Luke 4:16-30
The Gracious Year Of The Lord

Authored By Seminarian Mitsuyoshi Kuwa, Tokyo Theological Seminary First Year Graduate Student

1.  Today, first of all we give thanks for the words spoken by Jesus Christ. Also,  I would like us to pay careful attention to his salvation which the Lord has given to us.

2.  The Lord Jesus said this:  "The words of this scripture are fulfilled today as you heard them."

3.  What was fulfilled?  The Lord said that the words of this scripture was fulfilled.  It was the passage of scripture which the Lord Jesus just got done reading.  In verse seventeen it has it that he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  So the passage of scripture which the Lord Jesus read was in the Book Of Isaiah.  As Isaiah is in the Old Testament [part of the] Bible that we have, it is one of the books of prophecy.  What we call a prophet is one that received the word of God and had the duty to speak it to the people.  When the messages for all the people were good and to their convenience, the people would perhaps welcome them, but the word of God which the prophets passed on to them were warnings, or judgments, and pronouncements of destruction.

4.  This period when there were prophets was more than five hundred years before the time Jesus was incarnated and came into our world.  At that time it was a period when Israel was about destroyed.  The people at that time did not want to believe the prophets who prophesied that their kingdom would be destroyed.  Therefore many people did not believe the messages of the prophets and tried to accomplish just about everything on their own strength and ended up acting like their God wasn't even there.

5.  But, what were the results of that?  Israel ended up in destruction.  The people were brought to Babylon which was a great empire at that time.  The people knew that the messages of the prophets were fulfilled and that the messages of the prophets were the truth.  Perhaps the people had become despaired.  Perhaps they lost hope, became discouraged, and regretted that there was nothing they could do about things.  Why didn't they do according to what the prophets said at that time?  [Why] wouldn't they serve God from their hearts?  Their despair was probably indescribable.  Their country wound up coming to nought.  The words of the prophets were fulfilled.  They probably read the words of the prophets with sadness and sorrow.

6.  The words of the prophets were fulfilled.  However, a great hope was also left behind here.  As for the message of the prophets, besides proclamations of destruction and messages of judgment, they also spoke in regards to hope.  In the message of the prophets, there was also a prophecy that Israel would be able to return once again to its country.  And so it surely came to fulfillment.  In addition there was a prophecy that a messiah, a savior was coming and he would release the people.  Since then the people started to wait in hope for the messiah.  They believed for sure that this one would free them from all sorts of trials and sorrows and would re-establish the country of Israel.

7.  The passage of scripture we read today, even the words in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, namely the words in verses eighteen and nineteen, was one of the passages which was about the hope waiting for the aforementioned messiah.  As we read verse eighteen it has, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  It is because the Lord has anointed me with oil for the purpose of revealing the good news to the poor."  The Lord anointed me with oil.  This "one anointed with oil" means the word "messiah."  As I said earlier, when there was the country of Israel some hundreds of years before, when the kings and priests took office, they were anointed with oil on their heads. We understand that the one anointed in such a manner was a king.  So the people waited in hope for the messiah, that is, the one anointed with oil. Thus, they were waiting in hope for the king who would free them.  Since they were ruled at that time under the Roman empire, for them the messiah meant ideally the liberator and the king to establish the new nation.

8.  So, in a certain sense that was certainly an appropriate [hope].  We read it earlier [but] I would like to read some more once more from verse eighteen.  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  It is because the Lord has anointed me with oil for the purpose of revealing the good news to the poor.  The Lord has sent me to announce release for the one who is captive and recovery of eyesight for the one whose eyes cannot see and to free the one who is oppressed and to announce the gracious year of the Lord."

9.  A proclamation of release is surely written here.  It says the anointed one, the messiah will work out [this] release and freedom.

10.  In addition the messiah in verse nineteen, it says, will reveal the gracious year of the Lord.

11.  This year of grace is called the year of Jubilee.  What is the year of Jubilee?  This is in the Old Testament where there is the book of Leviticus and therein is written an assortment of regulations and laws.  Furthermore, as one of those laws the regulation for the year of Jubilee is written (Leviticus twenty-five).  If we could sum up how this matter we call the year of Jubilee is regulated there in the text in one brief summary we could call it the year of the release of everything.  For example, it is the year slaves are to be released and the time to write off all loans. It is the year to free everything and everything is to be released.  According to the regulation every fifty years was set for them to keep it.  In actual practice it seemed impossible that it was truly strictly observed. However, the Lord said that year of Jubilee, the time of true release, the time of true grace was now fulfilled, even as they heard him.

