Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: (Luke 4:14-17)Jesus was reading from Isaiah 61:9:1-2. His addition at the end confirms that Jesus saw himself as the Anointed of God.
Indeed, Jesus attended Jewish temples and stood up and spoke. This (and other statements) also indicates that Jesus was accepted as a Jewish teacher (rabbi) by many Jewish people, but it does not indicate that Jesus accepted any kind of official position within the Jewish temple institutions.
Jesus was a rabbi (teacher) but not part of the Jewish institution
Rather, Jesus primarily taught in courtyards and out in nature - outside the confines of the organized Jewish temples. He belonged to no institution, and neither did his teacher, nor his students.
This is important. Jesus assumed the position of teacher, based not on an official election of high priests or any other electorate body. Rather, he simply stood up and began teaching where ever he was. Jesus had accepted John the Baptist as his teacher - evidenced by his taking baptism from John. It is clear that John was accepted by many, including Jesus, as a bonafide spiritual teacher:
And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. (Luke 3:18)And John took on many disciples, of which Jesus was one:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. (Luke 3:21)The teaching strategies of both John and Jesus, as well as Jesus' later instructions to his own disciples to go out and preach "the good news" to others, illustrates the bonafide method of teaching about God.
And it does not entail being elected or appointed by councils of people into official institutional positions.
What's wrong with becoming elected or appointed as a teacher?
Because teachers who are elected or appointed become obligated and must keep their allegiance to those who have elected them. Otherwise, they will lose their post. Thus they do not represent God. They represent those councils that elected them.
This idea of ecclesiastical appointment is clearly against the principles that John, Jesus, and Jesus' bonafide disciples utilized. Their method illustrated that one must accept a bonafide spiritual teacher, become a student of that teacher, and then pass on that teacher's teachings to others. It was a personal mentorship, not an institutional hierarchy.
And the teacher must not be a professional teacher who is paid a salary or otherwise making a business of their teachings. They must not be obligated to groups of people who tend to act politically, forcing the teacher to compromise their teachings to align with the political sensitivities of the committee(s) that elected them and control their salaries.
Jesus railed against appointed teachers
Jesus in fact railed against these ecclesiastically appointed Jewish teachers, who were termed Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus clarified this to his own disciples:
"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Matt. 16:11)
Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matt. 16:12)The Pharisees were a politically-active group of Jewish officials who formed a Jewish organized sect. As indicated in the writings of the early historian, Josephus, the Pharisees were the primary political force within the Jewish temples, and they claimed to bear the law of the teachings of Moses. Their teachings were disputed by the Sadducees, who claimed a more privileged stature because they were supposedly ancestors of certain Jewish rulers. Basically, the Sadducees felt they were the chosen ones because of their family descent.
Outside of these two main sects were the teachers of the Essenes movement, who were set against the political organizational structures of the Pharisees and the ancestral claims of the Sadducees. Neither Jesus nor John - nor did Jesus' early disciples such as James - belong to any sect. They were not professional teachers, nor were they elected or appointed by any institutions.
It is also clear that Jesus was set against both the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Why? Because these sectarian teachers were not focused on loving and pleasing God. They were focused upon their own authority within their political institutions and/or familial positions. They were self-centered rather than God-centered, and their teachings reflected this.
As Jesus stood up among the congregation, Jesus testified to this difference between his teachings and the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We can see this within the context of what Jesus quoted. That he was representing God and God's true teachings for the benefit of others.
Many sectarian teachers - also appointed and elected by politically-minded institutional counsels - like to emphasize that Jesus was quoting Isaiah to prove that Isaiah had predicted Jesus' arrival. This twists Jesus' very statement - and makes it seem that Jesus' motive was to promote his own authority. Jesus, however, was promoting God's authority ("He has sent me... the Lord's favor.").
They even have gone to the extreme of mistranslating some of Isaiah's texts to accommodate this view. The early ecclesiastical Church ministry and their professional scribes - supported and driven by Roman emperors (Constantine and so on) - were fixed on using Christianity to dominate Europe and the Middle East. They tried to create religious exclusivity by claiming that all the prophets of the Old Testament were not teaching their students to love and serve God. They were all supposedly predicting Jesus' arrival.
