16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus went to the synagogue for His regular time with God (thus setting a good example for his followers), but instead of simply praying, He chose to read a scripture aloud. It’s unclear whether Jesus chose this specifically or whether this was the passage everyone was already studying; the important message here is that Jesus uses this scripture to announce His purpose and His ministry to the people He grew up with.
This is a triumphant scripture Jesus reads–one of joyful news. Jesus, the Messiah so often prophesied about through Isaiah and many of the other Old Testament prophets, is finally here, and is come to give freedom and healing. Freedom from having to work for their salvation; healing for their spirits as well as their bodies.
In Isaiah, this time of good news is referred to as the “year of the Lord’s favor.” It’s akin to the Year of Jubilee in the Old Testament, when slaves would be set free, debts forgiven, and property was returned to its original owners…but this time, the Lord’s favor would be extended to everyone who believed in Jesus as Messiah. Jesus didn’t officially begin His ministry with His “hometown” as such, but He is bringing His message to Nazareth now, declaring His purpose. (Nazareth doesn’t accept His message, as I’ve discussed in another post, but that’s a whole other story.)
Do We Tell Others How Jesus Has Brought Us Joy?
These days, the phrase “Lemme tell you the Good News about Jesus” is almost a cliche in our culture, often heard but seldom listened to. In our haste to convert people, as Christians, we sometimes forget about this Good News and focus instead on our target’s need to “come to Jesus.” So often, we forget to tell about how Jesus has changed our lives, how He has given us freedom and healing, how we rejoice in His presence.
But what if we approached witnessing, and even worship, with this kind of joy (presented in Isaiah, read aloud by Jesus Himself) instead of condemnation? What could that start?