October 5, 2014
Jesus is the Jubilee
This week we celebrate Episcopal Schools’ Week throughout the Episcopal Church which includes dioceses in the states, territories, and commonwealths of the United States and in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the British Virgin Islands, Honduras, Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Taiwan, Austria, Belgium France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. Our theme this year is “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.” Episcopal schools have been established as ecumenical and diverse ministries of educational and human formation for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Episcopal Schools exist not merely to educate, but to demonstrate and proclaim the unique worth and beauty of all human beings as creations of a loving, empowering God. God, the Son, came to give us Freedom.
FREEDOM! When was the last time you remember feeling totally free? It may have been when you had a very big event postponed or cancelled or you work inside most of the time and had a chance to spend the day outside doing things you really love to do. Have you experienced the incredible feeling of being set free? Students experience this feeling on the last day of school before summer or when we have an unexpected weather day off. Serious bikers know the exhilaration and freedom of the open road.
Freedom is something we treasure in America. Nearly 650,000 men and women have given their lives for freedom since the birth of our nation.
Has it ever occurred to you that freedom is the reason Jesus Christ came to this earth? Let us consider the Leviticus reading and the concept known as the “Year of Jubilee.”
The Hebrew calendar was based on the number seven. Every seventh day was called the “Sabbath.” This was a day set apart; by the Lord’s own command for worship and fellowship. No work was to be done on that day. It was a day holy to the Lord. Every seventh year was a “Sabbath Year.” In that year, no sowing or reaping could be done. The Lord miraculously provided enough crops in the sixth year to last until the end of the eighth year. This is reminiscent of the provision of manna in the wilderness in Exodus. Every seventh Sabbath year, would usher in a year called the “the Year of Jubilee.” So at the end of every forty-nine years, the year of Jubilee would begin. Verse eight in Leviticus says: “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you…
The year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement. This was the day that the sins of the people would be atoned for by the sacrifice of the goat and the release of the scapegoat. The people fasted and prayed for ten days prior this ceremony. It was a time of deep regret and sorrow for their sins. Once the sacrifice was completed and atonement has been made for the people, then a year long celebration took place. (like Mardi Gras all year long) The Year of Jubilee would begin with the blowing of the ram’s horn because the word ‘jubilee” means “sound of the horn.”
The Year of Jubilee was the great equalizer. Every fifty years, all slaves were set free, all leases were to expire, all debts were to be forgiven, and property was to be returned to its original owners. It was a way for God to remind the people that the land was not really theirs but that God had entrusted it to them. This kept people from buying up huge parcels of land. No one could grow rich, and no one would be perpetually poor. No matter how bleak a person’s life was, the year of Jubilee provided hope. Everything would be made right at the Year of Jubilee.
What do you think it would be like if we were to try this today?
The Year of Jubilee is a powerful principle. It was a symbol, a sign of things to come. It is represents a time when freedom would be found, not in a celebration, but in Christ.
Now let us Fast Forward to Luke’s gospel:
Imagine if you will that we are all gathered in a large room inside of a house in a town called Nazareth in Galilee. The year is around AD 30 and it is the Sabbath day. We have gathered to worship the Lord and one of the elders looks around the room for someone to read from the scroll of the prophets. His eyes spot the son of the carpenter, Jesus. Jesus had been traveling and teaching and had become somewhat of a local celebrity. The scroll is handed to Jesus and he stands to read. Since none of us have our own scroll we listen intently. After unrolling the scroll, his eyes scan down the parchment. What will he read? What great teaching we he give us?
He has chosen the words we just heard in the gospel.
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him…”(Luke 4:16-20)
What great teaching would Jesus give? They waited with baited breath.
“…and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21)
Jesus shocks the group by claiming the principle of the year of Jubilee and the promise of a coming deliverer are found in a Person, and that person is himself. The promised Messiah had finally arrived and he was sitting right in front of them! Jesus’ first sermon had three points: He was the promised Messiah, the Jubilee age had arrived, and his mission was one of liberation.
“All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn’t this Joseph’s son?" they asked.”(Luke 4:22)
The people were confused. They were amazed at his teaching, full of grace and truth (see John 1:14). But they also knew him. He grew up around them. They knew his family. They knew the rumors surrounding his birth. Here is the carpenter’s son claiming to be the Messiah. Could it be? Most concluded that Jesus was out of his mind and this section of Scripture ends with him being banished from Nazareth and the people attempting to murder him. As Jesus pointedly stated: “No prophet is welcome in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24)
Although He was rejected by the people of Nazareth, he had openly announced He was the Christ, the promised Deliverer. He was the Prophet, Priest, and King that Isaiah had promised. The principle of Jubilee and the promise of deliverance were fulfilled in the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Mike Breaux writes, “You are blessed…when you reach into your spiritual pockets, and you turn them inside out and all you’ve got are little lint balls. You will never be happy in life until you realize you’re spiritually broke and you need God in your life.”
This is at the heart of becoming a Christian.
There are people whose hearts have been broken to pieces by pain, who have been deceived, abused, and let down by people in their lives. These are people who are suffering. Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted.” He is the great physician who can make you whole again. Listen to his voice.
Have you given your hurt to the healer? What is that thing that keeps you up at night? Give it to the Lord right now.
This world is difficult. This is true even for the Christian. We are going to “battered and bruised” from time to time. Whether it is a government oppressing its people, or you feel trapped by your current set of circumstances, or your conscience condemning you, Jesus is your stronghold. Have you found your shelter in Him? What is that one thing you have battling? Let’s ask God to shelter us from these storms.
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus did not come to re-institute the principle of the year of Jubilee. He was the fulfillment of the promise spoken by Isaiah. Jesus is the Jubilee! He came to be the deliverer, the healer, the King of our hearts. RE-gain your FREEDOM by relying more on Him.
I would like to end today by praying the collect for our schools. Students, please say it with me if you know it by heart:
O Eternal God, bless all schools colleges and universities and especially bless Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom; and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.