As Jesus begins His mission to fulfil the “Year of the Lord’s Favour”, the year of Jubilee, two things become immediately obvious. First, His mission will be global. The Sabbath rest that Jesus came to offer is going to be offered to all humanity (Luke 4:18). Secondly, this global offer is going to mean conflict (Luke 4:28).
The locals in Nazareth are excited about the prospect of Jesus promising liberation,
And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth (Luke 4:22)
…but they seethe with murderous rage when Jesus parallels His ministry with the Gentile mission of Elijah and Elisha. Jesus plans to offer salvation to all the wrong people.
And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. (Luke 4:29)
The irony is this. Jesus was living in a time of great expectation. The Jews were longing for the appearance of a Messiah who would deliver them from their enemies. Many of the Synagogues of Jesus’ day, following a standard liturgy, would have been preaching on the same passage in Isaiah.
Synagogue sermons preserved from the first century on Isaiah 61 show several accounts of synagogue teachers preaching the great hope of a coming Messiah.
Picture it. In one synagogue, the Jews are listening to their teacher as he preaches a passionate sermon about the coming Saviour. Just down the road, you have another synagogue full of Jews trying to kill the same Saviour!
But passing through their midst, he went away. (Luke 4:30)
Walking through the bloodthirsty crowd, Jesus gets on with the business of fulfilling the year of Jubilee. And what do we see? Two things.
First, we see Jesus dismantling a Kingdom.
Through true words spoken and true words obeyed, Jesus had won a decisive victory over Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4:13). Having dealt the first blow, Jesus now begins to plunder the strong man’s house. Fulfilling Isaiah 61, Jesus goes about liberating those enslaved by demons, sickness and sin.
Like Joshua, Jesus has crossed the Jordan (Luke 4:1, 14) and now begins to take the land.
Secondly, Jesus begins the work of rebuilding a New Israel by gathering twelve disciples and setting them apart for the ongoing work of rebuilding, redemption and renewal.
The church continues the pattern of Jubilee labour set down and fulfilled by Jesus. We are called to set a trumpet to our mouths (Hosea 8:1) and declare liberty to those held hostage to sin and the kingdom of darkness.
Like the Jubilee, we work to see Jesus set people free from slavery to their lusts, from the commandments of men, from pride, bitterness and despair.
We live as those dedicated to Christ in the task of rebuilding. We work to liberate and we work to build.
This means obedience to the faith, over which Christ and Christ alone is Lord.
It also means the courage to speak the truth, turning neither to the right or to the left when we find ourselves misunderstood, maligned or marginalised in the heat of the battle.
If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.
Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. Martin Luther.
Jesus set the trumpet to His mouth and spoke true words. Words that nearly had Him thrown off a cliff and words which eventually did get Him crucified.
They saw His words as condemnation and disruptive to their little jig, but what He was actually doing was declaring the year of the Lord’s favour and setting people free. They thought He had come to knock down their tidy religious racket. What He was really doing was rebuilding a broken humanity.