The Acceptable Year Of The Lord
“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.”Luke 4:14-15
Jesus was returning from forty days and nights of temptation by the devil, which probably occurred near Jericho, my husband notes, and while He may have looked thin and emaciated, in spirit He was powerful beyond belief. Never had the Holy Spirit had such a temple in which to dwell, and never has He had one since. Time elapsed between His temptation and this return to Galilee, and during that time Jesus taught in synagogues and villages. “The fame of Him” resulted from miracles He performed in that region, including the one in Cana where He turned the water into wine. Bible scholar John Gill said the way Jesus taught left the people “astonished at His doctrine; they wondered at His gracious words; they praised Him as a preacher; and glorified Him, and God for Him, because of the mighty works which were done by Him.”
They Thought They Knew Jesus
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Lk. 4:16). This small synagogue was full of people who wanted to see and hear the now famous Jesus of Nazareth. Older people there must have looked at Him and remembered the time, decades earlier, when Mary and Joseph, after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, returned to Nazareth with Jesus (Lk. 2:39). Surely these neighbors recalled how the Child grew and waxed strong in spirit, how He was filled with wisdom, and how the grace of God was upon Him (Lk. 2:40). They saw Him the day that He entered the synagogue as a five-year-old, when children that age were permitted to attend. As the place for religious gatherings, not only every sabbath but also for special occasions, the friends and neighbors of Jesus saw Him at least twice a week in the synagogue as well as in the community for nearly thirty years. These people knew Jesus. Yet in all the time that He lived among them, not once did He mention His true mission or coming ministry. Now He had returned to Nazareth to reveal both.
Gill said, “He came to the place where he had been brought up: where he was conceived, though not born; and where he had his education, and wrought at a trade, and was well-known to the inhabitants; and therefore it was proper that he should first exercise his ministry, and obtain a character in other places, which would prepare him a reception among his townsmen, who otherwise, in all likelihood, would have treated him at once with neglect and contempt.”
Now, as was the custom for teachers in the synagogue, Jesus stood up to read from the Scriptures. “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias” (Lk. 4:17).
The Lord could have read from any of the sixty-six chapters in Isaiah; from Chapter 53, for example: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
He could have read from Chapter 43 which says, “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God” (Isa. 43:11-12).
But no. The Holy Spirit impressed upon Him to read from the opening verses of Isaiah 61 which says, “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
When He finished reading, Jesus closed the book, gave it to the minister, and sat down. Charles Ellicott reminds us, “The chair near the place from which the lesson was read was the pulpit of the rabbi, and to sit down in that chair was an assumption by our Lord, apparently for the first time in that synagogue, of the preacher’s function.”
Luke tells us that all eyes were fastened on Him. Of course they were; these people had just witnessed the Word who was made flesh read aloud from the Scriptures. Unlike the speeches of the scribes and Pharisees who mostly argued over verses or attempted to present complex hypotheses, which were little understood by the people, Christ’s message was clear, concise, understandable, and freighted with Holy Spirit power. Those in the synagogue that day who had come to Nazareth to hear Him perhaps for a second or a third time were hungry for His words—words that warmed their hearts, touched their souls, and gladdened their spirits. For others in the crowd that day, they were hearing the Word of God preached under the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the very first time, and it was unlike anything they had ever experienced.
After He finished reading and sat down, the Lord declared exactly who He was by saying, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” In effect, He was saying, “I am the Messiah.”
But why did Jesus say, “This day?” What day, specifically, was it?
Jubilee And Liberty
It is said that when Jesus read these words in the synagogue, it was the same day that began the year of jubilee—a year which marked the cancellation of all mortgages, the release of all servants, the annulment of all bondages, the forgiveness of all debts, and the return of all land to original owners. Unfortunately, this proclamation and all of its benefits were little adhered to by Israel of that day.
In the Bible, the word jubilee first occurs, Joseph Benson says, in Exodus 19:13, where it is rendered as trumpet: “There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.” This verse partially warned the people as they prepared to hear the law that God was about to give to Moses, and it illustrated the rules and barriers related to man’s access to the Almighty; God called Moses up to the top of the mountain alone. But in Luke 4, God has sent His Son down from heaven to dwell among us, full of grace and truth, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Before the cross, my husband notes, man was very limited as to how he could approach God, but since the cross “whosoever will” may come.)
