Tasting the Kingdom 2

In the life of Jesus as he comes announcing the Kingdom of God, we find that it is not only the words that he speaks but the life that he lives that gives people a taste of the Kingdom of God.  As people interact with Jesus (and his church) they not only hear but they experience a foretaste of the wedding banquet of the Lamb.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

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, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

1. This is Jubilee language.  Jubilee was a time that was supposed to be celebrated in Israel every 50 years, it was a time when debts were cancelled, slaves were freed and land was returned to those who were given it by the Lord as their inheritance.  But Jubilee had not been celebrated in Israel for hundred of years.

2. But now Jesus comes and in his first formal sermon what does he declare, a celebration of the Jubilee.  What has Jesus come to do – release the captives, give sight to the blind, release the prisoners (oppressed).  Even the Jubilee was only a foreshadow of something much greater which was to come.  And now says Jesus – that time is here.  I have come to bring the great Jubilee.

3. To what extent does Jesus fulfill this picture of the Jubilee.  At least in one sense – quite literally.  When the disciples of John come to him asking for clarification that He is the Messiah what does Jesus tell them:

“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Luke 7:22-23

The fact that the blind receive sight, the lame walk and the deaf hear is a sign that the time of Jubilee is arrived.  The time of Jubilee is also the time of the arrival of the Messiah.

4. But surely some will ask this was only to point to a more spiritual reality.  The poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed are surely pictures of Israel.  It is true that these are all images that the Psalmists use of Israel.  And this announcement by Jesus is most certainly a fulfillment of the hopes of Israel it is a messianic announcement.

5.  On one level this does not apply to the literal poor.  In the sense that they are more righteous than the rich and powerful.  That is simply unbiblical.  But yet on another level why is the time of Jubilee said to be good news to the poor? Even the literal, national time of Jubilee in Israel was good news to the poor.  In fact Jubilee must have been a terrible concept and no cause for celebration for the rich – they lose slaves, money and land.  But for the poor – Jubilee is good news – freedom from slavery, cancellation of debt, recovery of land.  Grace is a concept built into the Old Testament law.

6. Jesus’ Kingdom is one that turns the world upside down.  The first are last, the servants are great, the religious are excluded, the prodigal is welcomed, the sinners are called. This is surely good news to the poor – those who are the have-nots in this world.  It is not good news to those who are satisfied, rich and powerful in this world – they lose all their privilege, and thus it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

7. What have we done wrong when Jesus comes announcing good news to the poor/marginalised/excluded the good news that his Kingdom is of a totally different order to the kingdom of this world. But yet our churches are filled with the middle-class, comfortable and “at home” in this world?  How is the gospel good news to them?  What gospel are we preaching?

8. Jesus says in v21 that today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.  Jubilee is not just something that is spiritually true for us today and one day will be literally true.  No in Jesus, the time of Jubilee has broken into our world.  For Jesus and for his followers whilst the time of Jubilee does have a definite future element that is true now in a “spiritual” sense, it is experienced literally in the life of the Kingdom now, just as a foretaste.

9. Final thought; is it of all significant that the concept that Jesus first uses to announce the arrival of his Kingdom is that of a time of celebration.  The Kingdom of Jesus, of grace, mercy, forgivness and freedom is a kingdom that ought to be marked by celebration.  Why does it sometimes feel we Christians are too serious to just celebrate Jubilee style the arrival of the Kingdom?

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~ by John on September 8, 2008.

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