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And he [Jesus of Nazareth c. 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 send out 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 4: 16-21
Earlier this week – in Liberation Square, St Helier – we celebrated the seventy-second anniversary of the liberation of Jersey from German Armed Forces on May 9 1945. During the Christian service in the Square the extract (in bold above) from Luke’s biography of Jesus was beautifully read. The “liberty” brought by Jesus back in AD 30 was compared with our liberation.

He used the word “liberty” twice. He had come to his home town of Nazareth (1) “to proclaim liberty to the captives” and (2) “to send out at liberty those who are oppressed.” In both cases “liberty” translates the Greek word (apheimi) which combines (apo) “not” with (hiemi) “to be made to go away”.  

By “liberty” he therefore meant “not to be made to go away”. He proclaimed that the captives were “not to be made to go away” – from that day onwards. Their exclusion was over. Also, from that day onwards the oppressed would be sent out with it being established for each one that he or she was “not to be made to go away.” They were free.


‘The important thing about a man is not where he goes when he is compelled to go, but where he goes when he is free.’ (A W Tozer, pastor, 1897-1963)
It’s not surprising that this wonderful Greek word (translated “liberty”) was used by Jesus to mean the forgiveness of God under which sinners would no longer be held captive and banished from his presence but set free for ever. 

The English words “liber-ation” and “liber-ty” have a chequered history. “Liber” is of ancient origin. Around 500 BC Liber was one of many Roman gods – the god of freedom. Wikipedia tells us more: Before his official adoption as a Roman phallic deity, Liber was companion to two different goddesses in two separate, archaic Italian fertility cults..... He was a god of viticulture and wine, fertility and freedom. He was a patron deity of Rome's lower social classes. 

Given that our words “liberation” and “liberty” evolved from this 2,500 year old origin, it’s worth asking ourselves: Are we all seeking a truly liberal society? Do we want to be free to do as we wish to do, to be what we wish to be? 

By 186 BC Liber-god culture had become so socially disastrous and so widespread that the Romans tried to counter it by laws and by force – so as to turn back the tide of social and moral anarchy. Thousands were put to death.

It is certainly intriguing to realise that my strong desire for personal liberty impinges on others and on human society. If I have a peculiarity (I have many), especially a minority one, I want to have it endorsed as accepted by all. I am then free to pursue it openly and without an iota of opprobrium – even if deep-down I’m ashamed of it. If anyone says they dislike it, they will have taken away my liberty. That must not be. Others must not have the liberty to make me feel (let alone stop me) that I’m not at liberty.

But think again. What about those who are so intent on a personal freedom that they pursue it intently? Is it possible that they themselves are, despite appearances, not actually free at all? Are they free from the thrall of their own personal freedoms? From addiction to their own freedom?


 ‘Liberty is turned into license by self.’ (Walter Chantry)
Faced with the damage from Liber-god freedoms, the Roman Senate had to curb freedoms. Those espousing freedom had “to be made to go away” – to lose their liberty by law or by force, including by death. 

Is it therefore possible that I too am in captivity? In captivity to my own desires? And, therefore, deserving to be curbed - “to be made to go away” especially by a righteous and Holy God?

Look again at what Jesus, in AD 30, read from the ancient book of Isaiah (written circa 590 BC). He said that, that very day, the Spirit of the LORD God was upon him (1) to proclaim “liberty to the captives” (freedom from self-captivity) as well as (2) to send out those oppressed into “not to be made to go away” freedom. That’s why Jesus died – and rose again.

Sinner Syvret

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