The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
Luke 4:18-19 & 21b
God in Christ did not just come to save souls for heaven; he also came to bring shalom and flourishing here in this life
Nicholas Wolterstorff, “In This world of wonders.” Page 55.
Two sections of the gospels are often called manifestos; “The Sermon on the Mount has been called “The Kingdom Manifesto”. The other section is that which is found in Luke 4:16-21, and it has been called; “The Nazareth Manifesto”. It is the section in Luke that we will be considering in this piece. I presume the term manifesto is used because the quote, predominantly from Isaiah 61, is used by Jesus to speak of his mission.
Jesus in using this text also draws attention to the nature of his person. At his baptism Jesus is declared as God’s son, resonating with Psalm 2, and therefore King. Jesus is the one in whom the Father is well pleased, drawing on the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 42:1. The section from Isaiah 61 while not belonging to the servant songs of Isaiah, (Is. 42:1-4; 49:1-11; 50:4-9; 52:13 – 53:12) can be described as like a servant song. Finally the proclamation of God’s word by the one spoken of in 61:16:21 resonates with the prophet who was to come found in Deuteronomy 18:15 & 18. Luke uses the titles and the texts that contain them in such a way as to reveal Jesus as the bringer of God’s salvation. The one who could declare the year of the Lord’s favour because he was God come amongst his people, in the person of the Son.
Jesus had the authority to proclaim the fulfilment of the scripture, the year of the Lord’s favour had begun. What was Jesus intimating when he sat down and said ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing?’ Jesus was announcing the long awaited deliverance of God’s people from all that made them less than they should be. Isaiah’s prophetic word concerned the deliverance of Judah from exile in Babylon; however it finds its greater fulfilment in the liberation that Jesus made possible through his life, death and resurrection. Jesus was announcing the full salvation that God had promised was coming into being through his person and work.
One discussion that surrounds the text in Luke 4 concerns whether Jesus was speaking of spiritual realities, or physical realities? The answer is the salvation God brings about in Jesus is for the whole person. The separation of the spiritual from the physical in the biblical understanding of human persons is not as easy as some think. God is concerned with the whole person.
The language at use in the text is not that of social political revolution, but of the in breaking in of the kingdom of God in liberating and saving power, this is the true renewing of the world. In Jesus the order of the new creation is breaking in. This is the new community under the sovereignty of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, coming into being as a sign and prophetic voice to a world that needs to experience the saving, liberating power of God. This new community is made up of those who accept Jesus and his message and experience the liberty of the children of God.
Those who are called to be part of this new community are also charged with proclaiming the arrival of the year of the Lord’s favour with the coming of Jesus. We are to proclaim the message and live as those who seek to bring the good gifts of God to all.
Ronnie Wynd 2019