Jesus: “This prophecy points to me.”
Luke 4:14–21 (CSB)
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, being praised by everyone.
16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written:
18 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 release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.,
20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
In that simple way, Christ was manifested to His home town. It may have come as a real surprise, for Christ was in what we call His state of humiliation. He did not use the divine power that was His as a man. He was God and man, but lived as man, showing His divinity only during His ministry and to establish who He was.
As we have heard the last couple of weeks, He had already been anointed as the ONE who would be our Savior and champion against our sin, the devil, and death. He had shown Himself as the trust-worthy Savior at Cana – God Himself who had come to save. Now He shows Himself as the One promised, He declares that He,
JESUS IS THE PROMISED HOPE FULFILLED
- Much Was Promised
- Christ Fulfilled the Promise
- It Is Fulfilled for Us Now
- Much Was Promised
When we say that Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people, we need to have some estimate of what was promised to us. Many people have a very low estimate of both what was promised to us and what was delivered to us. If we had a better appreciation and understanding of what God has truly done for us, we wouldn’t fall so far short of God’s will for us as we do.
We wouldn’t be so careless of His word, or His sacraments if we really understood the richness of the gift.
Let’s consider these promises first of all.
At first reading, it appears that what Christ is proclaiming is a grand new social program, with something for
and for everyone else there would be a year of jubilee (year of the Lord’s favor) in which all debts would be cancelled, all mortgages would be considered paid, all property returned to its owner, a great “leveling out” of society.
And yet in the New Testament these references are made clear by Christ, for the promise is the deliverance from spiritual poverty and imprisonment and blindness and oppression and corruption. The clue is there in the text well enough, for who ever heard of financial poverty or physical blindness being cured by “proclaiming”?
But the fact of the matter is that our spiritual poverty is greater than any physical poverty. Poverty is the lack of simple desires- even necessities. But you and I lack even a crust of bread, even a breath of air, spiritually speaking. We have nothing that could give us even a moment of spiritual life.
For what is spiritual life? It is the ability to live in the presence and good will of God, to be aware of Him as we are aware of the world around us right now. It is Christian faith.
What do we have, when we are born that gives us such life? Not a thing. But Christ has given us the riches of His Grace, so that we have righteousness that makes us worthy of His love, and His trust, and His companionship.
I can say without a doubt that President Trump does not even know you exist, and conversely, you don’t know him as a person at all. You might as well not be alive, so far as Trump (or 300,000,000 others) are concerned. What could you do that would suddenly whisk you back to D.C. and make you a fixture in His cabinet? Nothing.
But Christ has so enriched our Spiritual poverty, that God is not only aware of us, but He makes us part of His kingdom in heaven.
The same is true with regard to our imprisonment by our flesh, our blindness in spiritual matters, and our oppression by death and sin. — Christ has delivered us, given us sight through His word, and delivered us from the curse of death.
But for all that, rest assured that while Jesus proclaimed a spiritual Jubilee when all our debts to God are cancelled, He also proclaims one for us in the resurrection. All debts will be cancelled, all oppression lifted, all blindness will give way to sight, and poverty will be no more – in the resurrection.
You can be sure of it, because the one foretold for ages, who fulfilled the promises of God in Himself, and destroyed death, bestows life, and is risen Himself from the dead – He accomplished it.
2. Christ Fulfilled the Promise
Studies have shown that human beings are somewhat limited in their grasp of things that are truly large. That is why there is more of an outcry over the Air Force paying $50 too much for a pair of pliers than over entitlements that are billions over their projected costs.
That explains in to some degree why it is possible for me to talk about these promises of God to man and for you to listen without much excitement. It’s easy to forget that these words have come from the very mind of God who created all things.
Yet, as abstract as these things may seem, they were fulfilled quite concretely.
They were fulfilled in a real birth, of a real Baby. They were fulfilled in the real person of Jesus Christ, dramatically placed physically and visibly before the people in Nazareth’s synagogue that day. They were fulfilled in real blood, and in a real tortured, pain-wracked dying body on the Cross. They were fulfilled in a real agony of rejection by the Christ as He died.
They were fulfilled in a real resurrection, and in a real ascension — real history involving real people who ate and breathed and slept just as we do.
3. It Is Fulfilled for Us Now
As we have said so many times before, Christianity is not a set of abstract Ideas about God. It is the truth – abstract at times, for sure, but embodied in the reality of Christ Himself.
This is what we mean when we speak of absolutes – statements that are true at all times and in all places. It is always true that God is offended when we love anything more than we love Him. It is always true that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It is always true that Jesus took the sins of the world with Him to the cross and atoned for them all – including yours. It is always true that only those who trust in Christ as their Savior from sin will have everlasting life.
Different people are different, but to me there is nothing that brings home the reality of God’s faithfulness any more than Christ sitting in the synagogue and announcing, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” It’s like saying, “look at me, and see me, and know that I am the One promised to Eve and to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to Isaiah and to all the prophets. Here is the faithfulness of God in human form.
And so, as we sit here with our various awareness of guilt, with our fears and worries, Christ says “These promises to you are fulfilled.” Now, we possess the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
Do you feel any different?
When I was little and had a birthday, my Dad used to ask me, “Do you feel 8 now?” That illustrates well enough that something can be ever so true without any feeling attached to it.
So too with us, regardless of how we may feel, we should know that “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” You are given the boundless mercy of our God in every way.