Maximillian Amadeus Banzai (banzai) wrote,
Maximillian Amadeus Banzai

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Where Jesus stopped

This is one of my favorite passages, because of what's between the lines (which was likely very clear to those who originally heard it):
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 4:16-20
Regardless of what they believe about Him, few would argue that Jesus didn't know Scripture. Indeed, as one teaching in the synagogue, He would have been steeped in knowledge of Scripture to an extent that stuns our postmodern Googlefied sensibilities. Likewise, even those who came to hear lived in a culture marked by a deep shared familiarity with Scripture (even if obedience didn't necessarily follow, which shouldn't be a difficult prospect for Christians to grasp).

Understanding this, it seems listeners would have been surprised by where Jesus stopped. He didn't read the whole passage. He didn't even complete the last thought:
…and the day of vengeance of our God…

—from Isaiah 61:2*
Why did He stop? Certainly, God's favor to the oppressed Israelites couldn't be easily separated in their minds from His vengeance on their enemies. Jesus' ministry, however, carried a different message, one consistent with His forerunner, John the Baptist—God's coming judgment wasn't just an "us" and "them" prospect. All had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. For the year of the Lord's favor to hold promise for anyone, God's vengeance had to be satisfied another way.

Jesus' arrival on the scene of history brought the good news in living, breathing form. He Himself could proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, because He Himself would bear the wrath of God. The Scripture was fulfilled that day, in their hearing.

*Granted, I'm no Hebrew scholar, so it's always possible that translation nuances explain this away, but this seems unlikely, particularly considering the consistent linkage of God's coming and His judgment in Scripture.
Tags: scripture, the gospel

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