Last night I had the privilege of preaching on the role of Christ as our Prophet. The next few weeks I’ll be preaching on his priesthood and kingship. Here are the notes from that lesson. Note: I’ve also included some Appendices which were more for my benefit, but also help provide context and more background on a few of the sections (should you make it that far!).
Soli Deo Gloria!
Christ the Supreme Prophet
He Preaches a Gospel of Liberation and then Fulfills the Office of Deliverer
December 1, 2013
It is the very beginning of advent season. A time in which we excitedly anticipate Christmas – just as the Israelites anticipated the coming of the Messiah.
In His coming, Jesus would grow up to fulfill hundreds of prophecies and predictions and accomplish what no other man had ever accomplished. In so doing He would fill three key offices: that of a prophet, a priest and a king.
Tonight we will examine the first of these, and see what Jesus’ role as prophet entailed, and what it is that He did to fulfill this role in His life and ministry. The text for this evening comes from Luke 4:16-21.
Luke makes two important points in this passage that we need to examine this evening.
- First, Jesus Christ is our Supreme Prophet, and His message is a gospel of liberation.
- Second, Jesus not only proclaims liberation, He also liberates. He is Daniel’s promised deliverer and covenant maker and ushers in a great antitypical jubilee.
What is a Prophet?
Now, before we go too much further, let me ask an obvious question: What is a prophet? The answer is that, in short, a prophet is someone (in the Bible) who speaks on God’s behalf to God’s people. Whereas a priest speaks to God on behalf of God’s people.
Theologian Geerhardus Vos put it this way; “(a priest’s) function differs from that of a prophet in that the prophet moves from God toward man, whereas the priest moves from man toward God.”[i]
In the Old Testament, the office of a prophet was not a popular one. God’s people had killed many of the prophets that He sent (Acts 7:51-52). And, I suppose in this way you could say Jesus was no different than the others!
However, what makes Jesus God’s supreme prophet is His proclamation of most important message God had ever sent His people: the Gospel of salvation.
It is this proclamation of Christ’s to which we now turn…
Exegesis of Luke 4:16-21
4:16 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.
Jesus has been preaching in the surrounding region, and his fame was beginning to build. Now it was time to come home for His first appearance at the synagogue in Nazareth where He grew up since the start of His ministry. It was a homecoming for Him of sorts.
The people were no doubt anxious to hear Jesus speak. Here was one of their own who had been gathering popularity throughout the region, and they were no doubt poised to accept Him. But were they ready to accept His message?
20th Century South African theologian and pastor Norval Geldenhuys says, “It was customary to give such an opportunity in the synagogue to visiting rabbis; and especially as all were curious to hear Jesus.”
As Jesus came into the synagogue, we are told that He “stood up to read.” The practice of the day was to stand up to read the word of God, this was done out of respect. Once the reading was done, the rabbi would sit down and give a sermon. The sermons of that day were not like they are today, they focused almost exclusively on instruction, rather than a public oration or preaching style (see Geldenhuys).
NOTE: John MacArthur and Darrel Block both give some time to the order of ceremony in a Synagogue (see Appendix 3 for more info on Synagogues) and it was something like this:
- Thanksgiving or “blessings” spoken in connection with the Shema
- Prayer, with response of “amen” by the congregation
- Reading a passage from the Pentateuch (in Hebrew followed by a translation into Aramaic cf. MacArthur/Block)
- Reading of a passage from the Prophets (called the “Haftarah” cf. Block)
- Sermon or word of exhortation – by any qualified male (so long as 10 males were present per Block)
- Benediction by the priest (if there was one present) to which the congregation responded with “Amen” and then a closing prayer.
4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
Jesus Fulfills the Predicted Role
Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT longing for a new and greater prophet. And therefore it would be appropriate for Him to show from the prophets of old who He was.
