Verse-by-Verse Comments [continued]
18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(1) Here, Jesus quotes from two passages in Isaiah, 61:1 and 58:6. Interestingly, in recounting this incident, Luke uses the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament and not the Hebrew. (For more on the Septuagint, see here.)
(2) The reference to the anointing of the Spirit harks back to Jesus' baptism, Luke 3:22.
(3) Luke particularly focuses on Jesus being good news for the poor. Mary's words to her relative, Elizabeth, called the Magnificat, contain this theme:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)In fact, according The New Interpreter's Bible (NIB), Jesus is cited mentioning the poor more in Luke than any of the other Gospels. Check out: 6:20; 7:22; 14:13, 21; 16:20, 22; 18:22; 21:3.
(4) NIB points out that this is the only place in Luke's Gospel where the term captives is used. But the word connected to it here shows that Luke has more in mind than the release of those imprisoned by authorities. The word? Aphesis, meaning release, the same term used throughout Luke's two books--Luke and Acts--for forgiveness. As NIB also says:
Forgiveness of sin...may be seen as a form of release from bondage to iniquity (Acts 8:22-23)."Lutheran composer John Ylvisaker talks about this notion of forgiveness as release in his wonderful song, Sweet Release. (If you don't know about John Ylvisaker, find out now.)
(5) Of course, Jesus will literally give sight to the blind, a sign of the coming of God's kingdom, according to Isaiah (Isaiah 35:5; 42:6-7). But more than that, He makes it possible for us to see our sin and our need of a Savior.
(6) The year of the Lord's favor is an apparent reference to the Old Testament Jubilee, as described in Leviticus 25. It too, involved a kind of release, a year during which debts were to be forgiven. Jesus seems to see the year of the Lord's favor as being associated with Him.
(7) In sum, Jesus defines His ministry at its outset, a ministry that ushers in the Kingdom of God, though He doesn't use that phrase here, all the signs of which point to Him as Messiah and to His reign. Jesus' kingdom sets out to redeem the whole person and the whole world.
20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
(1) This must have been a moment of high drama. There had been so much buzz about Jesus. Now that He had read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, they had to wonder what He would say. As indicated earlier, the custom was that the reading would be done from a standing position and the teaching from a seated position.
21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
(1) God's kingdom is now, was Jesus' simple, incredible message. It takes a moment for that message to sink in for Jesus' hearers. When it does...Well, that's a story for next week.