Over the past several Fridays we have been looking at extracts from Michael Spencer’s upcoming book, Reconsider Jesus – A Fresh Look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark. In our extract a few weeks back Michael Spencer wrote:
The good news is about God and what God is doing. It is not about me. It is not about some idea of success or happiness as the world might define it. You have probably noticed that in our culture God is judged by how much he fills out our shopping lists of needs and wants. This is not good news. This good news is an announcement that things are going to be different.
Check out what Jesus has to say in his first sermon, a further proclamation of the good news:
Luke 4:18 “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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”…. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” – ESV
When you read the Gospels, Jesus is including the excluded, healing the hopeless, remaking Israel, reaching out to the pagan, overturning the religious professionals, redefining all the predictable terms, shocking those who know all the answers and, in general, making it unmistakably clear that the Kingdom isn’t just about forgiveness and “heaven,” but about the life we are living, and will live, both in the Kingdom here and now, as well as in the future. As Jesus walked through this world the Kingdom of God was like a big ship cutting through the waves. Every place he goes, the work and the fruit of the Kingdom flow out from him. Blind people see, hungry people are fed, deaf people hear, those with leprosy are cured, outcasts are included, people who are left out are brought in and beloved. The guilty are forgiven, the dead are raised. If you don’t know who Jesus is, you miss it.
A couple of weeks ago one of my Pastors pointed out something to me from this passage which I found very interesting and I had never heard before. Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 61, and he stops mid sentence. Look at what Isaiah says in chapter 61:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
The phrase “and the day of vengeance of our God” is excluded from Jesus’ reading of the scripture.
My thoughts went immediately to verses like John 3:17: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Do you think there is any significance to the fact that Jesus stopped mid-sentence? Were they waiting with baited breath for Jesus to read the next phrase and then astonished when he didn’t? Is the coming of Christ all about God’s favor, and not at all about God’s vengeance? If so, does that impact how we preach and how we teach? Are Hellfire and Brimstone sermons out of line? Is condemnation and vengeance Good News?
Or is it possible that when he read that portion from Isaiah, his listeners has the rest of the Isaiah passage in mind? Scott Lencke commented to me, that the situation might be similar to Christ on the cross quoting from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps when Christ exclaimed this, his listeners would have had the whole Psalm in mind and so would have had a fuller understanding of what Christ was saying. If this is the case, does Christ’s message in Luke 4 also include the idea of vengeance? What other Biblical texts would support this?
I would be interested in reading your views on this? Do you tend to lean towards the first or second view? If so, why? Are their other options that we might want to consider?