Read Luke 4:14-21
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The Sovereign LORD will show His justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise Him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.” (Isaiah 61:11 NLT)
Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known to me as “The Christian Manifesto”.
Part 1, Spirit-Filled: While Luke does not go into detail about what Jesus was doing or saying upon returning to Galilee, it is important to note that following the wilderness trial, Jesus returns to Galilee. This is the region his hometown was in and so it was a region very familiar to Jesus. It is often the case that we return to what is familiar to us to begin our lives, even if that is not where we end up in the end. This is certainly the case for Jesus as well. What was important to Luke to note was that the Jesus who came back into Galilee was different from the Jesus who left Galilee to get bapitzed. There was just something different about him. This carpenter from Nazareth began teaching in the synagogues and was making a name for himself around the region, so much so that no doubt the people in his hometown would have heard the news. In fact, the first thing Jesus did when he arrived at his hometown was go to the synagogue to teach, and people seemingly gathered there to listen to him.
This opening to the passage serves two purposes. The first is that it is a preface to us on what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In today’s culture, we live in a time where, for many, being Christians means becoming the bastians of “traditional values”. We live in a time where being “born again”, for many, means that they said the sinner’s prayer and accepted Jesus, which ultimately became a part of the “in” club…where “in” means “in heaven” and everyone else is left out. Yet, when we take care to notice what a “born again” (if you will humor me on this) and Spirit-filled Jesus looks like, what we see is someone who is transformed. He no longer is a carpenter; rather, he is a teacher and miracle worker. He is no longer a builder of houses; rather, he the messiah and the builder of God’s Kingdom. He no longer is a small-town guy who isn’t noticed by anybody; rather he is someone who now garners much attenion. What’s more, he doesn’t go into the synagogue to uphold traditional values and claim his acceptance in the “in” club; rather, he goes in to open the eyes of those who thought they alread saw and knew, and he was now claiming that those were excluded and a part of the “out” club were now the ones who were being included.
Second, as we will see in this upcoming series, this is a passage that is not just to open the eyes of the people in the synagogue, it is also meant to open the eyes and instruct the lives of those who read it. Jesus takes the words of the prophet Isaiah and transforms them. As we will see, Jesus reads them in a way that reframes them and sets forth a manifesto for all Christians throughout all of the ages. It is in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, where Jesus shows the world what being filled-with God’s Holy Spirit and authority leads to. It is in the synagogue where Jesus lays out what following him, the Messiah, the Son of God actually means. In Jesus’ manifesto, and in his life and teachings, he makes it clear that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him and, by extension, is upon us. That through him and his anointing as the Christ, we are called to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to bring sight to the blind, to bring freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God. I pray you reflect on that and, hopefully, our eyes and our hearts will be opened together as to what Christ means by “the poor”, “the captive”, “the blind”, “the oppressed” and the coming of “God’s favor”, as well as what Christ is calling us to do about it.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Christianity is not a set of passive beliefs; rather, it is the very path on which believers live out the life and teachings of the Christ.
Lord, illumine my path so that I may see clearly the way in which you are calling me to follow. Amen.