12.  The people were probably filled with joy.  They surely praised him and sang to him.  In verse twenty-two we have:  "Everyone praised Jesus and was surprised at the gracious words coming from his mouth."  As you normally think about what has happened so far, although we expect them to be filled with joy, yet from this point the scene changes rapidly.  All of a sudden the joy they were filled with turns to criticism and anger.

13.  Though the people were praising the words of Jesus Christ, they spoke as follows:  "Isn't this man a child of Joseph?"

14.  The Lord said the following to the people while drawing from one of the proverbs.  "Clearly I say to you.  A prophet is not welcomed in his own home town."

15.  We usually call a home town the place where one used to live.  Certainly the place that the Lord Jesus was making reference to was the town of Nazareth where the Lord used to live as his home town.  However, here the meaning just for the simple home town of one's birth was no longer in use. Here this matter of home town was on the other hand pointing out more of the race of people to which he belonged, his fellow country persons, that is, the entire group of Jews.  In the olden days, when the prophets were active, the recipients of their messages were the people of the kingdom of Israel, that is, the Jews.  The prophets directed their speeches to the Jews, and called them to turn [to God] and warned them.  However, the people would not pay attention to the messages of the prophets.  Even in today's scripture passage, two characters appear in the text.  They are Elijah and Elisha.

16.  Verses twenty-five through twenty-six.  "In the time of Elijah, for the space of three years and six months, it did not rain and when a great famine arose throughout that region, there were many widows in Israel, yet Elijah was not sent among any of them, he was sent only to the widow of Zarephath in the Sidon area."

17.  This matter of Zarephath in the Sidon area was actually not a town of the people of Israel, that is, it was not a Jewish town, but a Gentile town. In other words, in spite of the fact a great famine arose, the destination at that time where God had sent Elijah did not have Israelites and was a place where the people were not Israelites.  It was Gentiles who were given God's help at that time.  The Lord Jesus points out here that the grace of God was not a special right of the Israelites but rather than [being given] to them with their hardened hearts it was given to the Gentiles.

18.  Also the same conditions exist in the following example of Elisha.  "In the times of the prophet Elisha there were many people in Israel afflicted with leprosy, but no one but Naaman the Syrian was cleansed."

19.  The people listening to this resented it and became angry.  [They resented it and became angry] because although they believed they themselves were the people working for the scriptures, they themselves were the very ones who were let into this salvation, and they themselves were the people waiting in hope for the Lord of salvation, the messiah, according to the message of the scriptures which they were believing, they ended up being criticized to the contrary.  They probably did not go with the idea that they themselves surely were being accused by their very own scriptures. Indeed, because of that therefore, they were filled with anger and even tired to kill the Lord Jesus who was making such an accusation described above.

20.  In their eyes, even though he was making such a wonderful speech, their hardened hearts were not receptive of the word of the Lord.  Their first attitude completely reversed and they changed suddenly from a multitude with an attitude of praise to one filled with anger.

21.  So, what were the words that the Lord spoke at first?  What were the words the people heard and were admiring at first and that the Lord had spoken? I'd like to read those words one more time.  [They begin] from verse eighteen.

22.  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  It is because the Lord has anointed me with oil for the purpose of revealing the good news to the poor.  The Lord has sent me to announce release for the one who is captive and recovery of eyesight for the one whose eyes cannot see and to free the one who is oppressed and to announce the gracious year of the Lord."  Jesus rolled the scroll, returned it to the one in charge and sat in his seat. Every eye in the synagogue was focused on Jesus.  Thereupon, Jesus began to say "The words of this scripture are fulfilled today as you hear them."

23.  Today the words of this scripture were fulfilled.  The gracious year of the Lord was fulfilled.  The year of Jubilee which announces all freedom and releases was fulfilled.  What was this announcement of the Lord Jesus?  Was it just for the purpose of drawing their anger?  What could the gracious year of the Lord possibly be?  What is all this about that it "was fulfilled"?

