10 January 2013

Luke 4:14-21

"Then he began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'" (v. 21)


In Luke's Gospel this is the first account of a public event in Jesus' ministry and it takes place in his home town. It is programmatic of the whole Gospel: Jesus is revealed first to his own people, many of whom reject him, then he goes beyond to offer good news to the world.

Jesus has just come from a private time of testing in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13), which has prepared him to begin his public ministry. He takes part in synagogue worship in the same way as all Jewish men - by reading from scripture and then commenting. His choice, however, is significant. He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2 and Isaiah 58:6 about the liberating acts of the Servant of the Lord. His comment on the passage is startling: no customary long and erudite sermon, simply the statement that the promise has been fulfilled in the presence of his listeners, he is the Servant, the one who will bring liberty, healing and salvation.

If we were to read on (verses 22-30), we would see that the people of Nazareth, many of them probably his friends and relations, were initially proud of his impressive public performance as a prophet. But Jesus goes on to explain that, like Elijah and Elisha before him, he is sent to Gentiles, people beyond the chosen race of Israel. This good news is not, in fact, about liberation for the Jews from Roman oppressors, but about a whole new way of being for all people. And this provokes the jealous, possessive anger of the villagers, who drive him out and try to throw him off a cliff.

When we informed my father that our daughter, his first grandchild, had been born, he replied by text message, saying "Noted". The revelation of Christ cannot simply be noted! The very presence of Christ is a crisis that demands a decision and a response. The presence of Christ inaugurates a new age. Nothing will continue the same, and it is up to each one who hears to decide how to respond to that change.

To Ponder

  • Has the presence of God ever been revealed to you in something unexpectedly familiar? How did it change the way you see the world?
  • How do you respond to change?
  • Are there any situations in your life where you might need to be the change simply be being the person God has called you to be? What reactions might you encounter?

Bible notes author

The Revd Anna Bishop

Anna Bishop is a wife, mother and Methodist presbyter. She is currently without appointment while her two small children teach her a spirituality of interruption! She is living in the Salisbury circuit, where she leads Baby-interrupted Bible Study and Little Blessings, a service of worship for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their carers.