Author’s Note: Interested readers who missed Vol. 2 – 39 of this series click here, but Vol.1 is here.
This week we continue studying the real “reason for the season” found in the Word of God — gift wrapped in light and love with free shipping for eternity.
The idea for this study was conceived in church last Sunday after I listened to the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 61:1-2.
Isaiah is considered the greatest of all the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) prophets, and his name means “The Lord saves.” Two of his passages are personal favorites previously discussed in Vol. 3 and Vol. 11.
In Isaiah 61:1-2 — written around 711 years before the birth of Christ — Isaiah (the assumed writer, although challenged by some scholars) prophesied a narrative of the Messiah’s impact on humankind. And that is precisely why the passage is read in churches during the “Advent season” (Nov. 29 – Dec. 24) as the church anticipates the Savior’s birth.
Let’s read the passage together:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2).
Isaiah envisions a Holy One who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor,” empowering people while releasing them from the bondage of sin. In the Advent season, Christians prepare to celebrate God who became man — an infant born amidst the most humble of circumstances — whose purpose in living was to suffer and die as a sacrifice for the redemption of the sins of the world. But death could not contain Him.
Now fast forward about 738 years to A.D. 27. The Gospel of Luke records what happened to Jesus when he returned to his hometown:
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
And he 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 set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:14-19).
Jesus proclaims the Messianic Age through his reading of Isaiah 61:1-2. The “year of the Lord’s favor” is not a calendar year but liberation from sin through belief in Him, the One “anointed” by the Lord.
Those present in the temple did not understand that Jesus was revealing his true identity when reading Isaiah’s 700-year-old Messianic passage. And with bold added for emphasis, here is what happened next:
Then he [Jesus] rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:20-21).
Jesus spoke Truth to His power. Although his hometown audience was “amazed at the gracious words,” they questioned how Jesus could fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy asking, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4-22).
Jesus answered with a very human retort: “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown (Luke 4:24).
In verses 25-27, Jesus teaches about the time of Elijah, as explained in my NIV Study Bible’s footnote: “Jesus’ point was that when Israel rejected God’s messenger of redemption, God sent him to the Gentiles—and so it will be again if they refuse to accept Jesus.”
Then Scripture chronicles the crowd’s reaction:
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way (Luke 4: 28-30).
During church Advent readings, Isaiah’s prophetic passage was included, but not Luke’s. However, what Luke wrote about Jesus saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” is why Isaiah’s words were read twelve days before we celebrate Christ’s birth.
And now the question, “What is the real “reason for the season”? The English word “Mass” stems from the Latin verb mittere, meaning “to send.” Thus, “To send Christ.”
And why was Christ sent?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). (For more explanation, see Vol. 32.)
Finally, since this is the last Bible Study before December 25, I will share my favorite modern Christmas song, “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant.
Merry “Christ-Mass!” Thanks for reading and throughout the year have appreciated the “gift” of receiving numerous uplifting emails about how this Bible Study has impacted you. And to that, I say, Amen!
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: [email protected] or Twitter @MyraKAdams.
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