But this passage isn’t the only one which pointed to his arrival. There are other foundational passages that speak of a prophet that would arise who was greater than Moses, two of which are really important and we’ll look at now:
First, in Deuteronomy 18 Moses wrote the key passage that most Jews thought of when they thought about “the prophet” that would arise in his stead:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’  And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-18)
Second, we see in the New Testament that Peter confirms that it was Jesus who fulfilled this prophetic role. In his sermon in Acts 3 in the Portico of Solomon, Peter says this:
Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.  And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’  And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.  You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’  God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Acts 3:22-26)
This prophet was Jesus Christ, and He was raised up to proclaim the gospel of repentance and “turning every one from…wickedness” in order that they would be “blessed.”
And so we see that this long-anticipated prophet has come, and the Apostles clearly believed that this role was fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
4:18a The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
The Holy Spirit in Christ’s Ministry
Now, let’s look at verse 18. As Jesus opens the scroll He begins reading from the book of Isaiah – in what we would know today as chapter 61 verses 1 and 2 (though demarcations of this kind didn’t come for many hundred years later).
First and foremost we see that the Christ is one who has been “anointed by the Holy Spirit.” This, as you recall, happened at the baptism of Jesus where John had been baptizing people and calling them to repentance. Jesus, who would fulfill all the law perfectly, also went to be baptized.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.  John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.  And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;  and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17 ESV)
Everything that Jesus did was done being “filled with the Spirit.” In fact, just prior to opening the scroll of Isaiah, in the passage before us today, it says, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country” (Luke 4:14).
In fact Jesus Himself said that His work in the power of the Spirit (Acts 10:38) was evidence of the fact that the kingdom of God had been ushered in:
And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt. 12:27-28)
I think we sometimes undervalue or misunderstand the work of the Spirit in the life and ministry of Christ. For instance, how could He be said to “grow in grace and knowledge” when He was already omniscient? How could Jesus make it all the way to the cross in his humanity without sinning? Well it wasn’t because the divine nature somehow reached over and controlled the human nature. Rather, He fully submitted to the Spirit, and the Spirit imparted wisdom from the Father. The Divine and the Human in Him did not “mix” or get lost somehow. Each was distinct, and we understand that union as communicating back and forth with each other. And it is the Spirit who, somehow mysteriously, played a major part in this.
Geerhardus Vos explains: “Our Lord needed the Spirit as a real equipment of his human nature for the execution of his Messianic task. Jesus ascribed all his power and grace, the gracious words, the saving acts, to the possession of the Spirit (Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:36-38). And, through qualifying him in this manner for achieving his messianic task, the Spirit laid the foundation for the great Pentecostal bestowal of the Spirit afterwards, for this gift was dependent on the finished work.”
In His life and ministry Jesus submitted to the Spirit, but it is also important to recognize that the Spirit’s mission not to glorify Himself, but to shine the light of glory on Christ. As Bruce Ware says, “All Scripture is given to us by the Spirit. And what the Spirit wants to talk about, most centrally, is Jesus!”
Therefore, Jesus is anointed with the Spirit, and in this way not only does He fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, but he also is empowered to proclaim the gospel. “The Spirit , then, does not work in an independent saving manner apart from the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is only by the knowledge of this gospel that an can be saved” (Ware).
4:18b 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,
Here we get to the heart of Isaiah’s message, and the mission of the one who was “anointed” by the Lord.
When the Jews heard Jesus quote this passage their minds would likely have been awash in ideas of a dawning age of God’s salvation. Isaiah 61 brought to the Jewish mind of the time the promise of prosperity and a golden age of peace and blessing from God. For them it had heavy eschatological/messianic overtones (cf. Block). We have a similar excitement and anticipation as we wait for the return of Christ (cf. Rev. 21).
When Jesus read this and connected it with himself, the Jews would have understood that He was saying that He was ushering in a new age of salvation – no doubt leading them to wonder if He was the long awaited Messiah.
