Have you ever wondered why the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth got so angry with him over a few little words? He had just finished reading the following to them:
“The spirit of the L-rd GOD is upon me; because HaShem hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound; To proclaim the year of HaShem’s good pleasure” (Isaiah 61:1, 2, JPS).
Now here is the interesting thing about these verses: In the Tanakh, the verses above are similar to what Jesus would have initially read. But in the Christian Bible, a few words are changed, and added, which I have highlighted:
“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, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19, KJV).
You will notice in the KJV this phrase was added, “To set at liberty them that are bruised.”
And you will also see in the NIV one verse is entirely missing:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).
Naturally, my main question as to the changes and omissions is – why? Why would the NIV translators leave out the fact that Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted?” Or why would the KJV add “to set at liberty them that are bruised?” Why would the translators of the New Testament change any of the words of Isaiah 61 at all? I have no answer for that but include these verses here to show you why it is so crucial to not rely on any one translation. If you are studying the Old Testament, I highly recommend using the Jewish Publication Society’s 1917 edition of the Tanakh as it is the most reliable and in cases like today’s verses is ideal for cross-references.
Getting back to the verses at hand, after Jesus finished reading to the people he said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And of course, everyone who heard him was impressed with this statement. In their minds, they thought he was going to help people by seeing what he could do to make their lives easier. They were thinking in physical terms. Being under oppressive Roman rule, they believed Jesus was going to do something about it. They didn’t get the deeper picture of what he was saying, and they also missed the significance of where he stopped reading. Jesus stopped in the middle of verse two. Why? Because what he was saying was an announcement to all that the Lord was amongst them. The Messiah had come and was in their midst, “To proclaim the year of HaShem’s good pleasure.” The time had finally arrived for all to meet and receive their Messiah. Which was why Jesus didn’t finish the verse because if he had, he would also have been proclaiming “the day of vengeance of our G-d; to comfort all that mourn.” He didn’t come the first time to bring judgment or vengeance. He came to save. That’s why he didn’t finish the verse.
But look closely at his words and what he was saying:
“HaShem hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble” (Isaiah 61:1, JPS). Most translations of Luke 4:18-19 say that God had anointed Jesus to “preach the gospel to the poor” or “proclaim good news to the poor.” They had changed the meaning of the Hebrew word `anav which means “humble, meek, lowly or poor” and lost the original intent when they translated it from Hebrew to Greek. They used the word ptōchos instead, which means, “Poor, destitute or indigent”. So when Jesus said he had been anointed to preach good news to the poor, he meant the meek, the humble, those who realized they were not worthy in God’s eyes – the poor in spirit. When Jesus preached his famous Sermon on the Mount the first thing he said was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). This is what he meant when he read Isaiah 61:1-2. He was anointed by HaShem to bring good news to those who saw their sin, regretted it and wished there was a way to make themselves right with God. Which is why the rest of what he said was so incredible. Just listen to what Jesus is offering for those who are poor in spirit:
“He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” To “bind up” literally meant to “heal, bind, or bandage”. In other words, Jesus came to fix those who are brokenhearted over their sin, who have lost hope of any reconciliation to God. It isn’t about your broken heart that was betrayed by your cheating husband – this is about spiritual brokenness. Despair over sin, in particular.
“To proclaim liberty to the captives.” He isn't promising freedom to those in an actual prison for their crimes. He is promising freedom to all whose sin keeps them eternally separated from God.
“And the opening of the eyes to them that are bound.” With freedom comes insight. Those that are bound in sin will have their eyes opened to see that only Jesus can set them free.
But when Jesus saw how the people were reacting to his words he realized they didn’t understand his meaning. So he needed to get their attention, and he said, “Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:24).
