THE OPENING WORD

THE OPENING WORD

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Yeshua returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.” (Luke 4:13-14)

For 40 days and nights, Yeshua the Messiah battled the flesh, the world and the devil on a very personal level in the burning Judean wilderness. Overcoming temptations targeting His body, His soul and His relationship with His Father, the Son of God was now ready to “go public” and launch His earthly ministry that would lead Him to the cross and change the whole world forever.

Human wisdom would suggest that Yeshua should have started His public activity slowly and easily. Given the religious background of most of His audiences, the hardness of the human heart and the spiritual darkness covering the world, would it not have been more logical to introduce Himself and His message incrementally and gradually? Sure it was, but thankfully, He wasn’t motivated by human wisdom or logic. Rather, He was led by the power of the Holy Spirit and conducted Himself like a spiritual man.

Returning to the Galilee where He was to make His first public impact, the Messiah headed to His hometown of Nazareth to deliver the opening message of His earthly ministry. In this small and remote village high above the Sea of Galilee, His stage was the humble synagogue where He had spent most of His childhood Sabbaths. His audience were neighbors who had known Him well and his close relatives. Luke describes the occasion:

“… He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim the good news to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:17-21).

Consider the setting and the implications of this short message:

  1. He entered the synagogue, as was His custom. The Son of God arrived to earth clothed in Jewish flesh. He lived and died as a Jew; His teachings were Hebraic in nature; His doctrine entirely biblical. Jesus DID NOT come to earth to start a new religion. Rather He came to open up the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven for all who would believe.
  2. It was the Sabbath day, which is celebrated and commemorated as a resting day for God’s people. For Yeshua, however, the Sabbath was a day of constant warfare and conflict as He confronted unbelief, demonic manifestations, Pharisaic trappings, hypocrisy, sickness and disease in every synagogue He visited.
  3. The text was pre-determined and chosen for Him. The Jewish annual reading of the Bible is spread out throughout the entire year with specific portions of scripture assigned to be read on each successive Sabbath. Before the world was created, before time was formed, this particular day and this specific prophecy were already fixed and determined by God’s sovereign plan. Yeshua, in complete obedience and in perfect sync with His Father, simply walked into His destiny and showed up at His childhood synagogue on the only Sabbath of the year when this prophecy was to be read.
  4. He said that the Spirit of God was upon Him, as was evident during His Jordan baptism just a few weeks earlier, and that He was now anointed (the Hebrew word for Messiah) with that Spirit for a unique mission.
  5. His message was profound and simple, quoting directly from the scroll of Isaiah. The message contained three distinct themes that, when combined, describe the mission of Israel’s Messiah.
      1. He is anointed to proclaim good news. His message was primarily one of “Good News,” announcing the reconciliation of lost humanity to our loving Heavenly Father. No other messenger could ever convey such a message before, and in this, the Lord acted in the office of the PROPHET who proclaims God’s word.
      2. He is anointed to heal the broken hearted and open blind eyes. The ministry of healing and deliverance was reserved to the PRIEST, and here the Lord acted in this office. 
      3. He is anointed to declare the acceptable year of the Lord. This reference is to the Year of Jubilee, the “Super Sabbath” of seven Sabbatical Years that comes every 50 years on the biblical calendar. During this year of Yovel (in the Hebrew), or Jubilee, three amazing and revolutionary things took place: 1- Slaves go free. 2- Debts are cancelled. 3- Property returns to its original owners. These were radical and never heard of before practices that God commanded the nation of Israel to observe with the clear goal of totally and completely eliminating the class system that plagued (and still does) other cultures and societies. Only the KING could declare the Year of Jubilee, and the Lord here acted in this office.
  6. He sat down. In the synagogue environment, the teacher stood to read the word of God, and then sat down to teach from the text. When Yeshua finished reading the ancient prophecy He sat down, indicating to the congregation that a teaching will now follow. No wonder Luke writes “… the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.”
  7. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. For a Jewish mind and heart, these are the most powerful “code words” in the entire Hebrew vocabulary. The phrase SCRIPTURE is FULFILLED is by far the most loaded and impactful in the language of biblically minded people. Their very sound introduces an immediate and compelling sense of God’s absolute presence, sovereignty and eternal purpose which govern all else. This was a remarkable moment that never before, or after, occurred on earth!

Yeshua did not waste words in Nazareth on that Sabbath, nor did He attempt to water down His message for the sake of the listeners. It seems He did the exact opposite as He laid out a concise, premeditated and deliberate mission statement that was handed to Him by the Spirit and was quoted from a prophecy thousands of years old declaring, “this is WHO I am, and this is WHAT my purpose is.”

Bible students will also notice that the Lord only quoted half of the ancient prophecy. On that Sabbath in Nazareth He stopped midway through the Isaiah 61 prophecy because the Spirit of God describes two comings in that text. The second half of that prophetic word pertains to God’s judgements that will transpire at Messiah’s return, His “second coming” as some call it. The portion of the prophecy that Yeshua read that day in Nazareth describes His redemptive work during His “first coming” as a Savior and Deliverer. With the words, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,” He closed the book and sat down to explain what just happened.

“I am the One of whom the scripture speaks,” He said, “and today is the day this scripture is fulfilled, here and now!” Is there any wonder they tried to kill Him? This declaration, the ‘opening shot’ was fired in Nazareth that day, and then 3.5 years of an incredible labor of love, suffering, agony and glory started, leading to the cross, to the grave, and to the resurrection.

Let us think of His words; the words of our heavenly and eternal prophet, priest and king, as He spells out the Good News. And let us live by the power of these words as we journey on with Him.

May God bless you, we hope to see you here soon in Israel,
Samuel Smadja.