Summary: The Spirit anointed the speaker "to announce glad tidings: to heal the broken in heart; to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and the recovery of sight to the blind; to send forth the crushed in deliverance; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
A MESSIANIC AGENDA
Always a methodical writer (Luke 1:3), Luke has grouped together reports of three manifestations of the Spirit’s work in Jesus’ life.
The first is the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at His baptism, that wonderful moment of Trinitarian confirmation of His Messiahship (Luke 3:21-22).
The second speaks of Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit, and being led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-2).
The third is found in the passage before us, in which Jesus returns from that ordeal “in the power of the Spirit” to commence His ministry (Luke 4:14).
As Jesus commenced His teaching ministry in Galilee, “there went out a fame of Him round about” (Luke 4:14). Round about what, we might ask? Throughout Galilee, but only “round about” Nazareth. Jesus taught in the synagogues of Galilee and people honoured that ministry (Luke 4:15): but the real test would come when He ‘came unto His own’ with the inevitable result that ‘His own received Him not’ (John 1:11).
So Jesus “came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up” (Luke 4:16). Notice that Jesus was accustomed to attending worship on the Sabbath day: a good custom to nurture in our own lives.
Luke 4:16-21 is the oldest known record of a synagogue service.
It seems that any man might be asked to read.
On one occasion Paul and his companions were even invited to preach (Acts 13:15).
Someone with a message might also ask to read: perhaps this is what Jesus did on this occasion (Luke 4:16).
Jesus seems to have quite deliberately sought out the reading from the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 4:17).
It has been conjectured that this service took place in the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-10). Each fiftieth year was supposed to be a year of release, when indentured servants were restored to their inheritance, families were reunited, and an opportunity was given to start again.
Perhaps Isaiah 61:1-2 was the reading of the day, but Jesus deliberately chose where to end the reading. Luke 4:18-19 stops short of ‘the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isaiah 61:2). If such a thing happened in our churches today, we might see such an omission as political correctness: but in first century Nazareth it was the very epitome of political incorrectness!
‘Surely Jesus realizes that when Messiah comes the enemies of His people must be made to pay,’ reasoned the people. What they failed to recognize was that the Lord was not yet come to fulfil that part of the Messianic agenda.
This is a trait that Jesus also found amongst His own disciples. When some Samaritans refused to receive Jesus on one occasion, because His face was set to go to Jerusalem, James and John suggested that He command fire to come down from heaven upon them, even as Elijah did.
‘You know not what spirit you are of,’ warned Jesus. ‘The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them’ (Luke 9:55-56).
According to Isaiah 61:1-2, the Spirit anointed the speaker “to announce glad tidings: to heal the broken in heart; to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and the recovery of sight to the blind; to send forth the crushed in deliverance; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
As Jesus sat down to preach, all eyes were upon Him (Luke 4:20). Whatever was He going to say? His voice echoed forth as clear as any Jubilee trumpet: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).
Was this, perhaps, the full extent of Jesus’ sermon? Or was it curtailed on account of the ensuing animosity? We have no way of knowing.
What we are left with is the keynote: that, as always, Scripture must needs be fulfilled. Not one word of the Lord will fall to the ground (Luke 21:33).