Imagine you have known Jesus since he was a little boy. Your children grew up playing with him. Now here he is reading the Scriptures on the Sabbath, and you are impressed and delighted that he has chosen to serve the people. But then you sit up, and you cock your head a little and think to yourself, “Did he just say he was a prophet?” So now you are listening a little closer. Then Jesus does the unthinkable. He compares everyone in the synagogue to the faithless Jews of Elijah and Elisha’s time and suggests it would be Gentiles instead who would enjoy the blessings of God because the Jews would reject their prophet (Luke 4:25-27). Well, that got their attention big time. They were angry. How dare Jesus suggest that people like those idol-worshipping Romans would experience God’s blessings! The Jews were God’s chosen people, not the Gentiles!
But the Jews were famous for rejecting the prophets God sent them. Jesus knew their hearts, and he was aware that a vast majority of them would reject him. And in time Jesus’ prophecy would come true, when the Jewish nation, under the guidance of the Sanhedrin, would reject him as their Messiah by having him crucified. But this rejection started in his hometown.
Jesus wasn’t trying to antagonize people on purpose. That wasn’t his intent because, at other times, he dealt gently with people who were aware of their guilt and wanted to find forgiveness. But this was his hometown. These were “his people” so to speak. He knew their hearts, and like the Jews of Jeremiah’s time, they believed they were saved simply because they were God’s chosen people. Whether they sinned or not, was irrelevant.
Sometimes we act the same way when God is trying to talk to us. We ignore His voice or that inner warning when we know we have done wrong. Or we rush headlong into doing things our own way even though we know better. We may even get caught up like the crowds in Nazareth who rushed to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29), by accepting new teachings or doctrines without first checking them out against Scripture.
Jesus made it clear his reasons for coming to us:
These blessings come to all who recognize their sin and their need of a Saviour. Despite what many celebrity preachers claim, Jesus did not come to make us rich, nor did he come to make us feel better about ourselves. The Gospel has nothing to do with “feel good” doctrines but has everything to do with recognizing our sin and acknowledging that Jesus is the only way to be healed and made right with God. Once you do that, everything else falls into place.
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I want to take you on a journey today of how events might have transpired after Jesus’ time in the wilderness. One of the things I like to do when reading the Gospels is to open them all up on Biblegateway.com in different tabs. That way I can get a complete picture of events as they transpired. After Jesus had defeated Satan in the wilderness, for example, we get a full picture of what He did next.
From the Gospel of Luke, we learn that Jesus returned to Galilee and taught in the synagogues there.
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all (Luke 4:14-15).
The Gospel of Mark gives us a bit more information by telling us that during Jesus’ time in the wilderness John the Baptist was imprisoned. Jesus returns to Galilee with a message similar to John’s – to repent and believe in the gospel. FYI – the word “gospel” means “good news.” Only Jesus has added something extra to his message. He lets us know that “the time is fulfilled”. Meaning that the “time” John was talking about in regards to “one coming” (Mark 1:7) was now fulfilled and that the “kingdom of God” was at hand.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom] of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The Gospel of Matthew gives us even more details. In it, we learn that when Jesus heard John was in prison, he went to Nazareth in Galilee first. I find this incredibly moving. Why? He has just heard Herod has imprisoned his cousin. So what does he do? He heads home to see his family. No doubt to give comfort to his mother (John’s aunt). We learn he journeyed to Capernaum (also in Galilee), which was where Peter, Andrew, James and John lived. Matthew gives us specifics regarding the region, and Scripture to back up that the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus. But he leaves out the part about Jesus’ journey to Cana.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:12-17).
The Gospel of John confirms that Jesus went to Cana “on the third day”, where he attended a wedding, in which his mother and brothers were present. But, he first travels to Nazareth, and we are filled in as to what transpired there (before the wedding), and it wasn’t pleasant.
He went to the synagogue (as was his custom) on the Sabbath. He stood up and read from the book of Isaiah 61:1-2:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
He then announced to everyone there (keep in mind these are people he has known all his life) that the Scriptures he just read were now fulfilled. He could have stopped there. The people were impressed. In their minds, Jesus just declared that he was going to help people by taking care of the poor and the sick. But that’s not what he meant. So he explains - and ends up getting run out of town (Luke 4:23-30).
