“Nazareth’ has figured prominently in the Infancy Narratives of Luke, but Luke reminds us that it was where Jesus had been brought up. Jesus is faithful to the tradition he received from his fore fathers, and does not flout rules for the sake of flouting them. He is not an armchair critic. Standing to read was customary. While he taught, he would sit. There were many parts to the worship in a Jewish synagogue, and various people might have been asked to lead in reading or praying. Luke’s description of Jesus finding the place where the verses quoted from Isaiah occur probably means that Jesus himself chose this passage. The scriptures would be read in Hebrew and then interpreted in Aramaic. Jesus could have chosen a text which spoke about the glory of the Prophet, or about God’s Chosen One (see for example Isaiah 63), yet, he chooses a text where he will as Prophet and Chosen One spend himself in service.
The reading is from Isa 61,1-2a and 58,6. Luke, however, omits “to bind up the broken hearted of Isa 61,1 and adds from Isa 58,6, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed”. The threefold repetition of the pronoun “me” is an indication that this passage describes the ministry of Jesus rather than Isaiah. It is also important to note that Jesus in Luke does not go on to read the second part of Isaiah 61,2 “and the day of vengeance of our God.”
1. Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. The “poor” figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (see Lk 14,13.21; 16,20.22; 18,22; 21,3).
2. Jesus released persons from various forms of bondage and oppression: economic (the poor), physical (the lame, the crippled); political the condemned) and demonic.
3. The restoration of sight to the blind was closely associated with the prophetic vision of fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. When Jesus restores sight to the blind (Lk 7,21-22; 18,35) he is dramatically fulfilling the role of the one who would be “ a light for the nations” (Lk 2,32).
4. “the acceptable year of the Lord” In Isaiah, this term refers to the Jubilee year legislation in Lev. 25. Following a series of seven sevens (forty nine), the fiftieth year was to be a time of liberty (Lev 25,10). The coming of Jesus means that the liberation of the impoverished and oppressed had come.
Jesus followed the usual practice of rolling the scroll and giving it back to the attendant. The posture of sitting was the usual posture when teaching. (See how in Mt 5,1-2 when Jesus goes up to the mountain, he sits down before beginning to teach). Through his first words to the people in the synagogue, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”, Jesus conveys that the centuries of waiting on God’s blessing and promises have ended.
There is initial enthusiasm for Jesus’ announcement. This is a positive response to what he has said. They are happy because what they hear suits them. It fits in with their way of thinking. The question, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” need not be hostile, especially because earlier Luke reports that all spoke well of him. It might be paraphrased in this manner; who would have thought that someone who grew up in our village could reach so far?
Jesus interprets the crowd to say that he must begin in his own hometown what he has been doing in so many other places. They are ready to receive God’s blessing.
While this proverb, “Truly (Amen) I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” is also found in Matthew (13,57), Mark (6,4) and John (4,44), the form varies. Luke is the only one of the four who introduces the proverb with “Amen”. In Luke like in John, there is no exception clause (which is found in Matthew and Mark –“except in his own country and in his own (house”). Luke changes the word “honour” found in the other three forms and substitutes it with “accepted”. The word “hometown” can also mean “home country”, and anticipates the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth and also in the whole of Israel. The examples of Elijah and Elisha serve as a reminder that God’s blessings are not restricted to only a few but are available for all. Also the blessings will not be forced on anyone, but must be accepted with an open heart as gift. The passive verbs imply God’s direction: God closed the heavens (4,25), God sent Elijah (4,26) and God cleansed Naaman (4,27 see also 2 Kings 5,1-14).
At first Jesus had seemed to be promising them the blessings. He was saying what they wanted to hear. But now, he had said something different. He had woken them from their stupor. He had challenged them to get out of their complacency. He had taken them beyond boundaries and stereotypes, and had spoken about the graciousness and magnanimity of God’s unmerited blessing.
“went on his way” may be translated “he was going on”. Through this Luke makes clear that he does not want anyone to read that Jesus had a miraculous deliverance, but that Jesus would remain steadfast and resolute no matter what the consequences. Human power and objections could not come in the way of his mission to proclaim God’s justice and unconditional love.