Theology circles will speak of the already/not-yet aspect of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom has already come. It has broken in through the ministry of Jesus. We are currently now living within the Kingdom of God. Yet, we are also awaiting a final consummation of the Kingdom. We are awaiting the day when evil is destroyed forever and the Beast is cast into the Abyss of the Sea. We are waiting for the world to be made right, as God has promised. Thus, the new creation is guaranteed, but it is not currently visible. Thus the idea of already/not-yet. Or, the Kingdom has broken in and at the same time we are awaiting the coming Kingdom.
The struggle, at times, is where we place the emphasis. The easy place to place the emphasis is on the not-yet aspect of the Kingdom. No one would ever look around at the present world and think, this is the Kingdom. This world is not yet what we hope it will one day become. Just in the past few days, news headlines have included school shootings, drug addiction, physical and emotional abuse, and a number of other evils. I’s easy to see that the world is not yet the Kingdom that God desires. We, as Christians wait with longing anticipation for God to make the world right. The Kingdom is not yet here.
Which makes the words of Jesus seem strange in Luke 4 when he declares, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus is in Nazareth, and for Luke, this is the inauguration of Jesus’s ministry. He goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath and reads from the prophet Isaiah these words.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, which is often included as one of the Suffering Servant passages. It is a prophecy in which Isaiah looks to the future. He looks to the promised Messiah who is coming to reign on the throne and make the world right. He longs for a time when the poor will hear the good news, and the oppressed will be set free. It’s not just a time of spiritual renewal, but physical renewal. Those that are suffering won’t just be told, someday things will get better, but will be told, today is the day of the Lord’s renewal.
Isaiah is also drawing from the Year of Jubilee passage in Leviticus 25. The Year of Jubilee was a time when land reverted back to original owners, slaves were set free, and those that had suffered were given a fresh start. It was good news not just of salvation, but in real and practical ways making life better now.
Jesus reads from this passage and declares, today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Not just, today, the Messiah has come to announce good news, but literally today is the year of the Lord’s favor. Today the poor hear good news. Not just the economic poor, but any who were not granted privileges or power because of gender, race, physical abilities, or socioeconomic factors. Today the oppressed are free. Not that someday you won’t suffer anymore, but today you are set free from slavery and abuse.
Now, we hear those words and we naturally think, that’s great :but.” But some are still not invited to the table because of race or gender. Some are still abused and mistreated. It sounds good, but it isn’t reality.
But what if Jesus was right. What if the Kingdom did come today, and the poor and oppressed were set free? What if it’s us who fail to realize this truth? What if we’ve grown so accustomed to the way the old world operates that we fail to live into the new reality.
Yes, we are awaiting the coming Kingdom, but we also must recognize the Kingdom is here today. The oppressed don’t have to wait for the end of time to be set free, they are set free now. And we must work tirelessly for the old world to recognize this new reality. The poor hear good news now. It’s not enough to say someday we won’t separate because of gender, class, or race. Now the poor hear good news. And we, who have power, must relinquish our power so the poor can hear the good news.
It’s not just someday the world will be made right. It is right now. We just need to recognize it, and live in it.
Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Today, is the year of the Lord’s favor.