The cry pierced the silence and hung in the air. The crowd roared – even though their hero, William Wallace the Scottish revolutionary, would now be killed, his cry echoed the defiance in their own hearts.
…the cry of “freedom” certainly chimes with the desire of many throughout history who have longed and fought for freedom.
While the 1995 epic film Braveheart might not be historically accurate, the cry of “freedom” certainly chimes with the desire of many throughout history who have longed and fought for freedom. Whether it be soldiers dying for the sake of the people or individual examples of freedom fighters such as William Wilberforce or Nelson Mandela, those crushed under oppression long for a hero – and long for freedom.
This week’s parasha also deals with freedom. In a rather short reading, God commands Moses concerning the Year of Jubilee – a year of freedom for captives, freedom from debts and freedom for the land. Every fifty years debts were to be cancelled, land returned to its rightful owners and slaves given the opportunity to go free. Perhaps rather ironically and despite God’s detailed commands to Moses about how exactly the year of Jubilee should be managed, there is absolutely no proof that this wonderful year was ever carried out. Slaves weren’t set free, land wasn’t given back to the original owners and debts weren’t cancelled.
Even though we forgot about the year of freedom, God didn’t.
Even though we forgot about the year of freedom, God didn’t. Hundreds of years after the giving of the Torah to Moses, God spoke to us again through the prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) these beautiful words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour…” (61:1-2)
What wonderful news! Yeshayahu tells us that the LORD Himself will send an anointed one (Mashiach) to proclaim and carry out freedom – and this is exactly what we Jewish people have been yearning for ever since. After years of injustice and oppression, we long to be equal. Yet one shabbat around 2000 years ago, a young Jewish man took out the scroll of Yeshayahu, turned to this passage, read it aloud and claimed that God had written about him! That man was Yeshua (see Luke 4:17-21).
Yet of all of the passages that Yeshua could choose to read from, why this one? Simply put, I believe it was because he longed for our freedom just as much as we do. The Brit Hadashah is full of examples of Yeshua proclaiming good news to the poor, binding up the broken-hearted, opening the eyes of the blind and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour. Yeshua was a revolutionary and had a revolutionary’s love for us. But more than just physical healing and restoration, He longed for us to be spiritually free – just as Yeshayahu wrote – to open the prison to those who are bound. Yeshua’s death was not an unfortunate tragedy of a rebel without a cause – it was the start of a year of Jubilee that broke the chains of our hearts and released us from our spiritual dungeon to be who we were made to be – free. Free from things that can enslave us (popularity, money, need for success etc) and our sin, free to live purposeful lives for God.
Some see the God of the Bible as a far-away, power-hungry, vicious God, but He is the God of the year of Jubilee, the God of Freedom. He longs for us to be free too, and He gives us the choice. He even gives us a way out of those things that enslave us – if we’re willing to follow Him.
Throughout history, people have died for our freedom, and yet Yeshua went further. His death ensured the freedom of His followers by taking the penalty they deserved. But not only did He take the penalty we deserved, He gives us the love and acceptance that we long for and look for from other sources which ultimately enslave us.
So how will we react to this? Will our cry be like William Wallace or would we rather choose to stay under the oppression of our desires which ultimately destroys our relationships and our lives? I encourage you to choose what Wallace chose – “Freedom!”