Luke 4:16-22 says, “And he 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. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim 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.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?'”
Can you imagine what it must’ve been like to be in the synagogue the day Jesus announced his ministry? I mean, think about that for a minute.
Jesus was a guy everyone there knew well. They’d seen him grow up in Mary & Joseph’s home after they returned from Egypt. He’d been obedient and pretty good natured about doing his chores. He laughed and joked with the other boys and girls when they were young. Some older women there probably remembered him as a toddler, the way he tried to drag pieces of wood to his daddy as they “worked” together in the making things from wood. Of course, everyone thought he’d be a carpenter like Joseph, but he’d left Nazareth & been doing other things – though no one probably really knew what he’d been doing.
It wouldn’t be unusual to ask him be among those who read a text and taught from it. He was an adult male. He was a member in good standing. He was home again. The Jewish practice at this point in history was different than ours: we usually know well in advance what we are to speak about, and we study and prepare in advance, so we are sure we understand the topic thoroughly. In Jesus’ day, the men were expected to know scripture so intimately that they could speak from what was handed to them. Their constant study and application of God’s word was their preparation. Would that we knew scripture so well!
It was unusual, however, for someone (especially someone who you knew when they were potty training), to sit down and declare that the passage that had been predicting some future event for hundreds of years meant here. Now. Me.
So they “marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”
The year of the Lord’s favor had arrived! And with it the day of the Lord’s vengeance. Thinking about other scripture, I’m not sure which the Jews anticipated most: God’s favor and salvation, or his vengeance and wrath?
As a matter of fact, I’m not sure which I place my hope in most sometimes.
Do I long for the salvation of those who persecute my brothers and sisters as much as I cry out for God’s just wrath to stop them? When I hear the news, does my heart ache for the torment of the soul, the fellow image-bearer, who is so entangled in sin he would behead my brothers in the street? Do I cry out for God’s mercy on the soul of the pre-teen who steals my sisters from their homes to misuse their bodies? Is my hope bound up in God’s grace or his wrath? Do I beg for his mercy on the persecutors as much as I beg for his mercy on the persecuted? But for his grace, I could be in either position.
Praise God, the year of his favor began with Christ in the synagogue that day! And praise God, the day of his vengeance has only dawned! Let’s pray for those who persecute us. Let’s love our enemies into the kingdom, or at least arrive in the kingdom with battle scars from trying to rescue them from the dominion of darkness.
This post builds on the theme we’re talking about today over at Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study. If you’d like to join us you can subscribe to that Bible study with daily devotions here: http://eepurl.com/bPCVqn