Isaiah 61:2 “(He has sent me) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God…”
“The Year of the Lord’s Favor” is a reference to the Old Testament “Year of Jubilee.” Once every seven years the nation of Israel didn’t plant crops. That was called a Sabbath year. They gave their fields a rest, and lived off of their flocks and orchards and vineyards, and whatever plants happened to come up in their fields.
Once every 50 years was the “Year of Jubilee.” For a second year in a row God told the people to take a year off their regular farming and trust him to provide. All land was returned to its original owners. All slaves were set free. The poor were offered special care from their countrymen.
In order for such an arrangement to work, the people had to trust the Lord to take care of them. More than that, in order for this to work, God himself had to intervene to make the harvest of the 48th year feed the people for almost three years until the next harvest. That was his promise. In doing so, he was teaching his people that he is the God on whom they could depend for everything–the God who fed them, and gave them rest, and set them free.
We don’t know if one of these “Years of Jubilee,” these years when the people lived under God’s special favor and care, took place during the thirty-three years of Jesus’ life with us. But through the prophet the Lord is telling us that Jesus’ ministry was the real “Year of Jubilee.” Now God intervened in the life his people to care for their needs, give them rest, and set them free.
In his miracle-working ministry of mercy Jesus fed and healed Israel. By his sacrifice at the cross he gave us all rest from the burden of the law. We no longer have to labor under its demands for perfection if we want to be loved and accepted by God. By his resurrection from the dead he set us free from our slavery to the power of sin to control us, and the power of death to destroy us, and the power of the devil to own us as his own.
Jesus’ ministry was and is the “year of the Lord’s favor.” It is a time of divine intervention in our world and in our future. That is truly good news.