The story continues from last week, when Jesus has left his wilderness temptation alone and begun his ministry by first heading home and going to the Synagogue to preach. Let’s begin by saying that is a pretty audacious thing to do. But then it gets way, way more so.The less we do to make the Jubilee happen, the less likely it will. Click To Tweet
When Jesus visits the synagogue and reads some scripture it is notable in three ways:
- It is from the prophets, rather than Torah
- He inserts a line not in the Hebrew text about restoring sight to the blind
- It refers to proclaiming the year of YHWH’s favor.
Of these, I’m most interested in #3. Though One could really make a case for the tactile character of Luke and its demand for vision, making #2 an interesting line of inquiry.
I, like many, hear the phrase “year of the Lord’s favor” and think the Jubilee.
It doesn’t seem like a big stretch to see Jesus’s consistent refrain about the Kingdom of GOD (or Heaven) as being not only some final reconciliation of the world in some ultimate apocalyptic transformation, but more like the coming of the Jubilee year. A time in which it happens because the calendar strikes and we are here and expected to make it happen.
I’ve heard it said that scholars question whether the Jubilee was ever practiced, but I argue that this is Jesus’s ultimate point about it. That it isn’t merely a practice or custom, but a realignment that requires of us and expects us to be moved and changed and different.
All these things that Jesus talks about, not just the kingdom, but Jubilee and Shalom, are related in that they are brought by GOD, and bring a great peace to the people, but it is the people who will be responsible for getting the place ready.
And it further seems that the less we do to make it happen, the less likely it will.
So the Jubilee’s non-existence is proof that it is most needed to exist.
In the second half, which we take up for Epiphany 4C, we have the repurcussions of Jesus’s tiny sermon. He says that
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
This year, is fulfilled today in their hearing. There is little doubt in my mind that Jesus is speaking to the coming Jubilee begins today. My doubt arises in the idea that he is merely speaking about himself and that all of Christendom can be balanced on the predictive notion that Jesus thinks that he is the fulfilling of GOD’s favor: that the incarnate one and his coming sacrifice are what Jesus is actually saying. Some would argue that. I wouldn’t.
Because of that interesting dialogue that follows. Or the simple question with the Jesus monologue that follows it.
The people were amazed (afraid?) of what he was saying and then they say to one another, I suppose
“Is not this Joseph’s son?”
Which does seem to be an attempt at a low blow of some sort. This sets off Jesus to say that he knows what they’re thinking. They think he’s just some hick. That they know him. That the Jubilee, that favor is not something he gets. If he did, then he should prove it.
Jesus then goes on to speak of two of the big prophets (who were both healers and could raise the dead, mind you) in Elijah and Elisha not healing everybody. Not everybody gets healed because not everybody gets the program.
The people were afraid. Now they’re mad. This stuff is cheesing them off! They want to take Jesus and throw him from the cliff (like the Tempter in the Wilderness [h/t David Henson]).
And the story ends with that curious walking through them – that Jesus gets away from the hords by simply walking through them, maybe parted like the Sea of Reeds.
Here’s the pun in this, as pointed out by Abram Kielsmeier-Jones.
In verse 24, when Jesus “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” he is saying “finds favor” – the same word in Greek as used to describe “the year of the Lord’s favor”. As Kielsmeier-Jones points out, this is the only time this specific word is used in the gospels, so it is significant in that it is not common but is used twice to describe two senses of favor.
I’d make the leap and suggest that Jesus not only is comparing the Jubilee to the way he’s being treated, but that these two things are directly connected.
Mix this understanding of YHWH’s favor with the people’s non-favor of Jesus with what Jesus is saying about it being fulfilled today in their hearing and we’ve got a real case of participatory Jubilee/Kingdom-building here.
This is much more than a story of Jesus not being able to go home again. It is a story of how our disfavor toward the work of GOD in our world translates directly into less works of GOD in our midst. The less we love, the less we see GOD’s love.
But it is happening anyway, even without us. The Jubilee has begun. Are you really going to let it roll on without you? Or worse, throw its messenger into the sea? Just because you don’t like the sound of it? Just because the messenger looks like you?