Through song and sermon, both the Magnificat (Lk. 1:40-45) and the Jubilee Manifesto (Lk 4:16-21) clearly show that Jesus is not indifferent to the plight of victims of domination. Rather, Messiah Jesus, the Kingdom bringer, stands against oppression and for the oppressed.
Mary’s song dovetails nicely with Jesus’ inaugural address:
‘He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.’
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
In Galilee and Judea, wealth and power were accumulated and hoarded into the hands of the few, with the vast majority living in destitution or poverty.
Jesus and the reign and rule of the Father did not seek to curry favor with the guardians of the status quo. Instead, they anticipated that 'business as usual' would be replaced in the great reversal of the coming age—the poor would delight in the good news, while the rich would be sent away empty.
In his Nazareth sermon, Jesus draws on the prophetic hope of Isaiah 61:2. The longed-for day of liberation and freedom has now arrived. This is what the kingdom looks like: the blind will see, and the oppressed will go free. Jesus not only stirs imaginations through his preaching and proclamation—‘the kingdom of God is at hand’—but also embodies and demonstrates this new reality in the days and weeks to come through acts of individual healing and deliverance.
Yet Jesus’ vision of a divine Empire is not only for individuals; but for a great reversal, a transformation, a grace filled revolution of economic and social realities.
By using the phrase 'the year of the Lord’s favor,' Jesus references Isaiah 61, which draws from the jubilee traditions outlined in the book of Leviticus. This ancient law, never before enacted, envisions an economic reset involving debt cancellation, liberation of slaves, and redistribution of land wealth.
‘You must sanctify the year of the fiftieth year and proclaim a release in the land. It is a jubilee for you: you must all return to your property …If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee’
In saying that these scriptures are now fulfilled, Jesus highlights that the Kingdom he proclaims and enacts has economic consequences in which wealth will be redistributed and cannot be hoarded.
In our own world, a powerful elite engages in the accumulation and hoarding of wealth. In the context of the United Kingdom, for instance, the top 1% of the population possesses an amount of wealth equivalent to that owned by 70% of the entire nation. On a global scale, the situation is even more concerning, with the wealthiest 26 individuals worldwide amassing a quantity of wealth that matches that of the bottom 50%—a staggering 3.6 billion people.
Compounding this issue is the observation that within the UK, individuals with lower socioeconomic status tend to experience shorter lifespans. Moreover, as we find ourselves increasingly entangled in the throes of climate breakdown, a disconcerting correlation emerges: those who accumulate and hoard wealth have high-carbon luxury lifestyles. This, in turn, accelerates our progression towards an unliveable future. Conversely, the brunt of the dire consequences stemming from increased emissions is already being borne disproportionately by the world's most impoverished.
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand,
Repent and believe the good news’
May we by the Spirit of Jesus hear afresh his words,
"The kingdom of God is at hand.
You cannot serve both God and money.
Repent, recalibrate, and reconfigure.
This is good news for the poor.
Believe, pledge allegiance, and outwork its implications.
This is good news for the poor."
Click for the follow on post ‘Jesus & the Hoarders of Wealth (Part Two)‘