The long and the short of it

The long and the short of it

What a way to start his ministry!

 Imagine the buzz as Jesus stood up in his home-town synagogue to read from the scroll of Isaiah, then speak to it.  Jesus, the carpenter – to teach from Scripture!  He took the scroll, unwound it to chapter 61 and read this:

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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

Then he stopped.  Jesus told the crowd, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:21)

What I hadn’t realize until I studied Isaiah this morning was the next line, which Jesus intentionally omitted:

            And the day of vengeance of our God.

I’ve been thinking lately about the wrong-headed message that seems to undergird our current culture.  It says, “You’re wonderful just the way you are.”  I suppose it comes from a good intention to affirm each individual.  But anyone with a cold, honest eye in the mirror can marshal the opposing facts.  We are brokenhearted captives, poor in the ways that matter most.

And so, Jesus, the Annointed One (the dominant figure in the last part of Isaiah), comes to announce the year of God’s favor to those who know their brokenness.  But it’s not just bandages we need.

Note his ministry is to bind up and release.  But it’s also to proclaim. We need truth to lift us, to set us free.  We need to know the hearts we should have, and the power to change.

In a long conversation I had recently, my son said to me, “We can only know grace when we do something.”  When I asked him to explain, he added, “It’s only when we really try to change that we realize how little we can actually do without Jesus.”

That’s what the year of the Lord’s favor is – an extended time of grace for the Lord to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. (Ezek. 36:26)

But what about the missing day? 

How easy it is for us, in this long year of God’s favor and grace, to forget that there is a coming day – a “sharp, quickly-accomplished work” (Motyer) in which God metes out the justice that is fit for the wrong committed.

Why didn’t Jesus include that in his preview of his ministry?  Because he knew that day was to fall on him if there was to be any indwelling power to transform those he bandaged and set free.

His heart had to be broken through his death to truly heal the brokenhearted.

And Jesus will return someday to bring that final day of vengeance.  To right the wrong.  But how grateful I am to live in the year of his favor, purchased for me through the cross.

Righteous God, when we look in our hearts, we see how broken and imprisoned we are without your saving work of your Son.  Empower us.  Transform us.  And make us part of your ongoing ministry of healing and proclaiming.

Reader: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.