When the Gospel of Luke describes Jesus first entering the public sphere, a pivotal scene takes place. Jesus, having been baptized and then successfully resisted the greatest of temptations in his most vulnerable of moments, joins other worshippers on the Sabbath day. They know him only as the son of the carpenter, Joseph.
Invited to read that day, Jesus is handed a scroll from the prophet Isaiah.
He offered these words from Isaiah, “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.”
And then Jesus says, “I’m the one who is going to make this happen.”
Every poor and oppressed person in that space might, for the first time, think, “There is hope.” Why? Because they knew what most of us do not: that “the day of the Lord’s favor” means Jubilee, the year where everyone gets the great “do-over.”
A little explanation: From the beginning of the formation of a cohesive people of God, the need to honor the “seven” was paramount.
A commandment: “No working on the Sabbath: for you or for anyone else. Remember: You were slaves, but now you are free. Use that freedom to honor God.”
Once every seven days, work is to cease. Everyone, everything gets a day of rest.
The seven doesn’t stop there. One year out of every seven was also to be set aside to rest and party together. No work for anyone.
And then, after the seventh seven-year celebration was to come Jubilee. On this 50th year, the second consecutive year of rest, all debts were forgiven, all land restored to its original owners, all enslaved and oppressed set free, and hope was restored to the hopeless.
How to afford all this time off? That is the power of the 10. The tithe, the tenth, was to be set aside rigorously to fund all this recreation, worship, rest and restoration. Set aside a tenth, and celebrate the sevens. And every seventh seven, the 50th year, celebrate the great “do-over.”
So simple. And it may have happened once.
Why? The rich and powerful must not permit a Jubilee. They would lose all privilege. Their biggest fear? That the words of what we know of as Mary’s Magnificat, the song she sung after her pregnancy is confirmed by her cousin Elizabeth, would come true.
Words like, “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
This is true religion, no matter what it is named. It is a place of justice, of Jubilee, of restoration, of hope, of light, of freedom.
And with Jesus’ pronouncement, we can easily understand why he ended on the cross. Right after Jesus read those words — and made it clear that good news extended to everyone, not just a select few — the first attempt on his life was made. A group of people tried to shove him off a cliff.
Just as today, they wanted good news for themselves, but God forbid that others outside their (or our) known circles would also receive it. Let’s leave out the differently skin-toned, the differently sexually oriented, the differently politically viewed, the differently religiously aligned, the differently anyone-anythinged.
On this Jubilee of the assassination of JFK, could we possibly consider another Jubilee? Could we consider that the wildly different may have a place in God’s heart? Could we stop condemning, or assassinating with words or with weapons, the other? Please?
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. She can be reached at 940-482-3482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.