Sunday 30 January 2022

Bible Book:

They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. (v. 29)

Luke 4:21-30 Sunday 30 January 2022

Psalm 71:1-6


In the preceding verses, set for last Sunday, Jesus visits the synagogue and reads Isaiah’s prophecy: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour" (Luke 4:18–19).

In this Sunday’s reading, Jesus makes a shocking claim about his relationship to the words he has just read: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (v. 21b). He states that Isaiah’s prophecy, written around 700 years previously, was referring to him speaking in this very moment. Jesus himself is the one anointed by the Spirit of the Lord. The jubilee year is here: a time of good news for the poor, liberation for prisoners and the oppressed, and recovery of sight to the blind.

At first, somewhat surprisingly, the reception is positive: "all spoke well of him" (v. 22a). But Jesus is not convinced that they have understood him. He tells them that they will think he is in need of medical help, that they will demand miracles, and that no prophet is received in their own town. He refers to two Old Testament stories where Elijah and Elisha pick unlikely foreigners to receive God’s grace, rather than those closer to home. This makes the synagogue congregation angry. Their former attitude of wonder at Jesus’ gracious words is gone. They drive him out of the synagogue and up to a cliff, planning to throw him to his death. Somehow Jesus is able to resist their violence peaceably: he escapes them merely by walking through them unchallenged.

In Jesus’ early ministry, the violent reception he encounters in his home town of Nazareth is an exception. Earlier in the chapter, Luke tells us that he taught in synagogues across Galilee "and was praised by everyone"(v. 15). The violent crowd that nearly throw him to his death are a precursor of the opposition he encounters later in his ministry. Later in the gospel narrative, another angry crowd in Jerusalem play a role bringing about his death by crucifixion.

To Ponder:

  • What is it that makes Jesus’ audience in Nazareth so angry?
  • Which groups in society today are most likely to be enthusiastic about Jesus’ message of good news for the poor, imprisoned, and oppressed?
  • Where today is Jesus’ teaching about the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy likely to lead to opposition and rejection?
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