14Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18"The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor." 20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
This passage from the bible recalls Jesus’ first public ministry in which he announced that he is the promised Messiah whom Isaiah had prophesized. Jesus goes to the synagogue and stands in front of the people then reads the passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord”(Isaiah 61:1). Then he looks at the crowd and tells them that “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
To have a good understanding of Isaiah’s prophecy and how Jesus is the fulfilment of the prophecy one needs to explore the Jewish year of jubilee which means a special anniversary of an event. In the exodus, God freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and gave them the promised land. So that Israelites might continue living in this freedom, the Torah provided a way for those who sold their ancestral land and were reduced to slavery because of debts to regain their property and liberty. The fiftieth year, following seven weeks of years, was this year of jubilee: “You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family” (Lev 25:10). An indentured Israelite could also be liberated by being redeemed by a kinsman. There was in addition a year of remission of debts for the poor every seven years.
In the second part of Isaiah (Isa 40–66), the jubilee concept is applied to the people as a whole to describe the return of Israel’s exiles to the land. The Lord God is portrayed as Israel’s kinsman redeemer who frees Israel from the slavery caused by debts—that is, the exile caused by sins. It is also applied to individuals: the jubilee is a time for “releasing those bound unjustly” and “setting free the oppressed.” Moreover, Isaiah interprets the jubilee in connection with the messiah: the Lord’s “anointed” is the one who will “proclaim liberty” and “announce a year of favor from the LORD” (Isa 61:1–2).
The jubilee law thus becomes a prophecy for Israel’s future restoration: the messiah will come as the kinsman who redeems the enslaved people, ushering in a jubilee age of liberty. This background helps to understand how Luke presents Jesus, in his reading of Isaiah in Nazareth, as the fulfillment of these expectations of a messiah-redeemer who proclaims the jubilee.
Oh Lord, we truly believe that you are the promised Messiah. We pray for you through the intercession of Saint Joseph the patron saint of this community that you would set us free from all physical, emotional, and spiritual captivity.