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What on earth is happening? (5)

And he [Jesus, AD 30] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

     “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them,

Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Luke’s Biography 4: 16-19


There is one complaint which is often repeated in Jersey – amongst folk who take time to think, not amongst those who don’t.


“I like the God of the New Testament – the God of love - but can’t stand the God of the Old Testament – a blood-thirsty God, totally different.”


This is a very real problem. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why folk (in Jersey as well as elsewhere) have nothing to do with the Jesus of the New Testament. Jesus’ own teaching - “I and the Father are one” and “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” - has become a reason to reject him and his Father. The persuasive argument is that if the Old Testament describes the Father of Jesus then it’s better to have nothing to do with Jesus.....


But, when Jesus said whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, he was in fact making the opposite point. He wanted us to see his Father, the God of the Old Testament, as being exactly like himself – full of grace and truth..


Nevertheless the problem remains. The Old Testament “God” is unacceptable in the Jersey of 2012. So, therefore, is Jesus Christ – despite his submission to cruel dishonourable crucifixion – in order to bless his enemies.


As soon as Jesus entered upon his public ministry in AD 30 he decided to return to the no-good town of Nazareth where he’d been brought up. He did so in order to explain the Old Testament problem. He would do that by reading a Scripture from the Jewish National Archives. The scroll was the book of Isaiah – an Old Testament book written around BC 710.


 Jesus unrolled the scroll at chapter 61. He read its opening sentences. He stopped reading in mid-sentence. Had he continued to read, the next words (after “ proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour...”) would have been “...and the day of vengeance of our God. 


Why stop in mid-sentence? Why then roll up the scroll and return it to the attendant? Why then sit down?


No wonder those present that Saturday morning looked intently at him. Will he explain? Instead Jesus began to say, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.But it was only a part of this 750 year old Scripture. It was only a truncated, half-truth extract. Has these spoken words misrepresented their promised Messiah and his magnum opus?


Clearly that day, that very “Today”, marked a turning point, a fulcrum of history. From that very day began a long period of time during which the “vengeance of our God” (as disclosed so graphically in the Old Testament in God’s dealings with evil in the ancient world) would be postponed.


This was not to say that God would not allow (as we see today in our AD world) the consequences of evil to be seen and experienced in all their fearfulness. Folk need to see the consequences of their own self-orientated desires – and the consequences of those desires upon others. Awful.


But God’s vengeance is postponed. From the cross onwards – and until now - is “the year of the Lord’s favour.” Time for mind-change. Time to decide whom to follow in this world: those with weapons to secure their own ends – or the man who succumbed to all weapons, to all evil.


Time to seek forgiveness. This is” the year of the Lord’s favour.

‘The name of Jesus is not so much written as ploughed into the history of this world.’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher, 1803-1882)
‘Do you think that you deserve forgiveness? If you do you are not a Christian.’ (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Writer and Preacher, 1899-1981)
Richard Syvret

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