Volume 10, Issue 3: Repairing the Ruins
Luke records that Jesus, on a particular Sabbath, went to the synagogue and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to the Lord, and opening it, He read from the place where it was written, "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 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" (Lk. 12:18-19). After He finished reading, He sat down, and as the eyes of all were fixed upon Him, He said, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Lk. 4:21).
Because God is sovereign, that is, He works all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), there is nothing in history, in time, or on earth that transpires just by chance. All events, both great and small, for good or for evil, occur according to God's good pleasure which He purposed in Himself (Amos 3:6, Eph. 1:9). In other words, history is not a collection of random, unrelated events, but the very outworking of God who does all things according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5). History, all of it, is inseparably and inextricably integrated. History might be likened to a great river that is continually flowing. What is upstream of where we are is the future, and what is downstream of us is the past. History, like a river, is one steady flow. We may look at individual historical events, but we cannot correctly evaluate them apart from the whole.
When Christ chose to read the words written centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah, it was not just a matter of coincidence or a "neat passage" that the Lord had read in His "quiet time." Christ Himself announced that that very passage had been fulfilled that very day in their hearing. It was history in the making!
What is the significance of the passage that the Lord Jesus read? In announcing the acceptable year of the Lord, the passage also announced "the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Is. 61:2b-3a).
And why was all of this to happen? So that God's people might be called "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified" (Is. 61:3b). And what was to be the outworking of this historical transformation? Those who were affected by it would "build the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations" (Is. 61:4).
And why were there ruins? Because of the sin of Adam, our federal representative, who brought death into the world which spread a culture of death to all mankind (Rom. 5:12). But Jesus Christ, the second Adam, came to save the world and recreate the culture of life that the first Adam had forsaken (Rom. 5:18). Christ conquered sin and the powers of darkness on the cross (1 Jn. 3:5, Col. 2:15), an historical event. We have the assurance of new life, abundant life, eternal life, because of His resurrection, another historical event.
But I must stress again that the events of Christ's crucifixion, burial, and resurrection are not just isolated historical incidents. Christ entered the stream of history dominated by sin and death, and radically diverted that stream so that it is now dominated by life and the restoration of all things (Jn. 10:10, Acts 3:21). In reading the particular passage from Isaiah that He did, He was announcing the New Covenant, an everlasting covenant (Is. 61:8-10), of which He was personally the fulfillment. From the context in Luke, it was clear that the Jews understood His intent that the passage referred to Himself. The day of vengeance (Is. 61:2) was God's wrath against the Jews for rejecting their promised King, and Christ himself condemned those to whom He had just read (Lk. 12:23-37).
But Christ's rejection by the Jews did not thwart the sovereign will of God to bring about a nation of priests who would rebuild the sin-ravaged ruins of the world. In fact, even the treacherous act of wicked men in crucifying the sinless Christ was according to God's "determined counsel and foreknowledge" (Acts 2:23). As a result, Christ, in suffering humbly and obediently, was exalted to the right hand of God the Father and given a name above all names (Phil. 2:8-9). Christ now reigns with all authority from heaven over heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18), including the course of history that He redirected by His dying to save the world. By His omnipotent power, He is not helplessly allowing history to continue unimpeded in its same hell-bent direction that it had since Adam's fall. The power of the gospel means a new world initiated by the New Covenant in Christ's blood (Lk. 22:20, Mk. 14:22).
History has been radically altered by Jesus Christ, and that for the better. This is not to ignorantly deny the great problems that surround us in our present world, but to recognize that the world is far better today than it was 2000 years ago because of the gospel of Christ. And it will be far better 2000 years from now as the Church continues to conquer the world through the preaching of the gospel of salvation. The river of history is flowing in a direction that will glorify the sovereign God before the Lord's return, not as a result of His return, even as Isaiah prophesied, "For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations" (Is. 61:11). Christ came to repair the ruins, not preside over their further destruction! This truth has profound ramifications for Christian education.
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