Does this make any sense? Who were they teaching this to, and what would it matter to a group of Jewish people thousands of years before the birth of Christ that there would come a man-god centuries later (long after they died) who would supposedly "die for mankind's sins"? How would such a teaching benefit those who heard those teachings?
The fact is, this supposed prediction philosophy - which is why all those teachers such as Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and others have been incorrectly labeled "prophets" (instead of teachers) - is ridiculous. This philosophy is not founded upon solid evidence from these books, writings, and teachings. Rather, it is grounded upon gleaming out-of-context and poorly-translated short phrases from these ancient texts to try to fit this speculative philosophy.
Let's use Isaiah's text as an example. Jesus was clearly quoting this text because he, like Isaiah, David, Samuel, Moses, Joshua, Job, Abraham and others, was dedicated to passing on the teachings of God, and thus was God's representative. "Because He has anointed me to preach good news" clearly indicates that just as God "anointed" (chose) Moses, Joshua, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, John the Baptist and others to preach "the good news," Jesus was also selected by God for this duty.
Then Jesus says, "today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." This is because Jesus is standing up in the Jewish temple and teaching. This "fulfills" (or satisfies) the text of Isaiah not because Isaiah was predicting Jesus would teach "the good news" but because whoever God chooses to represent Him and teaches others on His behalf will in effect be "fulfilling" Isaiah's text.
The word "fulfilled" is coming from the Greek word πληρόω (plēroō), to "consummate" or "to carry into effect, bring to realization, realize" according to the lexicon. Jesus, is in effect, carrying out Isaiah's words, bringing them into realization. This does not mean that Isaiah himself also did not carry out his own words, however. To "fulfill" or "carry out" does not render exclusivity. Jesus' disciples, for example, also carried on Jesus' teachings. So where is the exclusivity?
To understand this better, let's consider the full text of Isaiah, from which Jesus quoted from:
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 consequence [**] of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. For Yĕhovah says, "I the LORD,["For I, the LORD...."*] love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. In my faithfulness He will faithfully give them their recompense and make and everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed." I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61)It is clear from Isaiah's text that his focus is not upon predicting Jesus' arrival. Why wouldn't he just come out and say it then? Rather, in the early part of this text, Isaiah is obviously speaking of himself as "the LORD has anointed me to preach good news" and "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted" and so on.
Isaiah says "He has sent me". If he was predicting Jesus' arrival, then he would have said: "He will send Jesus in the future." Why must this text be twisted around to support a thesis? Would one of God's trusted devotees twist his text around like this? No. It is very clear. Isaiah is talking about being sent by God to teach others. And teach he did, evidenced by so many other texts he wrote and spoke to his own students.
Now words like "the poor," "brokenhearted," "the blind" and "the oppressed" are used symbolically. "Poor" doesn't mean they only are teaching people without money. Physical wealth is relative. A person with sandals was considered wealthy compared to a person without. Rather, what is being discussed is humility. "Poor in spirit," as Jesus said in Matthew 5:3:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:3)Similar to this symbolism, a person who is "brokenhearted" is saddened and let down by the physical world. A person who is "blind" is spiritually blinded, and the "oppressed" indicates someone who realizes the oppression of the physical world (as freedom is being assumed to represent becoming spiritually liberated).
Who is ready to hear about God?
All of these types of people are ready to become illuminated by the teachings of Isaiah, Jesus, and other ancient teachers. These are ready to receive "the good news" about God and the spiritual realm: "to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
And what is that "garment of praise" that Isaiah refers to symbolically? It is praising God. This is confirmed throughout the texts of the Bible - that praising God, doing God's will and loving God are the keys to happiness. This is confirmed by Isaiah, as he says in the text above:
"I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God."Isaiah also comments on how his teachings will render other teachers, as his students go out and continue to spread the "good news:"
"And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God."This confirms, in fact, Isaiah's audience. Isaiah is teaching his students, whom he hoped would go out and continue spreading those teachings, as "ministers."
Some of Isaiah's text utilizes deep symbolism, and much of this has been misconstrued by those later scribes who - like the Sadducees who wanted to be recognized as authorities based on the family they were born in - the supposed "chosen people."
