Jesus, Jubilee & New CreationAuthor: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Acts, Church, eschatology, Grace, Heaven, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Jewish Backgrounds, Luke, Mission, Sabbath
Let me share a few Sabbath Theology Thoughts from a beautiful desert evening. I have recently entered a long period of study and reflection on “Jubilee” and put it in paper form centered on Luke-Acts. It is not my concern whether or not ancient Israel ever actually kept the Jubilee. Many western Christians dismiss the idea out of hand because they do not see it explicitly observed within the pages of the Bible. Such is immaterial in reality. It is in the text given by the Spirit and therefore reveals his own agenda. God’s people have a very long history of living in a lack of faith and obedience to him. But we do know the Sabbath year was in fact observed. When Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, according to 1 Maccabees (6.49, 53), it was the sabbatical year, so Jews did kept some of it. But Jeremiah (34.8-22) certainly lets us know that God was serious about the Year of Jubilee … the Year of Grace!
Jubilee’s Connection to Atonement (Grace)
It is frequently overlooked, or just ignored, that Jubilee was proclaimed in the Sabbath year on the Day of Atonement. When the shofar was blown and the scapegoat graciously carried away the sins and pollution of the people. Falling into slavery, or loosing one’s inheritance, is a form of pollution (in fact Lev 25 abolishes slavery and selling the land; what one does is sell his/her labor and the number of crops. God alone owns both people and land! Symbolically the pollution of the people and land is eliminated on Yom Kippur. In the sabbatical year of Jubilee the land and people are to be returned to their condition on the sabbath of creation itself. Jubilee is a built in rhythm that brings God’s created order BACK to a time and space when God declared creation “very good” … on the Day of Atonement. Sabbath is grace. The Sabbath year is grace. The Sabbath of Sabbath’s is grace. It is a window through which we peer to see what God intends for his creation.
Jubilee, therefore, is God’s pattern for restoration.
Jesus both Ushers in, and embodies, Jubilee
Jesus is baptized with the Spirit for the purpose of proclaiming that God’s gracious Jubilee had arrived. The pouring out of the Spirit upon Jesus in his baptism was for the purpose – the goal – of releasing (setting at liberty – Jubilee) the poor, captives, blind and the oppressed – is paralleled by the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts 2 in which (with different terminology) reversals of the fallen world take place.
Jubilee concerns the whole of God’s creation in Leviticus 25, land, people. Rich and poor. Bringing it all back to the time when creation was said to be “very good.” In Jubilee the powerful are brought low and the low are lifted up. In reality the come out equal. Jesus’s mission has no Platonic dualism of ministry to the “physical” needs of people in order to get to their “soul.” Jesus’s mission – the goal of his baptism in the Spirit – is Jubilee itself. Bring God’s entire creation back to when it was all “very good.”
Thus, in Luke we find Jesus’s Jubilee message addressed women and non-Israelites alike. Luke uses Mary, a woman, as the initial proclaimer of Jubilee without using that word in 1.52-55. Luke simply assumes we know what Jubilee is as the “Jubilee pattern” plays out before our eyes.
He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones,
he has filled the hungry with good
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
In remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to
to Abraham and to his descendants
Luke tells the story of the fate of four rich men and how God’s Jubilee impacted their lives. The Rich Man & Lazarus (16.19-31), their fates are reversed. The powerful brought down and the poor exalted. The Story of the Rich Fool and his bigger barns (12.16-21). He hoarded his goods, his life is the opposite of Jubilee. The Rich Ruler (18.18-25) has kept the Bible all his life – except Jubilee! Jesus tells him to sell it all and give to the poor. Finally just a few verses after the Ruler we find the story of one of the outcasts yet who is said to be rich twice, Zacchaeus. When Jubilee shows up, Zacchaeus does what Jesus told the rich Ruler to do … gives away half his wealth and restores his ill gotten gain with 4x the interest. Jesus declares “today salvation has come.” Salvation because he embraced Jubilee. Jubilee has arrived in the lives of four. The rich were brought “low” and the lowly were lifted up. Many other Jubilee threads are woven into Luke-Acts it is a basic pattern in Luke’s Spiritual writings.
As noted above Jubilee is aimed at healing people and land. It is creational in focus not Platonic. It is not surprising then that Luke often uses the word salvation to describe Jesus’ miracles (e.g. 7.3; 7.50; 8.36; 8.50; etc)
Jesus uses Sabbath/Jubilee imagery in his parables, and we frequently miss it. Jesus was a lover of the Sabbath. His debates with older religious teachers on that day were never about the Sabbath itself, only an activity ON the Sabbath. In fact, Jesus used the Sabbath command of giving rest to ANIMALS as justification, and critique, of those who criticized him. In 13.10-17 where Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath (she is doubly captive!). Exodus 20 & Deut 5 both say that animals were not to be worked on the Sabbath just like humans. Every Jew would take care of animals by going out to water and feed his oxen/donkey that was sharing in the Sabbath rest without fear of breaking a taboo. Such care was actually obedience to the Sabbath by caring for God’s creation. Therefore Sabbath authorizes taking care of animals AND daughters of Abraham. She met Jubilee and she was “saved.”
Jubilee Eating Habits and New Creation
God’s New Creation, via Jubilee, is seen clearly in Jesus’s eating habits that got him in such hot water with conservative “church” people. In the Great Banquet parable, rooted in Isaiah 35, Jesus tells a rich person to have a great expensive dinner for people that cannot pay nor do anything in return for the meal (a big deal in honor/shame societies is the notion of reciprocity – Jesus obliterates it with Jubilee). Instead of bringing in people who will in turn invite you to THEIR banquet, bring in “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (14.21). Is this not the exact same category of people that Jesus was baptized in the Spirit to proclaim Jubilee too (cf. 4.16ff; 14.13; 7.22)? Position based on status has been erased, just as Mary taught her Son and prophesied at the beginning of the Gospel … Mary is the first allusion to God’s new creation the fulfillment of Joel 2 as a young maiden that proclaims by God’s Spirit.
Returning to our opening. Thru the ministry of Jesus, God’s Jubilee has entered into this polluted world. Thru the Jubilee ministry of Jesus, God is removing creation’s sin and pollution. That sin and pollution has manifested itself in debased relationships with money, the poor, mistreatment of certain categories of humans … and in Jesus God is “releasing” his creation – to use a Pauline term – from BONDAGE to decay. In Jesus, God’s atonement for creation has arrived and he restores it ALL to God’s “very good.”
In Jesus, God’s Jubilee has arrived and thru his ministry, his death and resurrection he is making EVERYTHING as it should … to enjoy the purity it had “in the beginning.” Just better!