So picture yourself in the room at that moment as a first century Jew listening to this man Jesus – who you might have known growing up – read words from Isaiah 61 that bring to your mind thoughts and emotions connected with the coming of God’s Savior. Jesus hasn’t said anything yet, but dreams of peace and prosperity immediately fill your mind as you look down at your callused hands, and feel the empty money bag on your hip. You might cringe a bit as you remember recent killings or abuses by the Romans. Your heart might doubt if there will ever be a savior for Israel; but this Jesus has spoken things with authority you’ve never heard before. And now He’s reading Isaiah 61…
So What Does This Really Mean?
Let’s look closer at the text itself. First, the “good news” that is proclaimed is the gospel, which is continued on the next line. The good news is that Jesus has come to free people from bondage, heal those who are sick, and give sight to the blind etc. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount that, “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The second part of this message is that Jesus came to free captives. Well, what kind of captives? I believe that Jesus came to show that the prison He was freeing His people from was a prison of sin and death. The Apostle Paul helps us understand example what was really meant by this when he says:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18).
Listen to the words of our Lord when He would later explain this in more detail:
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.  I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:31-38)
But how is He going to set the captives free? Through His sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, and His triumph over the grave. He paid the penalty for the sins that had for so long held His people in bondage.
The second and fourth lines are similar because when spoken from the lips of Jesus they tell us that He came to proclaim His own death: I have come to do more than set you free from earthly bondage, I have come to set you free from the oppression of spiritual bondage.
Lastly, the third line says that He will give site to the blind. The sight that He gave was not only physical – for Jesus healed multitudes of people during his ministry – but most importantly spiritual. In fact, the healing of blind men and women during his ministry actually pointed to a greater healing of their spiritual site. For the God of this world had blinded the minds of those who didn’t believe, and as Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Geldenhuys says, “God had sent Him to heal those who were broken-hearted and found themselves in spiritual distress; to proclaim deliverance to those who were captives in the power of sin and in spiritual wretchedness; to give back to the spiritually blind the power of sight; to cause those who were downcast and inwardly bruised to go forward in triumph.”
The physical promises and physical work of Jesus in his healing ministry – like many of those in the Old Testament – pointed to something greater. Just as the promise of land in the OT pointed to our becoming a new creation in Christ, and the eventuality of a renewed heavens and earth, so too the miracles of Christ pointed to His ultimate work of spiritual redemption which began during His ministry here on earth and will be consummated one day when He returns.
Therefore the “good news” is this: that Jesus will heal your brokenness, will breathe new life into your spiritually dead soul, and will raise you to walk in newness of life. He is the Messiah, He is the anointed One, and He has come to usher in the kingdom of God in power – a kingdom where the blind see, and the poor have been made rich in the riches that only God can give.
Praise God that He sent a Savior to set us free from our bondage to sin! Not by our own efforts or will, but by the powerful work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus is the Fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee
Finally, let us examine the last part of this passage. There are a few key points to be made, and the last one we will examine in-depth.
First, it tells us something about the nature of Jesus’ mission during His first advent. Baptist Theologian Tom Schreiner notes that when Jesus quotes the passage from Isaiah, He notably skips past the whole part on judgment. The rest of 61:2 says, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”
Perhaps what this tells us is that during Jesus’ first advent He has come to usher in his kingdom, to proclaim the gospel, and the fulfillment of the year of Jubilee. But when He returns, He will judge both the quick and the dead. Jesus is telling us something about his mission here on earth during the first advent – it is a mission of salvation – he came to seek and save the lost.
Secondly, this statement used in this context is Jesus’ way of ending the gospel message he’s just proclaimed with an exclamation point. This gospel message he’s just proclaimed is so magnificent that marks the beginning of a new age of redemption.
