Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 30 2019 - Isaiah 61 – The year of the Lord's favour

Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, used these words to announce the beginning of his public ministry. When he had been baptised in the river Jordan by John the Baptist, the Spirit of God descended upon him in the appearance of a dove. He was then led by the Spirit into the desert where he spent some time preparing for his ministry through conflict with the devil. Having stood firm against all that the devil could throw at him, Luke tells us that, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14). There, in the synagogue of Nazareth, his home town, he was asked to read the Scriptures and give a word of exhortation. Jesus read from Isaiah 61:

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,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus then rolled up the scroll and declared, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). Jesus was saying that he is the one of whom Isaiah spoke in this passage of Scripture. He had come as the Servant of the Lord, equipped with the Spirit of God and anointed by God to proclaim good news to the poor. He had come to bind up the broken hearted, give freedom to those held captive by sin and by the devil. He had come to comfort those who mourn. Those who might have thrown ashes on their heads as a token of mourning have, in him, exchanged their ashes for a beautiful and glorious crown. He has come to lift people from the darkness of despair and to give them hope which will fill their mouths with praise.

All of these promises in Isaiah 61 find their fulfilment in the ministry of the Lord Jesus, God's anointed, his Christ. Think of the way that Jesus ministered to the variety of people of his day. Think particularly of the crowds who followed and surrounded him: the sick who were healed, the lame who jumped up and walked, the blind who were given sight, the sinners who were forgiven, the poor who were fed, the dead who were raised to life, those possessed by evil spirits who were set free. Think also of what Jesus has done for you. Jesus is the one in whom God has looked with favour on his people and blessed them beyond measure. Surely we echo the words of Isaiah:

I delight greatly in the LORD;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10).

And, in fulfilment of the words of this chapter, Jesus has called us into a priestly ministry to continue the ministry of the Servant in seeking to bring the world to God and God to the world (Isaiah 61:6, reflecting Exodus 19:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:9). Verse 11 pictures a fruitful garden in which seeds take root, plants break out into verdant growth and produce a plentiful harvest. This is a picture of what God will now do across the "barren wastelands" of this earth as "the Sovereign LORD [makes] righteousness and praise spring up before all nations". We, as servants of the Servant King have been recruited as labourers in God's great harvest field and are called to proclaim the same good news to the world in all its poverty and need.

Father God, thank you for the wonderful life and ministry of Jesus our Saviour. Help us, by the power of your Spirit, to follow him in proclaiming and being good news for a sad world. May our words and actions be used by you to comfort those who mourn and fill them with praise rather than despair. May many find freedom, salvation and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Peter Misselbrook