AN EXPOSITION OF LUKE 4:16-21
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
The passage from the Old Testament which Jesus quotes is Isaiah 61:1-2. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.”
Much has been made by some proponents of Dispensational theology of the fact that Jesus did not finish Isaiah 61:2. The teaching is that Jesus did not come to preach about “the day of vengeance of our God.”
In Dispensational theology “the day of vengeance of our God” is a technical phrase in Scripture and refers to a future period of Great Tribulation that will come upon all the world, and especially Israel, followed by the Second Advent and judgment.
The Scofield Reference Bible says,
“Observe that Jesus suspended the reading of this passage in the synagogue at Nazareth Lu 4:16-21 at the comma in the middle of Isa 61:2. The first advent, therefore, opened the day of grace, “the acceptable year of Jehovah,” but does not fulfil the day of vengeance. That will be taken up when Messiah returns 2Th 1:7-10 Cf. Isa 34:8; 35:4-10. The last verse, taken with the 4th, gives the historic connection: the vengeance precedes the regathering of Israel, and synchronizes with the day of the Lord. Isa 2:10-22; Re 19:11-21; Isa 63:1-6.”
Perhaps Dispensational theology is correct in its eschatological view. That is uncertain. Time will tell. What is more certain, is that a Dispensational theological bias will read into Scripture what may not be there. Here is a case in point.
The Bible does not tell us why Jesus stopped reading the verse, and so a motive is assigned to the Lord of Glory. That is always a precarious practice “for who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34)
Concerning His reading of Isaiah the prophet, Jesus said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Rather than accept the commentary of what Jesus said about His own reading, Dispensational theology moves to discuss what Jesus did not read, and what He did not say. That is, after all, more intriguing, and allows commentators to move from exegesis to eisegesis, and from the Scriptures to speculation.
If the implication is that Jesus stopped reading Isaiah 61:2 in the middle of the verse because He did not want to preach about “the day of vengeance of our God,” then the question arises: Did Jesus also not want to preach comfort for those who are mourning?
The simple answer is that Jesus did preach about the day of God’s vengeance, and Jesus preached to comfort all that mourn. When Jesus said “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears”, the part stood for the whole. The New Testament confirms the following.
Jesus did preach good tidings to the meek. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
Jesus did bind up the brokenhearted. “And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” (Luke 8:48-56).
Jesus did proclaim liberty to the captivates. “And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, 7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. 8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. 9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. 10 And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country” (Mark 5:2-10).
Jesus did open up the prison to them that are bound. “And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. 32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. 33 And in the synagogue, there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, 34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. 35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. 36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out” (Luke 4:31-36).
Jesus did proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. The acceptable year of the Lord is the year in which Christ began His public ministry. As the Messiah, the Lord had been approved by God so that at His baptism, the heavens opened. “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
Jesus did speak about the day of vengeance of our God. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
Jesus did comfort all that mourn. “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). “Mary, Martha, did Jesus comfort you when you were mourning for your brother?” To inquire is to know the answer for Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” A dead man lived, and people were comforted.
Jesus did not lie. “This day is this scripture [in full and not in part] fulfilled in your ears.”
A word of exhortation goes out to the Church. Believe the Saviour, not Scofield. Study the Scriptures, not the “System” of Dispensationalism. Do not make dramatic distinctions where none exist. Do not read into a text what is not there.