In this poem, the prophet sings of good news, freedom, gladness, and joy. He sings about a world where the greatest possible number of people will be happy and fulfilled. The prophet is so full of God’s Spirit, so anointed with power, that he is able to make a joyful difference in the world. And when Jesus stands to preach for the first time (Luke 4:16-30), this is his text. He announces this is exactly why he has come into the world – if the world is ready to accept his offer.
There is nothing new about this invitation. When Jesus read the song of Isaiah, it was already five hundred years old. What’s more, when Isaiah sang the song, it was hundred of years older than him. You see, chapter 61 has some code words for an ancient idea. When Isaiah says, “liberty to the captives,” “release to the prisoners,” and “the year of the Lord’s favor,” he was talking about something called the Jubilee. In the faith of Israel, the Jubilee year was the fiftieth year. You multiply a block of seven years by seven times – and once in a lifetime you reach the fiftieth year. That was the Jubilee.
As far back as Moses, the people were invited to make the fiftieth year different from all the other years. According to Leviticus 25, here’s what you are supposed to do in a Jubilee:
· You forgive everybody. Even if they have done you wrong, set them free.
· You cancel all the debts. If anybody owes anybody else, all of it gets cancelled.
· You let the land lie fallow. Even the land is to have a Sabbath rest.
· You find out what belongs to whom and give it back. Every property is returned to the rightful owner.
· If anybody is a slave or a hired worker, the Jubilee year sets them free.
· There is no longer a gap between the haves and the have-nots. Everybody is treated equally. Everybody starts over. Blow the trumpet, and announce God has given everybody a new beginning.
Jesus said, “This is the acceptable year of the Lord.” Jubilee is the year to blow the trumpet, and announce that everybody is forgiven and free. At its heart, it is a festival of joy. And everybody up in Nazareth said, “What a wonderful idea!” That’s what they said, until they realized what it’s all about.
Do we really want a Jubilee for Christmas? Really? More than anything else?