And it is Jesus who is at the epicenter of this new redemptive age. He is the fulfillment of the (“typological”) past, and is the redeemer of all mankind. It is the announcement of the kingdom of God (His kingdom) and the Messianic age. Geldenhuys says, “It amounted to a declaration by Him that the words which He had read to them had finally come to fulfillment – in His own person…thus to ‘proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’, i.e. to announce the Messianic age – the period ushered in by His appearance, in which God will grant His salvation to His people.”
The phrase “year of favor” is Isaiah’s way of referencing the Jewish celebration of Jubilee. We find this celebration first described by Moses in Leviticus 25 (8-12):
“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.
The rest of the chapter is devoted to all of the stipulations that Israel was to keep in this year. Here are the basics (summarized by Sam Storms):
- The return of all property, according to the original Mosaic distribution, to the original owner or to his family
- The release of all Jewish slaves
- The cancellation of debts
- The land is to lie fallow, i.e., it is neither to be sown, pruned reaped, nor gathered for an entire year.
The year of Jubilee ensured that the poor and needy were taken care of and the land was properly looked after and not overworked. It also emphasized that it was God who owned the land (vs. 23), and that (like us today) they were sojourners in the land. Lastly, it laid down rules for redemption. “If a person gets into difficulty or danger, then a relative (his “nearest redeemer,” v. 25) is to redeem him from his dire straits” (ESV Study notes) – A principle we find especially prominent in the book of Ruth, and in later on in our Lord and Savior’s redemption of us.
If the people of Israel kept these laws, then God promised that He would bless them greatly and they would “dwell in the land securely” (vs. 19)
So Isaiah is saying that when the prophet comes He will bring in a time of great jubilee. Sam Storms helps us understand the importance of how the Jewish people viewed the year of Jubilee:
The jubilee, therefore, was a year in which social justice, equity, freedom, pardon, release, and restoration were emphasized and experienced. The jubilee signaled a new beginning, the inauguration of moral, spiritual, and national renewal. Hence it is no surprise that the jubilee became a symbol and prefigurement of the ultimate redemption, release, and restoration that God would accomplish spiritually on behalf of his people.
Now, eventually, the anticipation of a coming deliverer (like Moses) and prince who would make a strong new covenant with His people, would soon be made known to a prophet living among the Babylonians. That man was Daniel.
Let us turn to Daniel 9, and beginning in verse 24 we’ll read through the end of the chapter. This section of Scripture is important because it was Daniel who was told by the angel Gabriel to expect a coming Messiah who would fulfill these prophecies from Isaiah 61, and usher in a time of great deliverance and redemption:
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.
Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.
And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (Daniel 9:24-27, ESV)
You may know this already, but Daniel’s 70-week prophecy anticipates two things: deliverance from the captivity of Babylon, and from the captivity of their sin. And that is the “good news” that Jesus has just declared. Daniel himself prays specifically for the former, but when God sends Gabriel to announce the vision we find that God has a bigger plan in mind. The deliverance from captivity in Bablyon would, like that of Egypt hundreds of years before, only symbolize the great deliverance of His people from sin and death.
That is why we have the 70 weeks. Each week represents 7 years, and from the time of the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 B.C. to beginning of Christ’s ministry is 49 weeks. The final week would land between 29-34 A.D. (per Gentry).
***Where the exact dates land isn’t as important as the theological idea that is being conveyed to Daniel here (cf. Storms), namely that Jesus is said to be “cut-off” for His people to die a vicarious substitutionary death for you and for me.[ii]
“This (the year of Jubilee mentioned in Lev. 25) all takes on special significance when we realize that there is decreed for Israel a total period of seventy sevens of years or 490 years, which is to say 10 JUBILEE ERAS, ‘an intensification of the jubilee concept point to the ultimate, antitypical jubilee.’ The jubilary year of God which the consummation of redemption and restoration is to occur is described in Isaiah 61:1-2” (Storms).