24.  "The words of this scripture are fulfilled today as you hear them."

25.  These words are not meaningless.  Indeed not, they are rather the very reason the Lord came down to this world.  These very [words] are a summary of the work of the Lord Jesus.  [They are] the truth of the gospel to which all the scriptures point.  The fact is it is about true salvation.  This was not about words to trigger them off into anger at all, or although he was giving such a message of grace, it was not just a message about how they did not accept him.  The gracious year of the Lord was now being fulfilled.  The time of expectation which was shown by the prophets has now come right here to this place.  All release, all compassion, all love, all of God's will was fulfilled truly at this time.  The gracious year of the Lord has come.  And the Lord himself personally announced it.  The announcement of salvation was surely given right from the mouth of the Lord himself.  Right before our eyes the announcement of salvation was made. The works of God's grace were carried out.  The will of God was shown. This announcement of the Lord surely must be given here.  If it doesn't get announced, we wouldn't be able to go on living.  So, it is now being announced here.

26.  "The words of this scripture are fulfilled today as you hear them."

27.  So, what in the world is the gracious year of the Lord that he said "was fulfilled?"  What was fulfilled?  He says it was the time when all was to be released.  He says it was the time when everything was at [Sabbath] rest.  He might be saying it was the time of the gospel given by God and the time of salvation filled with the love of God.  Now the salvation of God was given to them.  Besides that, true salvation, eternal salvation was fulfilled.  What the Lord announced was this salvation.  However, according to this announcement what did the Lord accomplish after this?  Was it only just that an announcement was made there?  Was it only that he suddenly stood in the synagogue and announced that salvation has come here today? That is not what happened at all.  The walk of the Lord Jesus Christ surely started from this announcement.  He did not finish with this announcement, rather he started from this announcement.  Where was his walk heading towards?  It was surely towards the way to the cross.  The Lord was heading to the cross after this announcement.  This was for the sins of all the people and in order for him to offer a sacrifice for their redemption, and thereby in order for him to win a victory over sin.

28.  The word "release" has several meanings.  The word "freedom" will have a lot of meanings.  The word "freedom" is used in various places.  The way it is used in those place may all be quite correct and proper.  As for the word "freedom," there are probably an inexhaustible amount of illustrations for it.

29.  What might this release be as they so understood it here?  What kind of freedom was the year of Jubilee, the gracious year of the Lord as they understood it? They were expecting a kingdom  only of Jews to be re-established.  [They were expecting] to be freed from the control of the Roman empire and to build their own nation.  They understood the messiah was given for that purpose.  However, the announcement of salvation which the Lord Jesus spoke did not have that kind of [purpose] in any way.  The salvation announced by the Lord, what the Lord defeated by his death on the cross and resurrection [was] surely this matter of sin so extremely ingrained, extremely obstinate, and extremely familiar to us.  It was a release from that.  It was not a nation of this temporary world nor a restraint of this temporary world.  Moreover, it was a freedom from the fundamental thing which binds it all together, from this matter of "sin" that humankind dies of.

30.  How should we understand this matter of sin?  [Our] understanding of this matter will render clear the meaning of the Lord's salvation.  Furthermore, even the very way we understand sin will also bring clear definition to this announcement of the Lord's salvation.

31.  What kind of people were they who were listening in the synagogue?  What they were looking for [was], in the final analysis, pertaining to this temporary world.  How were they thinking in regards to this matter of salvation?  When the Lord said this salvation was given to Gentile places, they resented it to the point of anger and would have killed the Lord Jesus.  They wanted to acquire salvation [physically] with their hands and unless it went their way they would only delete salvation away.  However, the Lord went right through the people who were enraged and resenting him like they did.  Why did this happen?  Even though they pushed Jesus Christ up to the cliff of a mountain the Bible writes that the Lord cut right through them as though it were nothing.  Why?  It was to fulfill what was written just shortly before the passage of scripture we ready today.  [It says] in chapter four verse ten:

32.  "This matter is because it has been written as follows:  'God will command his angels on your behalf and make them guard you tightly.'  Also,  'So that your foot does not dash against a stone, the angels will support you with their hands.'"

