The Year of the Lord’s Favor
Epiphany is a single day, not a season, but the week after is taken up with the final chapters of Isaiah, chapters of longing and hope and fulfillment as we see the New Testament relevance. Today, we read Isaiah 61, the first few verses of which find their fulfillment in our Lord’s ministry, recorded in Luke 4:16-30. Here in Isaiah we read, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” It is these words that our Lord read in his hometown of Nazareth recorded in Luke’s gospel – that almost got him killed. After reading, and while “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him,” he said to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
And now let us return to Isaiah 61 to discover exactly what it was that was fulfilled that day in Nazareth and what is fulfilled for us today. As Isaiah had prophesied the devastation of Judah due to the nation’s sins (which occurred in 586 B.C. at the hands of the Babylonians), he also prophesied their redemption as recorded here. But Jesus takes up these words and refers them to himself. He is the One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord is, for the Father has bestowed upon his Son the Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). And we see all the things mentioned in 61:1 happening in Jesus’ ministry. When John the Baptist was in prison and sent some disciples to Jesus to ask if he were “the one who is to come,” Jesus answered, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:2-6). No doubt, Isaiah’s hearers heard this message and applied it to themselves with good effect, but its greater fulfillment was in Christ Jesus, himself.
And its present fulfillment is upon the Church of Jesus Christ. Isaiah said that the redeemed nation would be called “the priests of the Lord.” It was this that the nation of Israel was charged by God to become (Exodus 19:6), and this that the Church of Jesus Christ is today: a kingdom of priests sanctifying the world with their prayers and holy living (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus ended his message to John’s disciples that day saying, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” In Nazareth, they took offense. People will in our day, too. Stand firm and continue in your priesthood.