“When Jesus declares that in himself the jubilee of God has come he is saying, in effect, that the seventy weeks of Daniels have reached their climax. The new age of jubilee, of which all previous jubilees were prefigurements, has now dawned in the person and ministry of Jesus. The goal of the seventy-weeks prophecy is the consummate jubilary salvation of God!” (Storms)
Jesus was the man spoken of here. He is the “anointed one” and He is the one who makes a “Strong covenant” with the people and He is the one who puts “and end to sacrifice and offering” because He Himself was our sacrifice.
4:20-21 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
When Jesus rolls up that scroll, and hands it to the attendant, He then turns to the whole room declaring that they will witness the in-breaking of the kingdom of God! It’s as if He just handed the scroll aside and declared, “That. Just. Happened.” BOOM!
It rocks every listener to the core – and it ought to shake us up as well.
Jesus, sitting in the role of the prophet of God (the Supreme Prophet) is declaring that HE is the one whom the former prophets anxiously awaited.
He is God’s Supreme Prophet to the world and is declaring the end of captivity for those held in the bonds of sin, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. This is the Gospel of Christ. The captivity in Babylon, and in Egypt prior, were types and shadows of the captivity of sin and death that held us in bondage until He came.
Jesus is the one who has come to free the captives. He is the one who will be ushering in a kingdom and age of grace. Furthermore, it is HE who is most worthy to be celebrated! “I am here to fulfill the year of jubilee, and usher in the year of the Lord’s favor!”
He is the Message and the Messenger. He is the Word and the Prophet. You see, a prophet of yesteryear could declare a message of liberty, but couldn’t bring it to pass. It took a deliverer to bring that message of liberty to the people. Jesus is both deliverer and message bearer.
That is why He is the Supreme Prophet – He is an effectual Prophet who declares liberty (the gospel) and then proceeds to deliver (and usher in an age of liberty for millions of His chosen ones).
Christ has come to fulfill the entire law. It is kept in His life of righteous obedience, and His sacrificial death on our behalf. His life and death mark the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. He has come to make a new covenant with us, to put an end to sacrifice and offering (for He is the fulfillment of the Temple), to release us from our captivity to sin, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor – peace in our hearts and a new creation in our lives.
Christmas Conclusion: We are on the precipice of celebrating the greatest birth in world history – the advent of God’s last and greatest Prophet. We do it knowing that Jesus Himself is our great celebration – not simply because He was born, but because He came to SET US FREE.
Rightly did the prophets say of Him:
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:13, ESV)
Appendix 1 – Reading the OT through the Lens of Christ’s Words
I think it would be wise of us to recognize that there are often times in Scripture when we read of Jesus saying something that we don’t understand. This was certainly the case with those who heard Him preach and claim to be fulfilling OT prophecies. In fact, many times we look at the passages He is quoting and even we, who have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, do not immediately grasp the connection. For instance I was recently reading in John 13 and came to verse 18 where Jesus says, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’” He’s quoting David here who said “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who late my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9).
If I were to read the Psalms without having read John 13, as many of the Jews had prior to Christ, I would simply assume that David was talking about Saul. And that assumption would probably be correct with the limited knowledge I had. But this is my point: As we read the words of Jesus, and what He has to say about Himself, we need to trust those words explicitly.
In his commentary on Hebrews, Phillip Hughes says well that, “…over and over again in the New Testament shows that passages in the Old Testament have a significance and an application beyond and in addition to the original occasion of their composition, and this is especially so with reference to the redemptive work of Christ.”
Therefore, we need to understand that our sovereign God has placed words in the mouths of the prophets that even they might not have fully understood. In other words, God knew all the words the prophets would write, for their words were inspired by the Spirit of God, and He had a plan for those words that may have been fulfilled both in their time, and in the coming of His Son Jesus Christ.
Appendix 2 – Daniel’s 70 Weeks
As I compiled this sermon, I found that there are many competing views of Daniel’s prophecy, even within the reformed tradition. I spent time dealing mostly with two prominent (and current) theologians, Baptist Theologian Peter Gentry and Baptist Theologian Sam Storms.
