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the people. (The Greek word for ‘liberty’ – aphesis, LXX and NA28 – means ‘release’ or ‘forgiveness’.)

So the Year of Jubilee was designed and intended to be a time of rest, release, return, and refreshment for all the people.

The year of Jubilee was a time of redemption and restoration.

Redemption because it happened on the Day of Atonement. All sins were forgiven and all debts were cancelled. Restoration because things lost were returned, things loaned were repaid, and things locked up were released.

Who says there is no grace in the OT?!

Jubilee was supposed to be a time of redemption from sins and debts, reconciliation with God and man, and restoration of people and property. But the people of Israel refused to practice the law of Jubilee.

As a result, they were eventually expelled from the promise land for seventy years. Even after all that, they refused to release each other from debts and trespasses.

For more on this click here.

Now, by the time we enter the synagogue in Nazareth (several hundred years later) we see that God’s people have fallen into a new state of exile. They are still in their homeland, but they are under the rule of the Roman Empire.

They are abused, broken, crushed, despised exiles under house-arrest.

So, it was in that context, with all that historical baggage, that Jesus stood up to read the Scriptures and sat down to preach.

And what did he preach?

He preached the good news of Jubilee from Isaiah 61. This scripture and story serve as the Table of Contents for the rest of Luke’s Gospel. Over the next few weeks we will see Jesus accomplish everything the prophets said he would accomplish.

JUBILEE IN THE SPIRIT

When Jesus read “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me” he meant that he was set apart for a special mission and purpose.

In the OT prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil and formally ordained to serve in an official capacity. Likewise, Jesus was anointed with the true and better oil of the Holy Spirit.

So, on the one hand Jesus was claiming to be a prophet like Isaiah, a priest like Aaron, and a king like David. But, on the other hand, he was claiming to be the Christ.

Now, in context of Isaiah, the “me” actually refers to the suffering Servant of the Lord.

So according to Isaiah 61, the suffering Servant of the Lord was to be anointed with the Holy Spirit in order to preach the good news of Jubilee to the abused, broken, captive, and despised of the world.

The suffering Servant of the Lord would come in the power of the Spirit to preach the gospel of redemption, and reconciliation, and restoration.

The Christ would come and proclaim liberty, the good news of Jubilee, the acceptable Year of the Lord.

And that is what Jesus did.

After he was baptized in water and anointed with the Spirit he went throughout Galilee in the power of the Spirit, preaching the good news of Jubilee in all the synagogues (4:15).

So Jesus was aware that he was sent as a light to the nations to bring salvation to the ends of the world. The word “sent” actually means sent on mission.

So Jesus says: The Spirit of the Lord sent me on mission.

The Spirit of the Lord sent me on mission to preach good news to the poor.

The word for poor can refer to all kinds of poverty—material, emotional, spiritual.

If that describes you, then hear the good news that Jesus proclaims to you: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

[The Spirit of the Lord sent me on mission to bind up the broken-hearted (Isa 61:1 Heb and LXX).]

The word for broken (Heb niphal) means to be shattered, maimed, crippled, or wrecked.

If that describes your heart, then know that Jesus came to put you back together and make things right again.

The Spirit of the Lord sent me on mission to preach freedom to captives [Heb cry out freedom to captives]

The phrase “proclaim liberty” is Jubilee language. That phrase comes straight from Leviticus 25 and other Jubilee-texts.

The Greek word for ‘liberty’ – aphesis – is used throughout Luke and Acts. It simply means “release” or “forgiveness”. The word for “captive” refers to a prisoner – someone who is chained, trapped, enslaved like an addict.

If that describes you, then hear the good news that Jesus proclaims to you: Forgive and your sins will be forgiven; release, and you will be released (Luke 6:37).

The Spirit of the Lord sent me on mission to preach recovery of sight to the blind.

Jesus opened the eyes of the blind with a word, and he opened the minds of the ignorant with his Spirit.

If that describes you, then cry out for sight and insight that you may see the light and know the truth.

The Spirit of the Lord sent me on mission to set free those who are oppressed.

The word for set free means to send away or dismiss. The word for oppressed means beat down, trampled, and crushed.

If that describes you then know that Jesus came to send away the abused, bruised, crushed, and down-trodden with freedom and forgiveness.

The Spirit of the Lord sent me on mission to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

The acceptable year of the Lord refers to the Year of Jubilee; and Jubilee is all about rest, release, and refreshment.

Jesus came to proclaim Jubilee to people in dire straits—the abused and addicted; the blind and broken; the captive and crushed; the dirty and despised.

People like you and me. And people not like you and me.

We tend to “spiritualize” all these things—poor, broken-hearted, captive, blind, oppressed—but that only makes them less real.

But Jesus did not look at the world that way. He did not make a sharp distinction between the spiritual and physical. He did not prioritize one over the other as if one mattered more than the other.

JUBILEE IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

Jesus cares about us body and soul, heart and mind.

That is why he preached good news to the poor –

like the crowd on the plain when he said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (6:20),

like his disciples who had left everything to follow him (Luke 18:28-30);

and like the widow who gave two copper coins (Luke 21:2-3).

Jesus cares about us body and soul, heart and mind.