Yeah, going to a wedding sounds about good right now. Let’s get out of here!
Is it easy to imagine the sequence of events now? Jesus hears about John’s imprisonment and journeys home to Nazareth. While there he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath, ruffles some feathers and “on the third day” he travels to Cana for the wedding. He probably made the trip with his mother, brothers and disciples. It is believed this was where he performed his first miracle, which caused his disciples to believe in him. Who were his disciples at that time? John’s gospel tells us they were Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael (John 1:35-50). But, this is a wedding where members of the family and close friends were attending. If Mary was invited along with her family, can we assume that James and John, along with Zebedee and Salome (Mary’s sister, brother-in-law and nephews) would also be there? The Gospels don’t say directly one way or the other, but the celebration of a wedding was a big thing, and Jewish wedding celebrations lasted for seven days. I find it hard to believe Mary’s sister and her family were not there.
John’s gospel also confirms that after the wedding in Cana Jesus, the disciples, along with his mother and brothers, journeyed to Capernaum. Capernaum was the home of Peter and Andrew. It was also the home of Jesus’ cousins, James and John. It was located by the Sea of Galilee. Can’t you just hear Salome suggest to her sister to come to Capernaum for a visit after the wedding?
“Come visit with me, Mary. Why go back to Nazareth where everyone is still in such an uproar. Come to Capernaum. Relax by the sea and stay for a while until everyone cools down a little.” Sure, she never said that, but the writer in me can’t help imagining that she did. So off they all go to Capernaum. And it is here that Jesus officially calls Peter, Andrew, James and John, to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20).
With this sequence of events, we can see why the four fishermen so easily left their trade to follow Jesus. They had just seen their first miracle in Cana. Now they are home in Capernaum. Peter and Andrew are no doubt contemplating what they saw. So they get in their boats and go fishing. Jesus walks by, sees them and says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” How can they say no? They heard John the Baptist declare that he was the Lamb of God. They spent time with him before he went into the wilderness. They have just seen their first miracle in Cana. They don’t hesitate. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew say, “They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” They left their nets! In the water! They forsook everything – their livelihood – to follow Jesus. There was no doubt in their minds as to who Jesus was.
Then Jesus moves on down the shore. He sees his cousins James and John out with their father Zebedee mending their fishing nets. Now keep in mind – these two men have known Jesus all their lives. Their father married Mary’s sister Salome. So they had an “inkling” that Jesus was no ordinary man. They too left everything to follow Jesus after he called them. They left their father Zebedee with the hired help to tend the nets. But Zebedee didn’t stop them because he knew. They all knew who Jesus was and why he had come. They heard the stories of his birth, so imagine their excitement at being asked to be a part of his ministry.
Isn’t that the way it is for all of us who meet Jesus? One day everything is normal, we’re attending weddings, visiting family or maybe out fishing on a boat (or whatever your work is) our plans are set, then you hear about Jesus. And you are ready to change your life in an instant just to follow Him.
“They immediately left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20).
Maybe Jesus is calling you today. Perhaps you have been following him for a while, but he is calling you to do something new that would require a great sacrifice on your part. Would you leave behind everything to obey? Would you forsake your family, quit your job, possibly change all your plans to follow Jesus? Now, he never asked Peter, Andrew, James and John to do any of that. He just said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew in their hearts what that meant for them. But what does it mean for you? For some, it will mean obediently following the Lord as he calls you to become a missionary or a pastor. It might mean that He calls you to stay in your current job, but risk getting fired so that you may tell others about Him. It may mean selling your house and moving somewhere to start all over again. It might mean giving up something you have loved and done all your life because he wants you to go down a new path now.
Following Jesus can be different for each person, but the main question we should ask ourselves is this - how willing are you to become a “fisher of men?”
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