The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations. Isaiah 61:1-4 ESV
And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. 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 proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21 ESV
Throughout history, kings and emperors have had and used the right to pardon and set people free who had broken the law in some way. For example, an Anglo-Saxon king had the right to kill, or to not kill, anyone who got into a fight inside his castle. These old practices and customs have been passed on to the President of the United States. The president also has the right to pardon people who have broken the law. Some years ago the United States was involved in a war in Vietnam. There were many people who thought that this war was wrong, and about 50,000 young men who were drafted to fight in this war broke the law by refusing to do it, or some of them deserted the army after starting to serve in the armed forces. For breaking this law all these men might have faced some serious punishment and time in jail, but President Gerald Ford gave a partial pardon to these young men. They had to do some service to their country, but they were given favor and set free from punishment for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.
The prophet Isaiah talked about someone who would be anointed by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Isaiah looked ahead to the time the one God would send would tell the poor people the good news of God’s love, comfort and heal those who were brokenhearted, set free the captives and the prisoners, and punish the enemies of God’s people. This time of God’s favor and help and pardon for sin would turn times of sorrow into celebrations and joy. God’s people would be compared to strong, healthy trees planted by God, and their ruined cities would be rebuilt. The people, who were so discouraged and weak and hopeless, could look forward to a glorious future when God would pardon and set them free.
When Jesus was beginning to serve and teach, he went into the synagogue and was invited to read from the Bible. He read part of Isaiah’s prophecy, and then he said something amazing. He said that that very day the words of Isaiah had come true! Jesus was the one God had promised to send, the one who was anointed with the Spirit of the Lord, who would proclaim the good news of God’s favor to the poor and the hurting, and to people who were held captive by sin and death. Jesus came to set them free, and to defeat the enemies who had hurt and held them prisoner. He defeated death and all the forces of evil by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead, and because of what he did for us, we are free to celebrate and to serve him, now and forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for bringing us God’s favor, freedom, and forgiveness. Amen.