Read February 4-10 lesson here.
“Jesus Christ is the prophesied Messiah.”
If you haven’t already read Luke 4:16-30, do so now.
I’m an Old Testament gal, so I’m excited about these Isaiah verses in the lesson…Hooray! (Stick with me!) First of all, let’s rearrange Isaiah into a different format that makes it easier to understand. Can you see the clear description of the Savior’s mission?
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;Isaiah 61:1-2
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
These are the words Jesus spoke to “the synagogue on the sabbath day.” Jesus was given the scroll and spoke from this section. We don’t know if the passage was assigned prior or if Jesus was able to chose the particular passage, but either way, the Messianic passage (which Isaiah wrote in first person) is highly significant. Think about the message that Jesus was telling them.
Let’s elaborate on a few things about “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord:”
1) This is referring to Israel’s jubilee year. The phrasing is from the law written in Leviticus 25:10, which discusses Israelites who lost their land and were forced into indentured servitude. The law in Leviticus rules that every fifty years, they can leave their servitude and regain their land. Debts were forgiven and mercy was shown. The main idea of jubilee laws are to underscore that the world, and thus the land, belongs to God and to protect people from bondage and disinheritance.
2) This also alludes to the Jews regaining their land after fifty years of servitude in Babylon. The Jews lost their land in 587/586 BCE. Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to proclaim liberty and were free to return to Israel fifty years later (certainly a jubilee year!). This event is recorded on the Cyrus cylinder, which is dated at around 539 BCE. The cylinder was discovered in 1879. Guys, history is rad. (To learn more, watch this video.)
3) The jubilee year is symbolic of Christ, the greatest Liberator of all, who frees from physical and spiritual bondage, so each of us can gain our eternal inheritance. King Benjamin expounds in his speech (likely given during a jubilee year) that, “there is no other head whereby ye can be made free.” That Jesus spoke that particular passage from Isaiah during a jubilee year, and the first year of His ministry, is surely no coincidence.
Now consider the following translation of Luke 4:16-21:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, and he came to the synagogue, according to his usual practice on the Sabbath Day, and he stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and he unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to declare release to the captives, and the restoring of sight to the blind, to deliver the captives, and to declare the acceptable year of the Lord.” And when he had rolled up the scroll, he gave it back to the attendant and then sat down, and the eyes of all those in the synagogue were looking at him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled while you hear it.”The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints by Thomas A. Wayment
The people in the synagogue that day would have been intimately familiar with the words Jesus spoke from Isaiah. Remember, back then their only scriptures would have been those contained in our Old Testament (plus or minus some, but that’s a lesson for another day). They knew those scriptures inside and out and had plenty of it committed to memory. They had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Messiah for CENTURIES. So when Jesus said, “This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears,” it would have been simply astonishing to some and infuriating to many. Imagine the intensified feeling that would have accompanied the Savior proclaiming He is the Messiah as the Spirit bore witness to these words. Emotions were surely charged in that synagogue.
Then Jesus says, “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.” Jesus knew what they were thinking. The Nazarenes knew of the miracles Jesus had performed elsewhere as “there went out a fame of him through all the region round about” and they want to see miracles as well. Jesus points out the stories of Elijah and the widow (1 Kings 17:1-16) and Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1-14), which are stories of prophets performing miracles and being cast out by their own people. Jesus also uses these stories to show that God cares for everyone, even those outside of Israel. This also foreshadows when the gospel leaves Israel (in their near future) due to rejection, and is sent to Gentiles, who are converted. The Nazarenes become infuriated at the suggestion that the Gentiles could have the same status with God as they do. They take Jesus to a hill with the intent to kill him by throwing him off of it for the blasphemy he had just spoken. Jesus, of course, escapes, but moves to Capernaum where “his word was with power” (Luke 4:32).
“How aptly Jesus chose his illustrations! Both of these ancient prophets, dishonored by their own, conferred great blessings upon foreigners. So it was with the Nazarenes; others, not they, had seen his great works.”
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, (1:162), by Bruce R. McConkie
Jesus Declares He Is the Messiah
The author of Luke reminds the reader that Jesus was from Nazareth at the beginning of the story with “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been raised.” The people in the Nazareth synagogue knew Jesus well. This fact is further underscored by the statement, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” The Nazarenes cast their long awaited Messiah out and lost the matchless blessing of having Him in their midst. Jesus “came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
We have prophets and apostles in our midst today, whose job it is
“to bear witness, not out of belief but out of a certain knowledge of the Son of God, their Friend and Master, whose servants they are.” It was difficult for the Nazarenes to comprehend that the man they knew since infancy was the Messiah. Is it difficult for you to fully grasp the words of prophets and apostles because they are like other men in so many ways?
Last thought: The scriptures are like no other books on the earth. The more effort we put in, the more we are rewarded with insight and a deepening testimony. The scriptures are endlessly interesting, especially when combined with history, archaeology, and insight from others. What a gift it is to live in a day where we have all of these resources available to us.