33.  How does [this apply to] us?  When he was talking about the salvation of the Lord, how should we understand it?  Or, when he was talking about "sin," how should we understand it?  This may be very difficult to do and very hard to figure out.  But, if we could make it easy to understand, we could put it like this:  Because of sin we would not be able to stand in the presence of God.  If we were to stand in God's presence as sinful as we are, perhaps it would be equivalent to being made to stand in God's judgment.  [As you know] the Lord was crucified, died, and rose again on the third day, then he rose up to heaven, and now sits on the left seat of God the Father.  Furthermore, the time which God has set, that is, on the last day he will come again.  At that time we will be made to stand in God's presence.  When we are made to stand in God's presence, will we be shaking in fear before him, terrified, and frightened?  If [we face] the certain seat of judgment, we will not be able to stand one second.  We will just be smitten with fear.  That itself is the very essence of sin.  When we stand before God, it means death.

34.  However, what is this matter of [a person] being redeemed of sin by the Lord?  One is made free from sin by the Lord.  The one who is released to salvation is completely opposite to all of this [sin, fear, judgment, and death].  Standing before God becomes something that one very much looks and hopes for and what the love of God will handle [for us].  That's because in the presence of God we stand as forgiven persons [or persons who are permitted to stand there.]  We do not depend on our own strength.  We stand there only by the work of redemption by his son Jesus Christ and surely by the work of God's love, and we are permitted to call God "father."  We can call out "O Lord."  We can exclaim "O Abba Father."  We can say amen to the Lord.  Now we meet to worship and we can offer worship to the Lord in the Lord's presence.  That is surely what only the Lord's salvation can do. Just the Lord does this for us by his compassion.

35.  We can only wait for God's judgment.  The Lord Jesus, surely in grace as the year of grace arrived, did not require a payment of any kind from us besides, but offered himself up to God personally for our redemption.

36.  We end up wandering about always not understanding anything.  How are you doing here now?  What am I doing now?  We [may be] really worrying and we [may be] truly sad.  We even get to the point at the very depths of sadness when we don't understand what salvation is.  But, even at that very time like that we can stand in the presence of God even with such a self, with that being.  We can pray to God.  We can just keep on asking for God's love.  We know that there is such a thing.

37.  The Lord's salvation has been fulfilled here and now.  The Lord's death on the cross and resurrection are given to us.  Furthermore, the announcement of the Lord's salvation resounds to all the earth.  That's because the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ is meant to be given to all persons. After the Lord was resurrected, he said the following to his disciples:

38.  "Therefore, as you go please make all peoples into my disciples.  Please teach them to receive baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to keep everything that I commanded you.  I am with you always even to the end of this temporary world."

39.  All peoples.  That's what the Lord said. We too were counted among them long ago.  That's because now we are hearing this announcement of the Lord's salvation and the publicizing of the gracious year of the Lord.

40.  So, what action did the Jews take?  First they tried to kill the Lord Jesus.  Afterwards they actually did kill him on the cross.

41.  But, this message here was first given to them.  The Lord gave this announcement to the people of Israel.  The "You" spoken of in verse twenty-one was no doubt a referent to Jews.  Since these Jews rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation came to be given to the Gentiles too. Furthermore, this salvation of the Lord came to be given more perfectly to these Jews too.  The [book] which discusses this issue in particular is The Epistle To The Roman Disciples.  I think we should try reading it while considering some of these kinds of things.

42.  However, today, for today let's just give thanks for the word of the Lord.  [Let's give thanks] because the gracious year of the Lord has come. [Let's give thanks] because we are permitted to stand in God's presence.

43.  Lastly, I would like to read the words of the Lord one more time.

44.   "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  It is because the Lord has anointed me with oil for the purpose of revealing the good news to the poor.  The Lord has sent me to announce release for the one who is captive and recovery of eyesight for the one whose eyes cannot see and to free the one who is oppressed and to announce the gracious year of the Lord."  Jesus rolled the scroll, returned it to the person in charge, and sat in his seat.  The eyes of every person in the synagogue poured onto Jesus. Thereupon, Jesus began to say "The words of this scripture are fulfilled today as you heard them."

45.  Amen.  Let's just give thanks to the Lord.

 
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