News was spreading. People loved the new Teacher in Galilee, and now He was coming to Nazareth. It was a Sabbath day when He stood up among them and began reading from the book of Isaiah.
But wait. They knew that guy. Wasn’t that Joseph’s son? Jesus, right? He was from there. He grew up with them. What was their old neighbor doing?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” He read, “because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2).
Back in the day, the Law required a year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13). Every 49 years, on the Day of Atonement, there was to be a societal reset of sorts. Debts were to be forgiven and slaves set free. Everyone was to return to their own property and family, to rest and enjoy the fruits of the previous years of labor.
Now, Jesus was there, in His own hometown, proclaiming that “today this Scripture has been fulfilled.” (Luke 4:21). Promises of forgiveness, restoration, and freedom sounded exciting indeed. But the people weren’t going to like what He said next.
Jesus told them they would put Him to the test. They would expect Him to prove Himself, to work miracles like He did in Capernaum—and they were going to be disappointed. “No prophet is welcome in his hometown,” He explained. Only a few of them would have the faith to receive what He had to offer. They were going to have a tough time seeing Him as their Savior instead of their neighbor.
The problem was, they were in bondage to their neighbors—be it through debts, slavery, or illnesses and handicaps that put a strain on society. Those that fared well still had Roman rule to contend with. There was no doubt: They desperately needed a revolution. But Jesus came to do something far greater than reboot their society—He came to free souls all across the fabric of space and time. They were focused on temporal issues. He wanted to solve an eternal one.
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul,” Jesus would later teach His disciples, “but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:27).” They had a pressing problem far greater than inequalities or injustices. Their souls were in need of salvation, and they didn’t even know it.
Nearly 2000 years later, we face many of the same threats to our freedom that the Jews of Jesus’ time encountered. There are places in the world where people are physically enslaved or oppressed by their governments. Terrorist groups impose their ideologies with fear and violence. Even those of us living in free countries struggle to maintain our liberties.
As great as these humanitarian issues are, we have an even more pressing problem—every day people are dying and their souls are going to hell. Christ came to liberate hearts enslaved by sin and forgive our debts of righteousness to God so that we might have everlasting life. Our present, temporal, socio-political concerns must certainly be addressed, but they pale in comparison to an eternity without God.
So, as we express gratitude for our current liberties and fight against the injustices in our world, let us be most grateful for the freedom granted to us in Christ Jesus. He came to be our perfect neighbor and liberator—and that is a revolution worth celebrating.
Learn how you can better pray for your neighbors when you listen to “Prayer That Moves God,” which airs this weekend on TV.