For example, Isaiah's text is translated to "Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs." He is not talking about inheriting a certain physical territory of land. The concept of "land" is symbolic here. The "inheritance" Isaiah is speaking of is inheriting and passing on those teachings of the spiritual realm and God. After all, how could a few acres of land create "everlasting joy"?
This concept of the Israelites - or anyone else - being chosen to inherit a bunch of largely barren land in the middle east or anywhere else was interpreted from scriptural text by those who wanted to cement their physical ownership of certain lands. As so many tribes in the years from 500 B.C.E. to 2,500 B.C.E. fought for control over land in the middle east - as they do to this day - it would be expected that teachers of those days would use the concept of land ownership symbolically.
What they actually were trying to teach was the concept that our real inheritance is our spiritual position.
The "promised land" is the spiritual realm
Each of us is a spiritual being - not the physical body. Each of us originates from the spiritual realm and our natural position as one of God's loving caregivers. This is our inheritance - one that, if we accept our position - can deliver us back into the loving arms of the Supreme Being.
And "the Lord's favor"? What is that? It is pleasing God. When a person loves the Supreme Being, pleasing Him becomes critical. This is the same as doing God's will - as Jesus spoke of many times. When a person loves someone, they naturally want to please them.
In the text above, two elements of Isaiah's text should also be clarified:
1 (*) 61:8 in the NIV, KJV and a few others - but not all - use "For I, the LORD...." While this is technically correct, within the context of the text, it is important - and indicated by the quotes - that Isaiah is quoting God here in the second person. He is not suddenly shifting from being anointed by God to being God. Therefore, the correct translation - as indicated in some versions, is - For Yĕhovah says, "I the LORD....."
This very subtle twisting of the text - by taking out a clear reference showing that Isaiah is paraphrasing or quoting God - was created by sectarian translators who were trying to prove that Jesus is speaking this text of Isaiah's. In doing so, they would essentially be saying that Jesus is not only anointed by God and chosen by God; and is praising God but he is also God?
That is a crazy supposition, one that has no support in other texts, where Jesus clearly indicates that he is God's representative wanting to do God's will and not his own will.
2 (**) 61:2 NIV uses the word "vengeance" for the Hebrew word נקם (naqam). This word is inappropriate, as it communicates that God must avenge Himself. The word "avenge" indicates 'getting even' with someone. God never has to 'get even' with anyone. The Supreme Being is above everyone. He is not subject to this emotion.
Rather, what is being discussed by Isaiah is consequence. The word נקם (naqam) also means punishment according to the lexicon. Still, God does not punish anyone in the modern context - meant to hurt someone. What the Supreme Being does is present us with consequences for our actions. This is part of His design of the physical world. The physical world renders consequences for our actions. These are designed to teach us.
Just consider if there were no consequences for actions that hurt others and/or hurt ourselves. This might be compared to feeling pain if we burnt our finger. If we didn't feel pain when we burn our finger our body might catch fire and die before we knew it. So feeling pain teaches us.
In the same way, consequences teach us. They guide us. When we do good things, good things happen. When we do bad things, bad things happen. These are consequences. They help us to become better people. They help us to realize that others are important, and they help steer us towards loving others.
This is God's intent with consequences. He wants us to begin caring for others, because we will become happier when we care about others. He also knows we will become ultimately happy when we return to our loving relationship with Him. This is why He sends His representatives such as Moses, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. To bring us home to Him.
This is the bottom line of Jesus' statement in the temple. He is clarifying that those he is speaking to would be better off by hearing and following Jesus' teachings rather than the teachings of the Pharisees or the Sadducees, which sought to gain followers in order to promote their own institutions, together with their political agendas and positions of power.
Jesus, on the other hand, sought no position of power. He only sought to give his life to his beloved, the Supreme Being. This is why, instead of seeking a position of power and authority among the people, he accepted being condemned, tortured and his body murdered on behalf of his teachings. And what was Jesus' most important teaching, which he stated when asked by a Pharisee what was the most important commandment?
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" (Luke 10:27 and Deut 6:5)