The Beginning - Jesus Fulfills the Prophecy
Imagine this setting. Jesus has lived in Nazareth for 30 years. Of course he’s well known in the village. Everyone knows one another in Nazareth. People like Jesus because he’s lived a quiet, humble, and pious Jewish life. Everyone thinks of him as the son of Joseph the carpenter. They know Mary his mother as well. Some would surely remember the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy three decades earlier, and the strange stories that circulated about his birth, but 30 years have passed since all those events, and now everything seemed pretty normal. Of course for a Jew, it was a little unusual that Jesus was a grown man and still unmarried. Yet everyone overlooked that because they liked Jesus and his kind, gentle, loving demeanor. Whenever he was around, he encouraged people and lifted them up. Whenever he was around, his presence seemed to bless people. He was a hard worker, quiet, humble, and in the eyes of all a good Jewish man.
But strange things had been happening. People heard of Jesus’ cousin John who as a young boy had gone off to live in the desert many years ago. Recently, this same John began drawing crowds of people into the desert, around the river Jordan, preaching and teaching like one of the prophets of old. He reminded some people of the stories of Elijah, when he confronted the evil and hypocrisy of his day, even taking on the king and queen in their idolatry. Others said he was like Isaiah or Jeremiah or one of the other great prophets of the Scriptures. Some even dared to say that maybe the Messiah had finally come, and he was the one. Hundreds starting flocking into the desert to listen to John, and they came back telling everyone that he spoke with such passion and authority. He was calling everyone, even the priests and religious leaders, to repentance, to turn away from their evil ways, and to turn back to God! He also talked about someone else who would be coming, someone much greater than himself, and he said he was just the one preparing the way.
All this talk of prophets and repentance and of others to come seemed strange for many in the village. Yet the rumors swirled around and around even moreso when news got out the Jesus had gone out into the desert to hear John, and then he went off by himself for 40 days, fasting and praying!!! Some even talked about other rumors more spectacular, like Jesus meeting the devil in the desert, but no one knew for sure. Anyway, Jesus had returned to Nazareth a few days ago, and everything seemed to be back to normal.
That is, it was back to normal until today, the Sabbath. On this holy day, like every Sabbath, we all went to the synagogue as is our custom, and Jesus stood up to read from the prophets. He read from Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to those in captivity and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
Then Jesus sat down, and everyone expected him to say a few words about this prophecy. Whenever Jesus spoke he held people spellbound, because he seemed to understand the Scriptures so well. He spoke with authority, and made the Scriptures come alive for all of us. This time, however, was quite different. Jesus got up and read from Isaiah, and after he sat down and all the eyes of the synagogue were on him, he simply said, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!”
That’s it. That’s all he said. “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” What did that mean? Isaiah was talking about the Messiah, a time when our messianic dreams would come true and the Anointed One of the Almighty would usher in the reign of God, the new kingdom where the poor would hear Good News, the brokenhearted would be healed, the slaves and prisoners would be freed, the blind would see again, and everyone oppressed by any demon of the past would be liberated. We all dreamed of the Messiah and hoped that He would come in our lifetime. We dreamed and hoped, but what was Jesus talking about?!?
He said that this prophecy, this Scripture of Isaiah is fulfilled in our hearing. Does that mean He is the One? Is He claiming to be the Anointed of the Almighty? We all admired his beautiful, simple, life of love. No one could say anything bad about him. He helped others. He loved others. He always showed mercy and compassion upon others. He sacrificed for others. He lived what some even dared to say was the perfect life. He truly loved God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and He loved his neighbor as himself. He did all that, and yet, what should we think when he equates himself to the prophecy of Isaiah? When he placed himself where only the Messiah could place himself? What does this mean?
+ + +
Well, in today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus use Isaiah’s words to summarize His earthly ministry. After 30 quiet years in Nazareth, Jesus finally felt the time was right to reveal Himself to the world. He was baptized by John, he went into the desert for 40 days to battle Satan, and came out victorious. He knew now was the time, and He used the prophecy of Isaiah to reveal His earthly mission. He would preach Good News to all. He would heal those who are broken. He would free those in captivity. He would bring light, divine light, to the world and give sight not only to the blind, but to all. Christ came to set us free, free from whatever captivity binds us – whether addictions, bad habits, guilty memories, mistaken and poor choices of the past. Jesus Christ came to proclaim that the Kingdom of God, the reign of Divine Love, has come, and we all are invited to live a new life under His reign!
We all know the stories of how Jesus actually fulfilled Isaiah’s words during the three years of His ministry. We know the stories of healing the blind, raising the paralyzed, cleansing the lepers, casting out the demons, even raising the dead. We hear these stories each week throughout the year. But what we need to realize today, is that this Good News that Jesus brought into the world was not only for those who lived 2000 years ago. The same miracles Jesus did then, He continues to do today.
As we begin the new Church Year today, September 1st, we need to understand that Christ is just as alive today as he was 2000 years ago in Nazareth. The Good News He preached then is still Good News for us today. He wants to enter into our world, our lives, and transform them, change them, transfigure them into His image. Whatever brokenness, disappointment, or despair, whatever illness whether physical, mental or spiritual, whatever struggles we have in our lives, Christ is here to heal us, to help us, to renew us, to lead us to reach our potential, to recreate us into His divine likeness!
But we need to believe in Him. We need to invite Him into our hearts and lives. We need to take down the barriers that keep Him away, and give Him free reign in our lives! Then we will see the power of the Good News which He brought into the world!
Facing Our Uncertain Future
Love Until It Hurts
Our Orthodox Faith