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Luke 4:14-21

Fulfilled Today in your Hearing

What a dramatic and amazing way to begin a ministry!! Jesus had just returned to Nazareth, his home town, after being baptized by John in the Jordan River. It was Jesus’ custom to go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath day and this Sabbath was no exception. He had been there on a regular basis in the past, so the other regular attenders must not have been surprised to see him there again. But something seemed different about him on this day.

News was spreading about Jesus in the entire region and the buzz preceded him to the Synagogue. While he was there, someone handed him a scroll and Jesus turned to the prophecy of Isaiah. The reading began with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Indeed the Spirit of the Lord had just literally descend on him as the Holy Spirit in the bodily form of a dove (3:22). The Father was well pleased with him, the Son of God. So right from the first phrase of the passage, we see its fulfillment in Jesus.

What do we learn about the ministry of Jesus from the prophecy of Isaiah? The prophecy of Isaiah spoke of an up-side-down kingdom which would make right the wrongs of a rebellious creation. The systems of the world created victims, the ministry of the anointed one would offer healing and salvation to all, starting with the last and the least. Jesus’ ministry was to be about setting things right; encouraging the discouraged, bringing restoration to that which was lost, freeing up that which was bound, lifting that which was put down, and proclaiming that God is for us and not against us.

The words of Isaiah lingered for centuries as an unfulfilled prophecy waiting for the day that these words would be be realized. Jesus boldly declared that today was that day, right in the presence of those people in the Synagogue. It is difficult to understand how those in the Synagogue received the words of Jesus that day. Maybe they anticipated something when Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah. Maybe it was the way Jesus spoke, or a growing realization that there was something different, special about who he was. Maybe the realization came in that pregnant moment when the eyes of all in the Synagogue were fixed on him as he handed the scroll back to the attendant. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

This was indeed a milestone moment in the history of the world as well as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. These words set the scope and direction of how he would serve and anchored his ministry in the plight and destiny of the poor and downcast. In fact, the words of Isaiah became a sort of ministry description to launch Jesus’ ministry and shape and season the entirety of his ministry.

It is interesting also to get a glimpse into the spiritual practice and discipline of Jesus out of which this ministry milestone emerged. He was empowered by the Spirit (v. 14). He was in the habit of being in the Synagogue on the Sabbath (v. 16). And he was deeply rooted in Scripture (vrs. 18-19). The rhythm of these practices was the firm foundation on which the milestone could emerge and be erected.

All spoke well of him and marveled at his gracious words (v. 22). And then, in the 7 short verses following this passage, the response of the people toward Jesus drastically changed. Jesus began to challenge their understanding and expectation of him, and very quickly those who were just praising him desired to throw him off the cliff (v. 29).

For the young minister facing opposition in ministry, take heart!! Jesus has been there too! His investment in regular spiritual practices and disciplines resulted in milestones which anchored his ministry.

Questions for Reflection and Sermon Preparation

  1. What milestones have you received which anchor the shape and direction of your ministry?

2. What are the spiritual practices and disciplines you are accustomed to doing which posture you to receive milestones for your ministry?

3. What does Jesus’ ministry description mean for us as we carry on as Christ’s body on earth?

4. How is our presence in our communities good news for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed?

5. What would a ministry of announcing the Lord’s favor look like in your community?