Can you look back on a year when your life and work dramatically changed? Before that year your life was in a particular place, afterwards everything was different. It might be a graduation or a marriage. It could be a trauma. It might be a new job or a baby, but whatever, nothing will be the same again.
If you can identify such a year you will be wise to explore its lessons and digest its meanings. It is in those transforming times that you can capture the storylines of your life.
For the Son of Man it was his thirtieth year. Luke tells us, in his account, that Jesus was about thirty when he began his ministry. By this, of course, Luke was referring to his public ministry since Jesus had been ministering for many years by way of serving the Lord.
In the space of two chapters Luke recounts Jesus’ baptism, temptation and his first steps in his new career.
But we’re trying to see it from Jesus’ viewpoint. After his wilderness battle the Son of Man goes to his home town of Nazareth. This is where he had spent most of his thirty years. He was known as the carpenter’s son. They had grown up with or watched him grow. They were about to make an attempt on his life.
He is now in his home synagogue. He already had a reputation as a synagogue speaker. The place was packed. He reads some words from Isaiah. They contain five things he will do from now on. They show his understanding of himself because he starts his sermon with the words which proclaim that he was the fulfillment of all the five amazing positive things.
It’s all about good news, freedom, sight, release and favor. We will look at this self designed job description over the next few weeks but I want to draw your attention to what he left out and why.
The words he read stopped in mid sentence. If you were to look back at Isaiah 61, from which he was quoting, there is a statement about the year of God’s favor connected immediately with the day of vengeance of our God. But Jesus stops midway.
I will suggest two reasons from within him as to why.
First, for thirty years the Son of Man had been learning about himself and his priorities, passions, mission and calling. He knew himself, he was profoundly aware of his character and nature. He knew what he was about.
And he was not about vengeance.
Then, as now, listeners or readers of the word “vengeance” would conjure up an image of settling scores with enemies, of satisfying the need to pay back an individual or group for the horror they had committed. “Hang em high and make ’em pay for what they have done” echoes in our heads.
But it did not in his.
His head was full of good news, freedom, sight, release and favor.
This week at work you will find it comes easy and naturally to be bad news, tyrannical, blind, restricting and unkind. It will be easy to see the difficulties, the struggles, to miss great visions, to apply rules and regulations and to function in less than generous ways. Sometimes you may even be or do that in the name of your faith. The God you think you proclaim you might see as vengeful, judgmental, authoritarian and stifling. Look around you at what happens in the name of religion. It does not stop before vengeance but ventures into its heart and only darkness comes out.
Even now, as you read this, you may be saying “but God will have his vengeance and his wrath one day”. The more you think that the more you distance yourself from the heart of the Son of Man. He came to bring good things and deliberately stopped before the vengeance clause. Can you? Can I?
But I said there was another reason. What did this day of vengeance mean in Isaiah? Some say it refers to a future date when all will be judged. While there will be a day like that, my suggestion is that this Isaiah verse is not referring to it. This is why Jesus stopped.
There is a day of “hang ’em high and make ’em pay” and it would arrive 3 years later where all God’s own wrath, punishments and payments were managed. It was a day when the Son of Man laid down his life and absorbed all the evil in the world along with its consequences, vengeance included.
Jesus stopped at that verse because they would not have got it. They were so full of the wrong kind of vengeance and already looking for any excuse to unleash their fury at their perceived injustices. He would have to take another 3 years to teach them. After those 3 years they would unleash their fury upon him little knowing that he was absorbing all the vengeance in the world in his own body.
Don’t be fooled by the age of this story or the theological concepts involved. You and I do not just go to work. We fulfill a calling. As you look at the Son of Man you can see, from his calling, a model for yours. It’s all positive there is no vengeance in it.
When you look around your modern day workplace you will see vengeance everywhere and it is called stress. You will see anger and fury as people rage against each other, the government, the system or some perceived injustice.
Into their world stepped the Son of Man who always stopped short of any hint of being a vengeful person. Into your world steps you. What do you bring in your heart?
You do not just go to work you are called to take up your cross everyday and follow him in his work in overcoming all that pollutes your working week and your inner soul.
You will need the Spirit of God to be upon you for that.
Then everything changes.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 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. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim 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, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
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