Sunday 24 January 2010

Bible Book:

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

Luke 4:14-21 Sunday 24 January 2010


This story of Jesus preaching in his own home town has beencalled the 'Nazareth manifesto', as it comes near the beginning ofLuke's Gospel, and seems to be an announcement of the heart of whatJesus' message is about. Certainly the rest of this Gospel givesprominence to Jesus' dealings with those his society regarded asunimportant or despicable: children, women (especiallyprostitutes), tax collectors, lepers.

We should not imagine a full-scale synagogue (a Jewish place ofworship) in the modern sense. Archaeologists have discovered no 1stcentury synagogue building in Nazareth. Perhaps, like the earlyChristian communities, people met in homes to seek to understandthe Scriptures. In Jesus' time, the books we know as the OldTestament had not yet been gathered together, but clearly somewritten scrolls were available. From this passage and severalothers we know that Jesus was familiar with later parts of Isaiah(here he quotes Isaiah61:1-2). Jesus is seen here as an observant Jew who iscompetent to read and interpret the Scriptures.

In the 1st century there were a variety of Jewish groups who triedto apply the Scriptures they had (especially the prophetic texts)to their contemporary situation - this is evident from the Dead SeaScrolls that were discovered in the last century. What is startlinghere is that Jesus applies the Scripture to himself - "Today thisscripture has been fulfilled in your hearing". (If you read on youwill see that the congregation did not take this well from a localboy...)

Luke, like the other Gospel writers, presents Jesus as the one whoembodies what the Scriptures have been pointing to. Just like thecongregation in the story, we as readers of the Bible are beingpresented with a challenge - how do we respond to this claim?

To Ponder

This story is rather familiar, so it is difficultto hear it in a fresh way. Try reading it again, but from theperspective of being a member of the congregation at Nazareth. Howdoes Jesus' remark sound to you?

If the most important thing about Jesus' ministryis his mission to the poor and the oppressed in his society, howfar is this same emphasis part of your life priorities?

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