To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 4:19-5:4; Lk4:14-22
This text contains the first public appearance of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. This occurs in a synagogue in which Jesus announces the coming of the kingdom of God and all that it entails by reading from the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit plays an important role in the Gospel of Luke and so at the beginning of his public ministry Jesus is led by the Spirit and begins teaching in the synagogues and wins the approval of all people.
In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus chooses the text from Isa 61:1 and 58:6. He would have read standing up and taught sitting down. While the reading would have been from the Hebrew text, the interpretation/teaching would have been in Aramaic. The Lucan Jesus omits the reference in Isaiah “to bind the broken-hearted” and adds instead from Isa 58:6 “to let the oppressed go free”. He also omits and significantly “and the day of vengeance of our God” found in Isa 61:2. The result of these omissions and addition is that the mission and vision of Jesus becomes a very practical and tangible one and not one that is merely psychological or spiritual. It is an all inclusive mission which has its priority the poor. Jesus’ ministry signalled that the time for the liberation of the impoverished and oppressed had come, and in that respect at least his work would fulfil the ideal and the social concern of the Jubilee year.
Jesus’ first words after the reading are electric. He announces that the centuries of waiting on God’s blessing have ended: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The words from Isaiah spoke of an anointing by the Spirit, the work of a prophet, and dramatic signs of God’s redemption. The townspeople had heard reports of Jesus’ teaching elsewhere and might reasonably have expected that if he was a prophet endowed by the Spirit of God he would favour his hometown with his mightiest works. Thus they would share in the fame of the prophet from Nazareth so that no longer would anyone be able to say (however wrongly) that there were no prophets from Galilee (John 7:52). In short, they heard Jesus’ declaration of fulfilment as a promise of special favour for his own people and his “hometown”
As confirmation of the crowd’s initial enthusiasm for Jesus’ announcement, Luke reports that they bore witness to him and marvelled at the “gracious words” he spoke. Luke is depicting a positive response to Jesus based on the content of Jesus’ proclamation. If the people find him eloquent it is because they are pleased by what he has said.
By placing this text at the beginning of his Gospel Luke makes clear what the Mission of Jesus will be about not only throughout the Gospel, but even after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The summary of the Mission statement of Jesus is that the “good news” of God’s graciousness is preached primarily to the poor. This news is not merely a verbal proclamation but one that includes actions of healing and making whole. Every kind of limitation that a person experiences, whether economic, physical, psychological, or spiritual is addressed by Jesus. Indeed, Jesus addresses not just one aspect of a person’s life but the whole person and the whole life.