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Luke 4:14-30

Lesson Focus As Jesus begins his earthly mission, he calls us to join him in proclaiming his Good News to those whom we might think shouldn’t receive it.

Lesson Outcomes Through this lesson, students should:

  1. Understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s Old Testament hope for a Messiah.

  2. Understand that Jesus’ mission is not just directed to those we might consider “in.”

  3. Discuss ways to extend God’s grace and Good News to those whom we consider outsiders.

Catching Up on the Story After Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism, we are given a genealogy that traces Jesus’ line back to Adam. We are told that Jesus is about 30 years old when he begins his public ministry. After his baptism, Jesus does not jump right into his ministry but first heads out into the wilderness, where he spends the next 40 days fasting. During those 40 days, he is tempted by the devil. Jesus passes each test and, by doing so, declares what type of Messiah he will be. All of the devil’s temptations are not toward things that we would name as pernicious evil but were offered as ways Jesus might misuse his Godly power to attain glory for himself. These temptations are temptations to power. Jesus, by resisting these temptations, will be a Messiah whose reign is not characterized by power, at least not as the world knows it, but by sacrifice and dependence on God.

Rock Star Status: Luke 6:14-15 As we begin to look at this next story in Luke’s Gospel, you will notice that Jesus moves from being praised by everyone to having to escape a homicidal mob in the span of just sixteen verses. Jesus, having passed his wilderness temptations, now moves back toward his home region of Galilee. So that we will not forget who this Jesus is and how he is empowered in his ministry, Luke tells us that Jesus is filled with the power of the Spirit. By noting that Jesus is filled with the power of the Spirit, Luke wants to stress for us that Jesus has, and will throughout the narrative, aligned himself entirely with the will of the Father.

As Jesus returns, he begins to teach in the synagogues in Galilee. The synagogue was the weekly gathering place of the Jews during this time. They would have gathered to read scripture together, hear an exposition of those scriptures, and engage in discussion about faithful living. Jesus’ Spirit-filled teaching spread throughout the surrounding country. Jesus is approaching rock star status.

Home, Sweet Home: Luke 4:16-22 As Jesus’ fame began to increase, it was inevitable that he would once again return to his hometown of Nazareth. It appears that while Jesus was growing up in Nazareth, he would attend the meeting at the synagogue each Sabbath. Upon his return home, Jesus resumes his usual custom and attends the meeting at the synagogue. Luke’s presentation of Jesus here gives us the impression that Jesus not only regularly attended the synagogue but that he was also no stranger to being one who read scripture and expounded upon it (Green, 209). At the outset, it appears to be just another regular Sabbath with Jesus at the synagogue. Luke also makes a case for Jesus being utterly orthodox in his Jewish faith.

There is little evidence of the normal order of service for a synagogue gathering at this time. Some believe that the gathering would have begun with private prayer on entry to the building by the worshippers. Then, there was a public confession of the Jewish faith in the Shema (Dt. 6:4–9; 11:13–21). This would have been followed by prayers, including the Tephillah and the Shemoneh Esreh. The center of the worship gathering would have been the reading of the Scriptures. First, a passage from the Pentateuch was read. This would have followed some prescribed order and would have been done by several members of the congregation in turn. An Aramaic paraphrase would have been offered, too, because Aramaic (a close linguistic relative of Hebrew) was the common language. A reading from the prophets would have followed this. Additionally, there would be more prayer and some teaching by a Rabbi if one was present (Marshall, 181).

While the text may indicate that Jesus was randomly handed the scroll that contained the writings of the prophet Isaiah, it is more likely that Jesus requested to read from that particular book. So, Jesus stands up, is handed the scroll he wished to read from, and begins to read.

The text that Jesus read is predominately from Isaiah 61:1-2, with a little of Isaiah 58:6 mixed in. The structure of the quotation is important as it indicates where the emphasis ought to lie. Our English translations fail to adequately represent this due to the difficulties with translating poetry from one language to another. Here’s what it should look like:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, For he has anointed me, To preach good news to the poor he has sent me; To proclaim for the captives release, And to the blind sight; To send forth the oppressed in release; To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Green’s translation, Green, 210)

Three things are emphasized when we look at the structure of the quotation in a way that more closely resembles the original. First, the personal pronoun “me” resides at the end of the first three lines and is emphasized. Jesus is placing himself within this text, declaring that he is the one on whom God’s Spirit rests, the one whom God has sent to be Messiah.

The second thing is the series of infinitives (to) highlighting Jesus’ mission. There is a primary infinitive clause, “To preach good news to the poor he has sent me.” This is Jesus’ primary mission, to bring good news, literally, the gospel. He brings it specifically to the “poor.” Here, poor does not just mean economic destitution. In Jesus’ day and culture, a person’s status within the community rested on several different elements.

These elements included education, gender, family heritage, religious purity, vocation, and economics. A significant deficiency in any one of these categories might have led a person to be considered on the margins of society. While “the poor” certainly carries economic connotations, it is much broader than that. Especially for Luke, the poor denoted anyone considered low status for any reason. Jesus’s primary mission to the poor is wide and varied and aims to heal people in a holistic manner (Green, 211).

The three following infinitives, “To proclaim for the captives release….” “To Send forth the oppressed in release….” “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor …” are all in support of Jesus’ central mission of proclaiming the good news. Here the third structural emphasis is noted: the idea of release. The idea of “release” in Luke’s Gospel has two standard meanings.

The first meaning deals with the release from sin or forgiveness of sin. The result is that Jesus is often portrayed as the one who brings forgiveness of sins. In the Jewish mind, forgiveness