“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In his sermon to the congregation at Nazareth, Jesus began by taking up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and reading: “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” and then he abruptly stopped, mid-sentence. The rest of the passage actually goes on to say, “and the day of vengeance of our God,” but Jesus didn’t read that part. Instead, he rolled the scroll up and handed it back to the attendant, and then he sat down.
An almost palpable sense of anticipation arises from the text in Luke as he describes this scene, telling us that the the eyes of everyone in the room were now fastened upon Jesus. He had the entire audience on the edge of its seat, wondering and waiting for what he was about to say. “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus said. At this point everyone in the room burst into spontaneous applause!! Wait… no, that’s NOT what happened! That’s what would have happened if someone like me had written the story. Only this isn’t a “story,” it’s a true account of something that actually took place, and the real reaction of the audience in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth was completely different.
But rather than focus on them, let’s go back and take a closer look at what Jesus just said. He said that he had been sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners recovery of sight for the blind, and that he was going to set the oppressed free. (The Greek word translated as “oppressed” literally means “crushed, broken down, or shattered.”)
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus was about to spend the next few years of his life fulfilling this verse in a temporal sense. He would transform the lives of multitudes, casting out demons and healing them of all manner of diseases. The lame would walk, the deaf would hear, the blind would see. But the ultimate and eternal fulfillment of this promise was to come through his death. It was through his death and resurrection that he would “lead captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8) and achieve the victory over sin.
Sin is the root cause of these afflictions – captivity, blindness, brokenness – they are ALL the result of SIN. It is sin that holds us captive, it is sin that blinds us, it is sin that shatters us. But Jesus can set us free! We are still living in the “year of the Lord’s favour” and the message of good news that Jesus preached to that congregation in Nazareth continues to be true for us today. We can choose to reject the message, like the congregation at Nazareth, or we can choose to believe it. There is still time for captives to be set free, for the broken to be restored, and for the blind to receive their sight. The day of judgment remains in the future; now is the time of salvation.(2 Corinthians 6:2)