Summary: Jesus fulfils the mission that Isaih spoke of.
21/1/01 6 p.m. Luke 4:14-21 : The Messiah’s Manifesto
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour." 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
It seems very likely that there will be a general Election this year. We are already having the political parties telling us some of their policies on important issues. Nearer the election each party will produce an Election Manifesto telling the electorate of the policies they will seek to implement if they are elected into government.
In today’s gospel we have Jesus outlining his manifesto, which is a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, given over 600 years before.
When studying Jesus’ life, it is important to realise the chronological order of events. Unlike Matthew and John, who wrote for Jews, Luke moves quickly from the temptation of our Lord into the Galilean ministry because he was writing with Gentiles, or non-Jews, in mind. In doing so he passed over almost the first full year of our Lord’s ministry with the Jews in Judea and the Samaritans in Samaria. That year is covered in the first four chapters of John’s gospel and included the first sign at Cana that we looked at last week..
Jesus returned to his hometown in the power of the Spirit. Two weeks ago we saw how Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit when he was baptised. This was at the start of his public ministry and we noted how we all need the Holy Spirit to live and minister for God. Again and again in his gospel and in Acts Luke writes of the importance of the Holy Spirit.
News of Jesus’ preaching and miracles would have spread to Nazareth before he arrived there. Perhaps there was great anticipation as those who had known Jesus and his family for many years waited to see what people were talking about. Was this home town boy really as good as they were hearing ? Had he changed ion some way ?
As usual, Jesus went on Saturday to the synagogue. The temple in Jerusalem was used for special feast days such as Passover, Pentecost, and the Day of Atonement. Jews would go there to worship God and make sacrifices to him. The synagogue, however, was like our local church, meeting the spiritual needs of a local community on a weekly basis. Someone would read from a scroll, out of Deuteronomy, the She-ma: "Hear O Israel, the Lord God is one." Then there would be a time of prayer. Someone would then take the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses, and read a passage from it. Everyone would praise the Lord, have prayer again, and then thank God for the Pentateuch. Following that, another attendant would invite an older man or visitor to read from the prophets. The scroll was read, and then followed a time for the reader to comment on the text. This is the role that Jesus performed on this occasion. Finally, there was a time of praising the Lord for what was spoken out of the prophets, prayer, and lunch.
Isaiah wrote four "servant songs" in which the servant is the Messiah: 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12. He is what "Israel" should have been (49:3). The nation was to be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6), but the Messiah would be the high priest who would atone for the sins of the world (53:4-12). The servant would deliver the world from the prison of sin. In the royal terminology of the ancient Near East "servant" meant something like "trusted envoy" or "confidential representative."
The book of Isaiah steadily moves towards the goal of the Lord’s kingdom on earth, with its righteous Ruler and his righteous subjects. Chapter 61, from which Jesus quotes, is referring to this goal.
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me