Luke 4-6, Matt 10
In just a few short chapters in the gospels, we read of Christ’s birth, and events leading up to that miraculous birth. In just one verse we find that Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding. With the exception of his trip to the temple at 12 years of age, we know nothing from the Bible about his youth, or of the years leading to the beginning of his ministry at age 30.
Suddenly, the quick fly by through Jesus’ life ends, and we get to spend some time in the beginning of his ministry. We read of the preparation for his mission, the calling of the 12 apostles and others to assist him, and see his teachings and miracles touch the lives of those around him.
In the ancient synagogue there was a traditional set of events that occurred. A synagogue service required at least ten men to be present. During the service, the Shema would be recited:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
Next, would come a series of prayers, including the Tephillah, a series of praises/songs that were worn on the body (wrist or forehead), and included Exodus 12:2; Exodus 13:11; Deut. 6:4; and Deut 11:18. These were called “tephillin” or prayers. These prayers were often sung in a sing-song fashion, and many passages in the Old Testament are written in this form.
Once the prayers were sung, a section of the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) was read. Then the reading moved to a section from the Prophets. The service then ended with a closing prayer. It was probably during the section on the Prophets where Jesus stood to read from the book of Isaiah. Unlike most sermons, his is very brief. He read Isaiah 61:1-2 which reads:
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.
Unlike most commentaries on the Prophets, his commentary was short and to the point: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Jesus announced his Messiah-ship! The acceptable year of the Lord was the year of Jubilee. Jubilee occurred every 50th year in the Law of Moses. Anyone who had acquired a debt prior to that year, whether in the first or 49th year was released from that debt. This was tied in with the Sabbath of years (every seventh year), wherein anyone who was enslaved during the previous 6 years would be freed with his children and family. Those in debtor’s prison were released. During the Jubilee, lands that were taken or purchased were returned to their original owners, ensuring the lands remained under the control of those who inherited it.
Jesus came to establish a new Jubilee. The Jews had not fully honored the Jubilee of Moses for years. It was a major event during the period of the Temple of Solomon (approx 950BC to 600BC) that during the period of the 2nd Temple (approx 500BC to 70AD) was conveniently ignored, or nominally observed. Freeing slaves and returning property was not good for business. Isaiah had condemned the wealthy of his day for this exact purpose:
13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts. (Isaiah 3:13-15).
8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! (Isaiah 5:8).
Now the Lord would bring forth his own version of the Jubilee. He would bring sight to those who were physically and spiritually blind. He would free those who were imprisoned by ignorance, in chains of tyranny, or were taken captive by Satan and his devils. In him as Messiah, he would not just deliver the Jews from Roman captivity, he would free the world from Satan’s grasp.
The Calling of the Twelve
Many Bible scholars argue that Jesus did not establish a church in his day, that the Christian church actually was developed later by James the Just among the Jews, and Paul among the Gentiles. However, for those who understand priesthood authority, which Christ gave to his apostles, we understand that anywhere there is proper authority of God, there is the Church of Christ.
Christ called 12 apostles, and later the 70, to serve as missionaries and preach his gospel. This shows organization and an established order. After the death of Judas Iscariot, the 11 living apostles gathered and prayerfully selected Judas’ replacement, Matthias (Acts 1). If there were no Church, such restructuring would not have been necessary.
Apostles are prophets that are established in a quorum or council. Together they hold the keys or special rights to establish and run God’s work here upon the earth. They are special witnesses to the resurrected Christ (D&C 107:23). Whether in the early years after the resurrection of Jesus, or today, we have witnesses that Jesus really did resurrect and is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Such a witness was very important anciently among the Sadduccees, who did not believe in resurrection, and today among atheists and others who are uncertain of life after death.
While even among Christians many doubt the actual resurrection today, we can consider the testimonies of not only the original 12 apostles, but of apostles and prophets of today:
22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father (Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, D&C 76:22-23)
Or we can read the testimony of modern apostles regarding “the Living Christ.”
“We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”
Early synagogue service: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Overview-Jesus-Ministry
The Living Christ: http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,90-1-10-1,00.html