That word jubilee turns up again in Leviticus 25:10: “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee to you; and you shall return every man to his possession, and you shall return every man to his family.”
According to the Pulpit Commentary, two purposes of the jubilee are ordered:
1. To proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof;
2. You shall return every man unto his possession.
Both points were cause for celebration, which is why the year of jubilee was announced by the sound of several trumpet blasts. It was a year of sabbatical rest, not only for the people who worked the land, but also for the land itself, to regain its strength. It allowed more time for family devotions to the instruction and application of the law. The lift of financial burdens from individuals impacted the communities where they lived, so the jubilee, in essence, all but eliminated poverty, slavery, and the illiteracy of God’s Word. Smith’s Bible Dictionary said the jubilee was to be “a remedy for those evils which accompany human society and human government; and had these laws been observed, they would have made the Jewish nation the most prosperous and perfect that ever existed.”
That statement makes me wonder about the plan that God had for America. If only she had followed His Word like she seemed to do in the beginning, as evidenced in some of our national symbols. The Liberty Bell, for example, is inscribed with part of Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
In a 2016 article for Time magazine, Dr. Ben Carson wrote about this. He said, “The verse refers to the Year of Jubilee when slaves were to be set free in accordance with Hebrew tradition …. After his assassination, President Lincoln’s body was laid inside Independence Hall with the Liberty Bell and its inscription placed directly overhead. Only a small fraction of those wishing to view the body were able to enter, but as many as 140,000 visitors paid their respects that day. According to reports, the line to get in was never less than three miles long. I find it incredibly providential that Abraham Lincoln—the man who delivered freedom to the slaves—was given his final honor while lying below a bell named by abolitionists, bearing a verse that commanded the rest of us to fight for freedom.”
Sadly, we have citizens today—some even serving in the US Congress—doing little to proclaim American liberties let alone fight for them. What would happen, I wonder, if America allowed herself a reset—a jubilee—wherein her citizens could rest, remember God, and pray for Him to heal our land?
What Happened To The Jubilee?
Bible scholars believe that the year of jubilee was most likely observed until the Babylonian captivity took place. The Jewish heart in exile seems to mirror the place that so many Christians find themselves today—a condition described in Psalm 137:
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion. (The two cities of Jerusalem and Babylon are opposed. The one is God’s city; the other, man’s. The one figures truth; the other, falsehood. The one represents the kingdom of light; the other, that of darkness. These cities exist today as principles.) We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. (Captivity to the world paralyzes both hand and tongue so that it is impossible in such an atmosphere to sing the Lord’s song.) For there they who carried us away captive required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. (The word there emphasizes the hostile environment.) How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land? (As well as typifying the historical narrative of an actual event, this verse also portrays the Christian who has lost his way.)” (Ps. 137:1-4) (The Expositor’s Study Bible).
The seeker-sensitive modern church of today is a strange land to millions of Christians. They attend such churches week after week knowing that there will be no anointing of the Holy Spirit. They sit in low-lit sanctuaries and listen as “worship” teams sing everything but the Lord’s song.
Thank God, here at the ministry, we are hearing from believers around the world who are beginning to remember Zion. They are tuning in to SonLife Broadcasting Network and hearing ministers called by God preach and teach under the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, and they are convicted, pierced in their hearts, and drawn to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are learning the Word of God again, and resting in His promises. They love to worship with us, where skilled musicians and anointed singers usher in the presence of the Lord, and in His presence is fullness of joy, unlike anything they have ever experienced before. I believe the Lord is using SBN to proclaim liberty to Christian captives around the world.
As my husband said recently on his program, “I know what that liberty is in Christ. I don’t want anything else. I will not have anything else. I want the liberty. Some might say, ‘I’m doing pretty well, and I don’t consider myself to be in bondage.’ Well friend, if your faith is not in Christ and the cross, then you are in bondage.” But thank God, when the believing sinner places His faith in Christ and Him crucified, his debt of sin is cancelled; when the backslidden Christian comes to himself and comes back to the Lord, he is liberated from that strange land and led back home to the Father. If you are a child of God, then every day can be “this day” when Scripture is fulfilled in your own ears as you learn who the Lord Jesus Christ is—our forever jubilee.