16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4, NIV
In the days of Moses, God commanded the people of Israel on the subject of Jubilee (Leviticus 25). It is, in a sense, the Meta-Sabbath. The celebration of 7 Sabbaths of years (49 years), during which everything, including the land, rests. The Israelites are not to work the land, but simply enjoy its fruits. Perhaps more importantly, slaves are to be set free and property returns to the family to which God had given it. Almost without regard to what debts had been incurred, life returned to a condition without debt. This should sound familiar to anyone familiar with the New Testament. Jesus’s own birth, life, ministry, sacrifice and death return us individually and communally to a condition without debt and sin. The Kingdom of God being built up around us returns the world to a condition without debt and sin.
This is what Jesus preached in Nazareth. He spoke of the “year of the Lord’s favor,” or Jubilee. Yet it was not yet the time for the traditional Jubilee. Jubilee signifies far more than a recurrent Meta-Sabbath. The word comes from the Hebrew yobel, referring to a ram’s horn and is called a “trumpet blast of liberty” in the Septuagint. It is a celebration of God’s goodness and mercy, in which the people and land rest in the comfort and provision of God. Jesus is proclaiming an eternal Jubilee. Now that He has come, He sets free the oppressed, He heals the sick, He frees prisoners. Only God can proclaim Jubilee, as the One who commanded it, and Jesus is both proclaiming His identity as God and his Good News of Jubilee.
So, we can rest easy in the Good News that we live in an era of eternal Jubilee, right? Not quite. Jesus has proclaimed Jubilee, but has left much of the physical work of blasting the trumpet of liberty and working to free the oppressed and heal the sick to His Body, the Church, on Earth. And our record of proclaiming Jubilee, freeing the oppressed and healing the sick is not so good. So how do we celebrate an eternal Jubilee as followers of Christ in 21st Century America? I’ll have some suggestions over the coming week. Until then, know that Jubilee has been proclaimed, and the proclamations of God are to be trusted. We should be resting and celebrating in the eternal Jubilee, and working to proclaim it.
I’ll end for now with the Doxology:
“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”