It was the Sabbath day in Nazareth and people had gathered at the Synagogue. Three and four generations of family members assembled together perpetuating the weekly reminder that they were God’s people called out to serve Him.
It was required that there would be at least ten adult males present. Check – a quorum of Jewish men were present.[i] Among the crowd that day were members of the family of Joseph and Mary.
The meeting began with a recitation of the Shema.
This was the daily prayer of the faithful. The Shema was the mission statement of the community; from the early memory verses of children to the dying words of the old.
The scrolls of the Torah were opened and a passage was read. These were the holy words of Moses given to understand their origins, their Law and the requirements of GOD.
Now it was time for a reading from the prophets. Jesus of Nazareth was a reputable young man who had grown up attending this synagogue with his family. It was his turn to read and to provide a teaching based on the reading.
Jesus had read a passage from Isaiah 61. In fact, it was a very short reading. Not only brief in length, he cut it off mid-sentence and pronounced that these words were fulfilled today in their presence.
The remainder of the service would prove to be highly unusual as opinions divided on Jesus’ teaching of the passage. We will look at his explanation of the passage later, but for our present thoughts we want to explore his partial quoting of Isaiah 61 and the fulfillment he proclaimed.
Isaiah 61:2 says, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God.’
Jesus read it and drops the last part of the sentence about the day of vengeance. He says, ‘to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
John Piper asks:
Jesus had announced that a new day had dawned on the world. The day of liberation had arrived. When the Messiah would come it was anticipated that the liberation would happen simultaneous to God’s vengeance on the sinners who oppressed God’s people. But Jesus only mentions God’s favor and not His wrath.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he would emphasis the good news for all who would accept it. Here are a couple examples of Jesus identifying that his mission was about God’s acceptance and salvation and not to bring final judgment.
47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Until God finally judges the world, we live in a time of his grace and patience. The time of God’s favor is here in order that many can experience the salvation of God.
[i] John C. Purdy, http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=435&C=314 . To have a synagogue service required the presence of ten adult males. At the service, the Shema was recited (Deut 6:4-9), followed by prayers, including some set prayers like the Tephillah and the Eighteen Benedictions (m. Berakot 2:2). After this the Scripture was read, beginning with a portion from the Torah (Gen--Deut) and moving next to a section from the Prophets. Instruction then followed. Often the speaker linked the texts together through appeal to other passages. The service then closed with a benediction.