Focus on Jesus Series
The Synagogue and An Incomplete Verse: Additional Thoughts on Luke 4:14ff
by Ed Vasicek
In the magazine, “Israel My Glory,” (May/June 2001), Steve Herzig writes about Aliyah. This Hebrew word, Aliyah, means to “ascend or go up” and refers to the Hebrew ritual of walking up to the platform (bema) of the synagogue, blessing the Scripture scroll, and reading a portion from it.
In traditional Judaism, a layman has the responsibility of reading a portion of the Torah (Law) during at least four life-cycle events: when he makes his bar mitzvah, the Saturday before he marries, on the anniversary of the death of a relative, and when his baby is named.
Besides reading the Torah (Law), it is common for the synagogue to feature a second reading (or second set of readings) from the Prophets and Writings (the rest of the Old Testament); this portion of Scripture is called the haftarah.
Up to seven Scripture portions could be read in a service, and it was not unusual to honor a respected guest with the privilege of reading one of these portions. Jesus was honored in this way.
We know much about how modern synagogues are organized; nowadays Scripture portions are clearly delineated. Back then, it may have been possible that Christ was able to choose the place on the Isaiah scroll where He was to read. It is also possible this portion was assigned to Him.
What is fascinating about the portion He read is WHERE HE STOPPED. He did not complete Isaiah 61:1-2 because these verses deal with both His First and Second Coming. He fulfilled the first portion during His First Coming; the latter portion will not be fulfilled until He comes again.
The Old Testament text reads:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn...”
Note that Jesus stopped after the word “favor,” but before, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” He came the first time as the “Lamb of God” to offer Himself for our sins; He will come the second time as, “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” to judge the world.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA