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Levi Jones

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

The silence hung in the air ominously. Reports had followed this man, telling of

great deeds and powerful words. His words promised hope and a future. Israel’s

oppressors had been a thorn in their side for so long. Perhaps God would now free them

from their chains. The men smiled, shaking their heads as the speaker proclaimed the

year of the Lord’s favor. Yes, perhaps now Jubilee would be fulfilled. Each man would

then be restored to the land that was rightfully his, the land God had given them, the land

promised to Abraham and his descendants. The eyes of all present rested upon this man

as he rolled up the scroll and handed it to the attendant.

This teacher, Jesus, had been teaching in the area of Galilee by the power of the

Spirit (Luke 4:14-15). The people had heard about him and the praise he had received

due to his teaching (vv. 14-15). Jesus was now in the synagogue in his hometown of

Nazareth (v. 16). A devout Jew, he customarily observed Sabbath, although this would

later be a source of conflict, especially with the Pharisees. Jesus stood up to read, the

scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him (vv. 16-17). In his commentary on Luke,

Bock states:

The Torah was always read, and often a reading from the Prophets

followed. After the reading came an invitation for someone to instruct the

audience. Based on texts already read or on new texts, this instruction

could be done by any qualified male in the audience, provided ten males

were present. Jesus stood up apparently to indicate that he could speak

about a passage (403).


Although it is possible that there was a fixed reading schedule, it is most probable that

Jesus chose the passage he wanted to teach from (Bock 404). As such, Luke gives us a

key insight into the mission of Jesus’ ministry.

“Jesus reads a text that includes one of Isaiah’s servant prophecies (Isa. 61:1-2)

and then stuns his audience by declaring it to be fulfilled in him at that very moment”

(Blomberg 233). Hope swelled in the hearts of the listeners. Maybe the messiah had

finally come to deliver God’s people. Could this be the Christ? How could the son of the

carpenter, Joseph, be he (v. 22)? What could he possibly do against the heavy hand of

the Romans? Still, one could not help but hope that a future deliverance might be

possible, as in the days of the Maccabean Revolt. The people had waited for such a

moment of redemption.

However, Jesus did not stop there. Blomberg points out, “He keeps on speaking

and directs attention to Gentiles whom God favored over his chosen people in Old

Testament times” (233). Suddenly, the audience’s anger flares. How brazen must this

man be to proclaim that God’s blessings which had been intended for Israel would now

be shared by Gentiles as well! This was beyond carelessness, it was blaspheme! Israel

was the chosen people of God. Gentiles were defiled, godless men. No, God had given

the promises to Abraham and his seed, not these pigs that now desecrated the land!

The crowd pressed in on Jesus pushing him toward the cliff’s edge. There was

only one way to deal with a blasphemer: death. They would hurl him off the hill to his

death (v. 29). As the men moved ominously toward Jesus, he “passed through the midst

of them and went on his way” (v. 30). Jesus’ words hung in the air: “Truly, I tell you, no

prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (v. 24). This would not be the last time

Jesus’ stance on holiness would make enemies of his listeners. Ultimately, Luke

foreshadows the anger, the opposition, and the murderous intent that would conclude

with Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus’ words reach beyond mere “spiritual” talk. Rather, Jesus

speaks of a political reality that centers its concern on the “outsiders” of the community,

including Gentiles.

Israel as a community of holiness risked defilement from the penetrating forces of

Roman society. To think Jubilee was applicable to these outsiders was beyond bizarre, it

was heretical. Didn’t Jesus realize, as did the Maccabees, that they must purify

themselves of this evil, desecrating culture? “Holiness was understood primarily as

entailing separation. Just as the holiness of God was understood to be God’s separation

from all that defiles, so the holiness of Israel, living by an imitatio dei, meant separation”

(Borg 67). The Jews understood that Isaiah had clearly been speaking to the Jews

returning from the Exile. Jesus had manipulated the text in favor of the enemy. That

could only mean one thing, Jesus was an enemy.

However, for Jesus, the pursuit of holiness as a community extended beyond the

boundaries of the Jews. As was promised to Abraham, Israel would be a blessing to all

nations (Gen. 12:3). Redemption would be available to all. God’s kingdom was

breaking into the world in a pervasive way. God’s love would be available to the

outsider. In a sense, the outsider had become the insider. God’s blessings were not

relegated to the rich, the upwardly mobile, and the “holy.” Rather, God’s plan was

available to the poor, the broken, the outcast, the weak, and the sinner. God’s love was

not bound by race and nationality. Redemption was available to Israel, as well as,

Israel’s enemies.

As in the year of Jubilee, forgiveness of debts would set the captives free. This

goes beyond a “health and wealth” Gospel of prosperity. Rather, it was the establishment

of God’s kingdom as a present and future reality. The broken systems of oppression in

which Israel had become entrenched would be replaced by the holiness of God’s love and

compassion. This was a marked move towards living out holiness through social justice.

The pursuit of holiness did not neglect ritual observances. Yet, holiness moved beyond

the scope of mere ritualistic fulfillment of Torah. Jesus asserted the sanctity of life and

relationship. A holiness community could no longer neglect these vital aspects of life,

which entailed socio-economic realities.

This new kingdom does not end with the ministry of Jesus. Rather, Jesus set the

kingdom of God into motion, modeling what that kingdom would and should look like in

his followers. Yoder quotes Blosser, saying, “The Jubilee is not simply a theological

concept providing insight into the nature of God; it is a guide for living which is to be

observed in normal daily practice among believers” (74).

Luke’s “theological bibliography” was written for a man, Theophilus, and quite

possibly a community of believers (Blomberg 107; Luke 1:3). This writing was

undertaken by Luke so that there would be an “orderly account” and “so that you may

know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed” (Luke 1:3-

4). As such, Luke’s account of Jesus’ preaching at Nazareth looked to establish Jesus’

mission and thus the mission of the Christian community to which the Gospel was

addressed. Luke, a Gentile physician, had experienced redemption and acceptance into

the kingdom of God. This was the legacy Luke wished to impart to his readers.

Holiness, as exemplified by Jubilee, must be the modus operandi of Jesus’ followers.


Works Cited

Blomberg, Craig L. Jesus and the Gospels. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1997.

Borg, Marcus J. Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus. Harrisburg:

Trinity Press International, 1998.

Harrelson, Walter J., Donald Senior, and Abraham Smith, eds. The New Interpreter's

Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. New York:

Abingdon P, 2005.

Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1994.