It’s a Shabbat morning in 27 CE and you are at the synagogue in Nazareth in the Galilee. You are attending the regular morning service when the leader of the synagogue picks up the Isaiah scroll and calls a young man from the audience to come up and read from it. You are familiar with the words because it is one of the scheduled readings. The man unrolls the scroll to find the section and says:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring the good news to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, sight to the blind, deliverance to the downtrodden and those overwhelmed with troubles; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”1
He then rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the leader, turns to the audience and says – “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” This was definitely something you were not expecting!
This reader had lived in Nazareth all of his life and his father was a carpenter. Everyone knew him. Stories had been circulating about him since his trip to Judea where he was baptized by a man called John the Baptist. Crowds of strangers had followed him back to Nazareth and they were excited about his announcement, but the people that knew him best were shocked – some wanted to stone him!
For Americans living almost 2,000 years later, trying to accurately understand that man’s life and teachings is a very difficult challenge. Almost everything we know about him comes from English translations of the Christian Bible, which is not like other books we read. It is like a mini-library with multiple books between its covers. Many were originally written on separate scrolls at different times and places by different people who spoke other languages.
Understanding the life, teachings and movement of Jesus begins with understanding what happened in the synagogue in Nazareth when he read from the Isaiah scroll. There were no Americans, English speakers, scientific thinkers, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants or atheists in the audience. So we must begin by finding out what Isaiah’s words meant to Jesus and his first century Jewish audience long before Christianity or the New Testament existed. Read the complete blog by clicking here.