Isaiah 61: Prophecy Fulfilled
The opening words of this chapter are the ones that Jesus stands to read in his hometown synagogue (Luke 4: 16-21). He follows this reading with the announcement that the words are fulfilled for them that day. Tension builds as those present question Jesus and realize that he is, indeed, saying that he is the Messiah, and that they have not listened to him or to God. A riot results and the congregation hauls him off to the edge of the cliff to hurl him over; but in the melee Jesus slips away.
These are such troubling words. These are such comforting words. Why are the people so angry? Why does the congregation reject good news? Why does Jesus’ audience refuse to allow the healing of broken hearts, anxiety and worry? When we pause to reflect, we realize that we too frequently do as this crowd does in Luke 4. We also reject the beautiful good news that Isaiah brings to us.
Envy is a powerful force. Those who would hurl the Messiah from the cliff forget that God alone saves, God alone heals, and God alone brings true freedom from all that holds us down. The crowd was thinking – in the same pride-filled way that we also might think – that they alone were responsible for all good things in their lives. They did not want to believe that they were not Yahweh’s faithful who followed The Mosaic Law to the letter. And they did not want to be challenged about their conduct, nor did they want anyone to discover the corruption of the system they had established.
As we read the words of Isaiah’s Chapter 61, in this “Book of Consolation,” we are filled with the knowledge that through perseverance and pain, good things do happen. Each day my children and grandchildren, my students, friends, colleagues, and even strangers bring God to me. I am healed by their prayer, their action, their connection with me in and through Christ.
And all God asks in return is that we take the suffering we have experienced and transform ourselves so that we too may in turn heal and cure. God asks that we also bring hope to the afflicted. Isaiah reminds us that we are all anointed. We are all called. We only need to reply to God’s call in word and deed.
Adapted from a reflection written on February 27, 2007.