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.” Luke 4:16-21
Luke tells us that Jesus returned to Nazareth, His home town shortly after the wilderness experience. Also, Luke tells us that it was Jesus custom to read scripture in the local synagogue. Jesus gets up and is handed a scroll to read from. It turns out it is the scroll of Isaiah and it is near the end of the scroll. Jesus opens the scroll and starts to read what Luke records in today’s verses. As interesting as what Jesus reads is where He stops reading.
In what we now call chapter 61 of Isaiah Jesus starts with the first verse and starts the second verse but stops in mid-sentence. He then set down and everyone turns to look at Jesus. I guess they are wondering why He would start reading a passage from Isaiah and read only the beginning. Even more mysterious is why stop before what they must have believed was the most important part, “the day of the vengeance of our God.” That is how the second part of the sentence in Isaiah 61:2 ends.
Jesus then tells everyone in the synagogue that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What can we learn from today’s verses and especially from where Jesus stopped and what He said after He sat down? We can learn something about Jesus and something about what the Jews were expecting.
Let’s start with what these verses and following in Isaiah were thought to be about by the Jews. Up until about 200 years after the crucifixion and resurrection it was the Jewish belief that these verses in Isaiah were messianic verses. That is they were describing the Messiah and what He would do. The person who would do these things would be the promised Messiah. The Jews were looking for a warrior king similar to David, someone who would take the yoke of oppression of Israel and put Israel in their rightful place. For them the fulfillment was not the first part of what Jesus read but what He did not read.
What can we learn about Jesus? When He told the assembly that what Isaiah wrote was fulfilled in their presence, Jesus was making His first claim to be the Messiah. Too often critics say that Jesus never claimed to be God and all that was made up later, usually two to three hundred years later. But today we see Jesus making an explicit claim to have fulfilled Isaiah’s prophesy concerning the Messiah. And for the Jews the Messiah was to be God here on earth.
What concerned those who heard Jesus was they were expecting all the prophesies concerning the Messiah to be fulfilled at the same time. Jesus was telling them that no, the prophesies about the Messiah were going to be fulfilled in two parts. Jesus had work to do first before the judgment part happened. Jesus first had to prepare a way for all of us toocome back into a relationship with God. Only then would God the Son come to judge us all.
Have a blessed day,