That is why he proclaimed liberty to the captives –

like the woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten up. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed/released from your disability” (Luke 13:11-12);

like John the Baptist who was on death row wondering if Jesus was the Christ, the true suffering Servant of the Lord. And Jesus said blessed is the man who does not fall away because of me” (Luke 7:20-23).

Jesus cares about us body and soul, heart and mind.

That is why he proclaimed recovery of sight for the blind –

like the beggar who was sitting by the road to Jericho. As Jesus passed by he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight—your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God (Luke 18:35-43);

and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus opened the scriptures to them on the road and when they sat at the table Jesus took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him (Luke 24:30-31);

and like the disciples in the upper room when Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” (Luke 24:45-47).

Jesus cares about us body and soul, heart and mind.

That is why he proclaimed Jubilee to the oppressed –

like the wild and naked homeless man who lived in a graveyard because he was possessed by a legion of demons. Jesus released him from demonic oppression and restored him to his right mind and clothed his body (Luke 8:26-39);

and like the father whose only son was afflicted by an unclean spirit that seized the boy, and made him cry, that shook the boy, and made him foam at the mouth, that shattered him, and hardly left him alone. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astonished at the majesty of God (Luke 9:38-43).

Jesus cares about us body and soul, heart and mind.

That is why he proclaimed the acceptable Year of the Lord—the good news of Jubilee.

Jesus was sent on mission to save real people in real life.

By declaring the scripture fulfilled in their hearing, Jesus was claiming at least two things: (1) that he was the Christ, the suffering Servant of the Lord. (2) that his hearers were the poor, the captives, the blind, and the crushed. They needed the good news of Jubilee.

He was the Savior of the world. They were the ones he had come to redeem and restore.

Jesus came into the world coloring outside the lines of religion, culture, and politics.

Like the prophets before him, he crossed man-made borders to proclaim the good news of Jubilee to all the inhabitants of the earth — whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, rich or poor, male or female, adult or child.

He shows no partiality or favoritism. But just in case we missed that point, Jesus tells two stories from the OT Book of Kings.

Not random stories, but relevant stories that illustrate what Isaiah 61 says:

Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks;
     foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
but you shall be called the priests of the Lord;
     they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God;
you shall eat the wealth of the nations,
     and in their glory you shall boast.

According to Jesus, Jubilee is for Jews and Gentiles.

JUBILEE IN THE BOOK OF KINGS

The first story is about Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24).

There were many needy widows in Israel during the drought and famine, but God only sent the prophet Elijah on mission beyond the borders of Israel to a widow in Sidon.

Elijah asked the widow for bread and water and she gave what little she had to the prophet.

God rewarded her generous offering by supplying her with flour, water, and oil for the duration of the drought which he had sent on the region.

So a foreign, Gentile, widow, woman received Elijah as a true prophet of Yahweh, but the people of Israel rejected him.

The same thing was going to happen with Jesus and the Jewish people.

The second story is about Elisha and the Leper (2 Kings 5:1-19).

Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Aram (modern Syria). The Arameans/Syrians were a thorn in the side of Israel. Raiding parties and skirmishes eventually led to all out war. Naaman’s wife had an Israelite slave girl who informed her mistress about the prophet of God in Israel. So Naaman secured permission and safe passage to visit the prophet.

When Elisha heard that Naaman was coming to see him he sent a servant out to meet him and command him to wash himself in the Jordan River in order to be cleansed of his leprosy. After putting up some resistance Naaman repented and baptized himself in the Jordan seven times. And his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

There were many needy lepers in Israel during the war between Israel and Syria, but God only sent the prophet Elijah on mission to heal one Syrian leper.

So a foreign Gentile leper accepted Elisha as a true prophet of God at the same time Israel was denying his teaching and the king rejected his counsel.

Why did Jesus tell these two stories?

To show that Yahweh was concerned about all nations, not just Israel.

To show that Jubilee–redemption, reconciliation, and restoration–is even for the Gentiles.

To show that he (like other missional prophets) would be rejected by his own people Israel and yet received by the nations of the world.

JUBILEE IN THE FLESH

Jesus was sent on mission to save the abused, broken, crushed, and despised on the margins of the world.

God had sent Israel on mission as a light to the nations to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. But Israel failed to fulfill her mission to the world.

Now Jesus comes on the scene as the true and better Israel. He is on mission to save the nations of the world. He will not fail; he will succeed in fulfilling his mission to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

Jesus was not anointed by the Spirit to promote the health and wealth of white upper-middle class Americans, but to proclaim the good news of Jubilee to the abused, broken, captive, and despised exiles on the fringes of the world.

So today we proclaim the good news of Jubilee to you–

To you who are poor, broken-hearted, captive, blind, and oppressed.

To you who are lowly widows in desperate need of bread for your souls and oil for your wounds.

To you who are filthy lepers in dire need of a compassionate touch and cleansing water.

To you who are dirty and diseased, like dead men in need of the cleansing Word and consecrating Spirit of grace.

To proclaim Jubilee is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ has come into the world to save you, to preach the good news of Jubilee to you, to proclaim your sins forgiven and your debts cancelled and your chains released.

The moment you turn from your sins and trust in him, he will declare all your sins forgiven and he will release you from all your guilt and shame.

That is the good news of Jubilee in the name of Jesus Christ.