“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” (Luke 4:16-22a, ESV)
I distinctly remember the moment when the parable of the laborers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20 made sense to me. Growing up, I had heard the parable preached multiple times, but something was not clicking in my brain. I understood the basic concept, but I had no way of understanding the implications for my own life by simply reading it. What does this mean for me? What did I need to do with this information? I just couldn’t figure it out on my own. I needed a hands-on demonstration. That’s how I learn best. I imagine this is quite possibly how Israel felt about the coming Messiah.
God had promised the Messiah for millennia, but something hadn’t clicked with Israel. They were waiting for someone to come and rescue them from foreign oppression, deliver them from bondage, and give them the freedom they desperately craved. I imagined they asked questions as I did. Why is God taking so long? What are we missing? They couldn’t figure it out. So, just as God planned from the beginning, Jesus came down for the live demonstration.
When Jesus came on the scene, he did not ride in on a white horse with a sword in hand and legions of warriors flanking him on the right and left. No—that scene is reserved specifically for The Lord of the Rings. Instead, Jesus was born as a vulnerable baby. He did not train to be a warrior and though he was a descendent of King David, he had no intention of becoming king—at least not the type of king Israel expected.
Israel didn’t get it—I didn’t get it. What’s the deal with us? Why is it that we can’t quite pick up what God is putting down? We were focused on the wrong thing. I was looking for personal meaning. Israel was looking for a warrior. None of us were looking for God. We lacked clarity because we were more focused on what the promise brought to us—what the story meant for us—what we were going to get. The promises in scripture were foggy because we were in a fog about the main point. The main point is God, so God had to come to clear things up.
I like to speculate that Jesus walked around and had all sorts of compassion for people. He probably saw and heard them do and say things based on their foggy understanding of scripture and instead of condemning them, he gently showed them a different way. The right way. The way God intended. He might have said, “Oh no, not like that, try this way. Watch me.” He couldn’t have said “Watch me” from far away—he had to come. His life brought clarity to the scriptures. Things made sense because Jesus came and showed us what they meant. This is why I consider the resurrection one of the biggest lightbulb moments in all of humanity. When Jesus was born, we were curious. When he ministered, we were in awe. When he died, we were confused. But when he rose again, we all sighed a collective, “Ohhhhhh I get it!” Jesus’s birth made that moment possible. He brought clarity and our fog lifted.
I finally understood the parable of the laborers in the vineyard when I shifted my focus away from myself and put Jesus in the story. When I focused on Jesus, everything became clear.
Jesus didn’t just come down to die on the cross for our sins. He came down to reveal God’s true nature and show us the life that is only possible in the kingdom of God—the life described in the scriptures. He brought the scriptures to life and gave them clarity. Not everyone understood at first, and there were definitely those who preferred the fog, but nevertheless, Jesus came to clear the air and make the way accessible for everyone.
A prayer: Jesus, sometimes scripture seems unclear. We feel our way through the passages looking for meaning, praying for understanding, but we know that you bring the clarity we need. We confess that we sometimes focus on how the stories affect our own lives rather than focus on how you reveal yourself in and through them. Help us to understand difficult passages; make foggy things clear. Remind us that your Word is clear and it has the power to transform our lives. We love you, Lord. We ask these things in your name. Amen.