The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book.
When Jews met together in the synagogue during the time of Jesus, there were three parts of their worship. First was the invocation, when they prayed for God’s blessing and then recited the traditional Hebrew confession of faith (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21). Second, someone would read the Scriptures. There is something powerful about God’s people reading the Scriptures aloud. Then after the Scripture reading, the people would be seated and the teacher would instruct the people. He would apply what they had just read.
In Luke 4:17, the Jews in the synagogue in Nazareth had already prayed, and now it was time for the reading of the Scripture. The reading for that day was from Isaiah, so Jesus took the scroll and read from Isaiah 61:1-2: “‘The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down” (Luke 4:18-20). Why did Jesus choose these verses to read? Every Jew who was present that day in the synagogue understood those verses were a prophecy about the coming Messiah.
I want you to know three things this prophecy from Isaiah says about the Messiah. First, He would be anointed by the “spirit of the Lord.” Second, He would announce the arrival of God’s kingdom. And third, the Messiah would bring about God’s salvation. He would set the captives free, He would bring sight to the blind, and He would set free those who were oppressed.
Interestingly, Jesus did not finish reading Isaiah 61:2; He left out a sentence. Isaiah 61:2 says the Messiah would “proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God.” But notice Jesus stopped after “the favorable year of the Lord”; He did not say “the day of vengeance of our God.” Why did He leave out that final phrase? When Isaiah wrote this prophecy, he did not understand that there would be two comings of the Messiah. He didn’t know that when Jesus came the first time, He would come as the suffering servant. But then He would come back again as the sovereign king. Isaiah didn’t understand there would be a pause between “the favorable year of the Lord” and “the day of vengeance of our God.” So when Jesus was quoting this passage, He was saying, “Right now My ministry is to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” That’s why Jesus came the first time, to offer salvation.
But there is a time when Jesus is coming back, not as the Savior of the world but as the Judge of the world. There is coming a time when Jesus will not only reward the righteous but He will judge the wicked. That’s when He will proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God.” So Jesus simply said, “He has sent me … to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Day Jesus Came to Church” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2004.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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