With a simple reading of one Old Testament passage, Jesus infuriated the Jews in his own home town enough that they wanted to stone him. What could it possibly say that was so bad he had to leave town for his own safety?
The passage Jesus chose to read in temple was Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor…”
It was a passage often quoted in weekly messages, and understood to describe the Messiah. As was his custom, Jesus added a little twist to the reading. Luke 4:21 states that he told them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In effect, he declared himself to be the long-awaited Messiah!
In a typical Sabbath service of Jesus’ day, there was an opening prayer followed by a reading from the Law and the prophets, and finally a sermon presented by the rabbi or a guest. With all the publicity swirling around Jesus at the time, the local rabbi was probably pleased to invite him to speak that day.
However, the rabbi would be completely unprepared for the interpretation Jesus presented in his sermon. It seems Jesus was launching his career as Messiah right there in his own hometown, and this message was designed to give the people a mission statement for Messiah’s ministry.
Jesus shocked the group by explaining that the year of Jubilee and the promise of a coming deliverer were found in person – and that person is Jesus himself, the promised Messiah. Jesus taught that Messiah’s mission was:
1. To preach the gospel to the poor.
While Jesus did care about the poor, and was himself a poor man, this verse does not mainly refer to possessions. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus explains: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The word Jesus used literally means “having nothing.” When a person reaches a point of helplessness, realizing he or she has nothing to offer a holy God; when he or she admits to being a helpless sinner, Messiah says: “God still loves you; God forgives.”
2. To heal the brokenhearted.
The passage states that Jesus came to “bind up” broken hearts. The word used here means “to set right, as in a broken bone.” Messiah would reach out to broken people who have been deceived, abused, and disappointed by other people in their lives, telling them about God’s love.
3. To preach deliverance for the captives.
Over and over in the Bible we are told that sin holds all people prisoner. It is a bondage no one can free himself from. We have sold ourselves to it by our own thoughts and actions. Messiah, who satisfied the demands of God’s law perfectly on our behalf, reaches into the prison and sets us free.
4. To give sight to the blind.
One of the marks of Messiah was his ability to heal — especially to restore sight. Throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus he heals the sick and restores sight to the blind. The term translated “blind” literally means, “darkened by smoke.” Jesus came not just to restore physical sight, but also to dispel the lies clouding our spiritual vision.
5. To release the oppressed
In the King James Version, this verse is translated “to set at liberty those who are bruised.” Messiah was to bring freedom to his people, bruised and battered by their circumstances and the consequences of their bad choices.
6. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus was the fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee. He came as deliverer, healer, and lover of our souls. Because he paid our sin debt in full, we were set free when Jesus died. The Gospel is often called “the Good News” for this very reason.
Over and over Jesus claimed he came “not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.” Jesus set forth his mission as God’s Messiah right at the start of his ministry, and he fulfilled every part of it in his words, actions and, finally, his death.