Whole Life Whole Bible Day 32
Luke 4:14-19 (NASB)
14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
31: He came to his own…
It was an ordinary sabbath, with the people of Nazareth in the synagogue together — except, that day, a young man they knew, the son of a local carpenter, had returned to the town. They had heard widespread praise of his teaching in other parts of Galilee and now he was in their synagogue, reading from Isaiah 61.
In its first setting, the figure of Isaiah 61 comes to the downtrodden people of God in exile. He is commissioned by God, anointed with the Spirit, and comes to announce that comfort and salvation are close at hand.
And then Jesus said, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:21).
Here at this local event in the local synagogue, Jesus spoke to the people and they responded. At first they spoke well of him, pleased with the success of a local man, looking forward to seeing some miracles, perhaps. But he continued to speak, challenging them to see that just as Israel had rejected the prophets, so the people of his home town would not understand him. As Elijah and Elisha had gone beyond Israel to the Gentiles to perform their miracles, so the Jewish people of Jesus’ day would find that God’s kingdom would extend to bless the poor, the prisoner, the outcast and the Gentile. This was too much for the people of Nazareth, and they became so angry that they tried to kill him (v. 29).
Here and in many more passages, the Gospel writers report Jesus’ challenges to Israel, especially to her leaders. They were waiting for the restoration of the Davidic kingdom, for a proper and complete return from exile, for a Messiah who would throw out the Gentile conquerors, reinstate Israel’s ancient borders, restore her ethnic purity and enforce her laws. Jesus, Israel’s true Messiah, challenged them to a different agenda — to seek the lost sheep, take back the repentant sons, care for the widows and orphans, welcome the alien and stranger, demonstrate to the world the love and mercy of their God, and recognize his Lordship. He challenged them to look at their own history and to open their ears to the prophets of their past, to Isaiah and to Amos, to Jeremiah and to Habakkuk.
Some would indeed respond, but, then as now, many would be blind and deaf to the Savior of the world.
For further reflection and action
Jesus seemed to have a special concern for poor and marginalized people. Who are the poor and marginalized today, and how can we follow Jesus in reaching out to them?
In Romans 9-11, Paul deals at length with the status of the Jews who have rejected Christ. These are difficult and much-debated chapters, requiring careful study, but reading 9:1–5, 30–33 and 10:1–4 will give you a flavor of Paul’s argument.
Do you have friends and family who are content with their view on life and are indignant at attempts to present the gospel to them? Try to find two or three Christians and pray regularly together for the Holy Spirit’s work in those lives, and for wisdom and discernment in your approach.
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.