This passage in Isaiah was a passage of hope to the Jewish people, who had been looking forward to hope, help, and restoration for over 700 years. Shortly after Isaiah’s time the Glory of God left the temple in Jerusalem, and the capital city fell under the rule of foreigners. Although, the temple was rebuilt and remodeled during the 500 years after the Exile and the time of the coming of Christ, the nation of Israel never saw the full glory of being fully free again. The Medes, Persians, Greeks, and Romans continually ruled over them. They were allowed brief times of prosperity, but they were never fully a nation unto themselves.
Yet, the promise of Isaiah was that “Good News” was on the way. The Day of the Lord was coming, and restoration of all God’s promises were going to be restored. In the time that Jesus Christ walked upon the earth the people were hungry from freedom of Roman rule, and some were even working in the background to prepare for a hostile revolution when the Messiah arrived.
Then Jesus quietly came into the world, but the Angel proclaimed “Good News, of great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10). The hope and joy of all humanity was born in simple stable in the small-town of Bethlehem. The “Good News” is the Gospel Hope that we still hold onto today.
It would be about thirty years later, when Jesus would walk into His own hometown community to worship on the Sabbath day. Everyone had heard of this new miracle worker, and some had heard John “the Baptists” proclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). If Jesus was the Messiah, then his hometown wanted to know. After all, who wouldn’t want to be be known by the rising King.
Jesus was chosen to read Scripture for the day, and he was given the Scroll of Isaiah. Jesus read these words from Isaiah. I am sure for many in the congregation that day they were filled with excitement, as he began to read, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,” (Luke 4:18a). In their hearts some may have wanted to shout, Yes! Jesus reads the Scripture, but he doesn’t read past the first verse, but instead stops at the beginning of verse two. He stops with the words, “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” However, he never gets to the hope of “vengeance”, “comfort”, and restoration, which follow in the rest of verse 2 & 3.
After, being met in the back of the church for over twenty years, by the arm chair preachers, I can imagine that some in that crowd were visibly upset. “Where’s the rest of the promise, Jesus?” “Don’t leave us hanging Jesus.” “What do you mean help for the poor, brokenhearted, prisoners, and blind? Where’s my hope Jesus?” “When are we taking Jerusalem by storm? Jesus was proclaiming hope, and “Good News,” But that “Good News” seemed to be for those who were outcast and those who were in need, but there was no proclamation for the nation.
Jesus, the Messiah, came to bring Salvation to the world, and not just to restore a national sovereignty. Jesus came to bring freedom from the Spiritual bondage of sin, which affects the entire world. The forgiveness of sins and the restoration of a relationship with God is a hope, not just for the people of Israel, but for the whole world.
So, why did Jesus stop? Why didn’t he come back to comment on the rest of the promise? Most scholars tell us this is the “Already, not yet” part of ministry. It is also the “Already, not yet” promise of Joy in the Advent. Jesus came to bring us hope and fulfill promises of God. That promise was forgiveness, freedom of sin, and restoration of relationship to those away from God. One day the, “not yet” part of the promise will come. He will come again, into our world. He will bring the finished part of the promise. When Christ comes again to call all His people there will be eternal comfort for all His followers. There will be restoration of creation and humanity with God again. Sin, evil, and Satan will be defeated in completeness. Finally, all who are His people will be restored in the fullness of God’s glory.
The “Good News” or “Gospel” we proclaim is a joy that we can be forgiven and restored in relationship to God. It is also the hope we hold to that one day Christ is coming to restore all of us and to call all evil to account.
In this Advent season take time to celebrate your hope for today, and the eternal hope for tomorrow. Live in His joy, which carries us to that eternal joy.