We have seen the consequences of man-as-king and seen how God called out a people and kingdom with God-as-king. God instituted the law of Jubilee to remedy the evils which accompany human society and government, to set a limit on unjust social relations. But Jubilee always had a future element to it, there was always a greater future hope in its promise of liberty, rest and restoration. Isaiah spoke of a messianic figure who would bring justice:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations... In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42: 1-2)
Later he describes this servant's mission:
“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 broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD'S favour...” (Isaiah 61:1-2a)
In the gospels we read how Jesus returned to Galilee and that brings us to our reading “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
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour'
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...”
It was customary in those days to sit down to preach so they knew a message was coming, a message about the passage that had just been read. The atmosphere in the crowded synagogue is charged with curiosity. What is this carpenter's son going to say? You could hear a feather drop and every eye is fixed on him.
Does he remind them of the golden days, long gone now, when God ruled over his people, performed miracles, ruled with justice? He doesn't. Does he entertain them with bright promises about how at some future date those times would return as prophesied? Not that either.
Instead he speaks about the here and now and assures them, and us, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today, while you are listening to me, the passage I just read to you has been and is being realised.
This is sometimes called the Nazareth Manifesto. If you want to know what Jesus is about then look at his manifesto as he himself gave it. “To preach good news to the poor...freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.” To announce and proclaim the Lord's Jubilee.
When Jesus sat down on a mountainside to teach his disciples he began:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”
Jesus' teaching was shot through with freedom, release, restoration and God's favour.
He told the story of the unmerciful servant who begged his master to be patient with him as he paid back the money he owed. His master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. But when the servant met a fellow servant who owed him money he demanded payment, refusing to be patient and had the man thrown into prison. His master heard what he had done and asked, “Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?” and put him in jail. The economy of heaven demands mercy, generosity of spirit.
In the parable of the banquet he told of how wealthy guests found excuses for not attending the banquet to which they had been invited. The man who held the banquet sent his servants out to the streets and byways inviting the poor, the crippled, the blind and lame. The economy of heaven is inclusive, not discriminating according to status.
“When John [the Baptist] heard in prison what Christ was doing he sent his disciples to ask him, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'
Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see. 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.” (Mt.11:1-6)
When we look at the church in the New Testament we read:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (Acts 2:42-48)
The principle of Jubilee being worked out in the saved people who enjoy the Jubilee of God in Christ. The message they preached was one of repentance, turning back to God, looking for that day when God restores everything, as he had promised.
We have a king, a king of kings who has inaugurated a Jubilee, a day of salvation. He invites all who would to come, great and small, to know peace with God, freedom from the bondage of sin and an inheritance that will not fade or rust.
Meanwhile, Christians operate in a corrupt world as salt and light, declaring the day of salvation is here, Jubilee is here and men and women can now, through Jesus, be restored to right relationship with God. Can know peace, security and an eternal inheritance in the kingdom of King Jesus. And so we come full circle to the way it was meant to be and will be again, because he has promised it.