This spring we’ve been exploring elements of justice as they might be explained through Jesus’ call to public ministry. We’ve seen how His baptism and His 40 days fasting in the wilderness prepared Him. Arriving at Luke 4, we see Jesus beginning to teach.
Jesus is traveling through Galilee, soon end up in His hometown of Nazareth. This is one of the stories mentioned in all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. Luke’s account is interesting because He’s bringing to light the social implications of Jesus’ message.
Jesus knows who He is: Luke 4:14-15
• Jesus is the Messiah—God’s chosen person to carry out the rescue mission for His people. After being baptized and tempted in the wilderness by Satan, Jesus becomes fairly certain it was time to go out and start this ministry and His life, miracles, and boldness in preaching are just a few ways He convinces people that He’s someone to be listened to.
• Luke says Jesus’ fame is growing. This isn’t really the type of thing I think Jesus cares about all that much, but people in Galilee certainly know who He is. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ reputation was so sterling that even before He started His ministry, preached a word from the Law, or performed a miracle, He was known around His hometown as the “The Perfect Man.” But it’s not only that people know who He is, it’s also because He’s bringing down the house with His preaching. But remember, He’s not yet made the claim that’s He’s the Messiah, but it’s coming…
Jesus understands His purpose: Luke 4:16-22
• Jesus is at a synagogue in Nazareth, and, as one of the rabbis there that day, He decides He wants to preach, which is a thing during the time of Jesus. If you want to say something, and you’re qualified, you get to talk. The attendant in charge of bringing out sections of Scripture approaches Jesus, and this would’ve been a huge spectacle, because there’s lots of reverence around the written scripture and the scrolls. And when Jesus decides He wants to preach, He was handed a scroll. He unrolls it and it’s Isaiah. He finds the part we’ve numbered 61:1,2 and He reads this:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”
• Jesus uses two words that set up the next part of his message: freedom & poor.
Freedom: this would’ve evoked a very specific emotion tied a very specific things that happens for the Israelites. This word would’ve caused people to think about The Year of Jubilee, which is a year in which all slaves are released, all debts are cancelled, any land that was sold was returned back to families. And all this is done to symbolize God’s justice and mercy. Jesus is inserting himself into the narrative, as God planned it. He lets the people who are listening know that He has come to set them free.
Poor: What would be good news if you were poor? That you have everything you need. Abundance, freedom, good health. Maybe your debts were cancelled, maybe your family got their land back…yeah, those same things. But who are the poor? Many of us think about material poverty when we hear the word poor applied to people. However, that’s not the full scope of the meaning of the word. The Jewish community listening that day would’ve thought of these things also: People of low social status, women, children, people with disabilities, the elderly, people of different ethnic groups, people who needed to be redeemed because they previously made bad life choices…I think most of us can relate to at least one of these categories.
• He reads this passage to them, then He rolls up the scroll, hands it to the attendant, sits down in front of them and everyone’s eyes are fixed on Him when he says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The people listening are floored. Their initial reaction is that this is clearly good news. This Jesus they’d heard about who was barnstorming Galilee with his powerful messages was inspiring them and things were going really well until someone said, “Hey man…isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Skepticism sweeps over the crowd.
• Jesus goes on in Luke 4 to say: “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
• Effectively, what Jesus has just done is make the statement that the justice is He has been sent to carry out will be, not only for Israel, but for everyone. And the people listening to this that day aren’t happy about what they’re hearing.
Jesus doesn’t let anyone or anything impede His mission: Luke 4:28-30
• Next, the people are so angry they run him out of the synagogue, to the edge of town where there’s a cliff with a steep dropoff and they want to throw Him off of it and try to kill Him.
• Somehow Jesus makes it out of this angry mob and just goes on His way. I don’t even know how He gets out of it. Does He shapeshift? Does He don a hood and moonwalk out of there? Man, I don’t know! But He makes it out. And I’m glad He did.
• Clearly Jesus knows and understands the purpose and vision for his life. And it makes me wonder if we truly know how God feels about us.
Do we know who we are?
Do we understand our purpose?
These can be difficult questions to answer when we think about our place in the world. I think the concept of purpose can be especially challenging because there’s so many things out there that can cloud our perspective. This passage can help us when considering these questions:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)
We are children of God; chosen, holy, and dearly loved. Our purpose is to glorify Him:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”
Die to self. Be the embodiment of sacrificial love and justice that Jesus exemplifies with His life and ultimately His death.
Message by Seth Millhoan, Lead Minister