Peter Gentry has some helpful remarks on Daniel’s vision:
The vision of Daniel’s seventy weeks, then, can be explained simply. It refers to a period of seventy sabbaticals or periods of seven years required to bring in the ultimate jubilee: release from sin, the establishment of everlasting righteousness, and consecration of the Temple. During the first seven sabbaticals the city of Jerusalem is restored. Then for sixty-two sabbaticals there is nothing to report. In the climatic seventieth week, Israel’s King arrives and dies vicariously for his people. Strangely, desecration of the temple similar to that by Antiochus Epiphanies in the Greek Empire is perpetrated by the Jewish people themselves, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem. The events are fulfilled in the person of Jessus of Nazareth. He is the coming King. His crucifixion is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices and the basis of the New Covenant with man. His death is not “for himself”, but rather vicarious. The rejection of Jesus as Messiah and the desecration of Him as the true Temple at his trial by the high priest result in judgment upon the Herodian temple, carried out eventually in 70A.D. The notion of a gap between the 69th and 70th week is contrary to a vision of chronological sequence. The prophecy is remarkable for its precision as it fits the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth.”
But Sam Storms, who has read Gentry, agrees that we have to read Daniel’s seventy weeks in terms of Sabbaticals (theologically instead of chronologically). Still, he has a different (and very helpful) take on this:
My point is that if Jeremiah’s “seventy years” turn out to be only “sixty-six” or even “fifty-eight” we should not be overly concerned that Daniel’s “seventy-sevens” end up being something other than precisely 490 years.”
This is different from Gentry who has done some gymnastics to show that the exact year of Christ’s dying on the cross is likely halfway through the final week of the 70 sabbaticals. But even Gentry seems to realize there is some ambiguity as to the exact year of Christ’s death. Therefore, it is impossible to know for sure whether He died halfway through the week, or at the beginning of it, or near the end etc. from the historical record we have.
But Storms and Gentry both agree overall that this passage in Daniel is closely related to our passage in Luke. As Storms says, “This is the passage that our Lord quotes in Luke 4:16-21 and applies to his own person and work. In other words, the fulfillment and anti-type of the prophetic and typical jubilary year has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ! Thus both Isaiah and Luke employ the Mosaic instruction (he had quoted from Leviticus 25 on the year of Jubilee before this) concerning the jubilee to describe the dawning of God’s kingdom in the person and work of Jesus.”
Bryan Chapell (of the Gospel Coalition) also summarizes the passage well, “Daniel’s vision I, unquestionably, ultimately about Christ’s gracious work in behalf of his people…Jerusalem and the temple will be restored, followed by a time of trouble, culminating in the appearance of the Messiah, who himself will be cut off before Jerusalem and its sanctuary are destroyed. These details align with Cyrus’ release of the captives, Jerusalem’s rebuilding, Christ’s coming, his crucifixion, and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem by the future Roman emperor Titus in 10 A.D.”
Gentry’s overview of Daniel’s prayer sounds like this: Daniels’s prayer is focused upon the physical return from Babylon – the first stage in redemption, but the angelic message and vision of the seventy weeks is focused upon the forgiveness of sins and the renewal of covenant and righteousness – the second stage in return from exile.
Appendix 3 – The Advent of Synagogues
John MacArthur has a fascinating short history of how synagogues came about in his commentary on the first five chapters of Luke’s Gospel. The rudimentary basics are that they could be established if there were at least 10 men in a village (this is something we saw during a study on the book of Acts – if there were not that many men in the town or village, as could be the case in the diaspora, then people would gather by the river if the town had one).
These meeting groups cropped up around the time of the Babylonian Captivity because the temple had been destroyed and there was no one central location of worship and sacrifice. I’m not entirely sure where or if they even did sacrificing during that time.
The structures were made of stone, generally, and faced (or had windows that faced?) Jerusalem.
