27 January 2013

Luke 4:14-21

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor." (v. 18)


This famous passage in Luke's Gospel includes what might be called Jesus' manifesto, and gives us a sense of his calling and priorities. It follows the stories of Jesus' Baptism (Luke 3:21-22) and temptation (Luke 4:1-12), and acts as a kind of overture to the whole of his ministry.

The summary text (verse 14) that begins this reading shows Jesus returning to Galilee to teach in the synagogues, empowered by the Spirit. At this point, Jesus' message is warmly received, and he is 'praised by everyone' (verse 15).

Visiting the synagogue in Nazareth, and presumably surrounded by family and friends, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61. The passage evokes the year of the Lord's Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-12) - a time when debts were released, land was returned, and the enslaved were freed. In Isaiah, the passage becomes a word of hope for the exiles who have returned to Jerusalem. Here in Luke's Gospel, it captures the meaning of Jesus' mission.

Jesus is the one on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests (Luke 3:21-22), the one who brings healing and restoration to those he meets. His ministry involves proclamation as well as action, announcing the kingdom but also inaugurating it through his healings and exorcisms. The gospel (good news of Jesus) is holistic, and Jesus' transforming presence is good for bodies as well as souls.

We should also not miss the messianic connotations of this passage. It is, after all, as the 'anointed one' that Jesus will exercise his ministry. The passage is followed by the crowd's warm acceptance of Jesus - echoing his earlier reception (verse 15) - but this turns quickly to hostility as Jesus' announces that his message was also to those on the margins. The message of the kingdom leads to the way of the cross.

To Ponder

  • To what extent does the 'manifesto' of Jesus reflect your church's mission?  
  • What do you think should be the balance between proclaiming the good news and demonstrating it?

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church and an Associate Lecturer at Cliff College. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.