Appendix 4 – The Chiastic Structure of Luke 4:16b-4:20d (as outlined in Block)
the synagogue (4:16b)
receiving the scripture (4:17a)
opening the scripture (4:17b)
preaching the good news (4:18c)
proclaiming release to the captive (4:18d)
giving sight to the blind (4:18e)
setting free the oppressed (4:18f)
proclaiming acceptable year of the Lord (4:19a)
closing the scripture (4:20a)
returning the scripture (4:20b)
the synagogue (4:20d)
Appendix 5 – The Year of Jubilee
I liked and wanted to have in here the summary of the ESV Study notes on Leviticus 25 which state:
This provided a periodic restoration of the means to earn a living for each family in an agrarian society. (The jubilee did not equalize all possessions in Israel, however, since possessions such as cattle and money were not reallocated.) The prohibitions of the jubilee are the same as for the sabbatical year. The land is to lie fallow for two years in a row: the forty-ninth year (sabbatical year) and the fiftieth year (jubilee). This law prohibits the amassing of large estates, which would reduce many Israelites to tenant status on their ancestral land (cf. Isa. 5:8).
Also, I noted from the text that if an Israelite is forced to sell his land temporarily, he and his family retain the right of redemption. The land may be redeemed in one of three ways:
(1) a kinsman-redeemer buys back the land;
(2) the seller himself is able to buy it back; or
(3) it is restored to the rightful owner at the jubilee.
It is interesting that I have heard in the past that the people of Israel never celebrated the year of Jubilee! In other words, they were disobedient to the command they’d been given. However, despite their disobedience, and eventual exile into the land of Babylon, God still had a great plan for His chosen people.
Now, I didn’t want to mention this in the sermon itself, mainly because I didn’t find any scholarship to back this up. I had heard it from the pulpit before (not sure where), but without hard evidence to support it, I couldn’t make it a major theme of the sermon. Nonetheless, it is an interesting thought to consider.
Appendix 6 – The Kingdom of God in Luke 4
I didn’t spend a ton of time talking about the in-breaking of the kingdom in this passage, but some of the work of Baptist Theologian Tom Schreiner has been very helpful as I worked on the passage as a whole, and he has a little section on Luke 4 in his ‘New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ’ which is worth reading. Here are some of the most interesting points he makes about the passage in relationship to the in-breaking of the kingdom of God in the ministry of Christ:
Jesus began by citing the OT Scriptures and claiming that they reach fulfillment in his person and ministry. The claim is a stunning one, for the OT text refers to the fulfillment of God’s end-time promises. Jesus claimed that he is anointed with the eschatological Spirit (cf. Is. 44:3; Ez. 11:18-19; 36:26-27; Joel 2:28). The good news of the release from exile had now been realized through him. The year of the Lord’s favor and the liberty of God’s people had arrived. It does not appear here that Jesus merely states that these promises will be fulfilled at the consummation of all things. Even now, through his healing ministry, the blind were receiving sight. The gospel that he proclaimed means that the poor were hearing the glad tidings in the present. Indeed, Jesus skipped over the line in Is. 61 that speaks of the Lord’s vengeance and referred only to the time of his favor. This suggests that the present time is not a time of vengeance but the day of salvation. The day of vengeance was delayed and yet, surprisingly enough, the day of favor and salvation had dawned in the person and ministry of Jesus.
[i] Vos elsewhere says, “The Son’s unique greatness, his exaltation above man constitutes his chief qualification for the revealership. As a revealer he represents not man but God; therefore the nearer he stands to God the better he is qualified.” So the office of prophet was an office of revelation. And Jesus was the supreme agent of God’s revelation. The same was true of Jesus, who came with a supremely glorious message, yet it offended the people of Israel because it didn’t fit into their presuppositions.
[ii] As Isaiah says:
Thus says the Lord:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages,
saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’
They shall feed along the ways;
on all bare heights shall be their pasture;
(Isaiah 49:8-9, ESV)