14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.
15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,
17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In Luke’s Gospel Jesus’ public ministry begins with this Proclamation from Isaiah. When Jesus states, "This is fulfilled in your hearing." For Luke, Jesus is the fulfillment proclamation. From the first chapter, Luke’s gospel has many spirit filled proclamation experiences such as those of Zachariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Simeon. These proclamations point to Jesus as the embodiment of God’s Spirit. There is great expectation for who Jesus is and what his ministry will be.
As we look closer at the specific text Jesus reads from Isaiah, we should note this is one of the few glimpses in the Gospel readings that describe what happens in Jewish worship. One of the commentaries notes that most people within the Jewish community spoke Aramaic, while Hebrew was reserved for public reading and worship. The tradition of reading from scripture followed by an interpretation or reflection developed. This of course is why we also have Sermons on Sunday morning.,
Back to the Isaiah reading: This reading comes from Isaiah 61 and speaks of freedom for the poor and imprisoned and the coming of the year of the Lord’s favor. Jews would recognize this verse not only as a promise to Israel when they were in exile in Babylon, but also the year of Jubilee from Leviticus. Every fifty years, all debt was to be forgiven, slaves were to go free and economic restitution was to be implemented. Throughout the Bible it is unclear if the people of Israel ever actually followed or implemented what was commanded in Leviticus to fulfill this year of Jubilee.
Therefore, as Jesus reads this verse and announces its fulfillment there are a lot of great expectations and excitement. The blind will see, the prisoners will be free, poor will have dignity. This is great news, especially for a people who feel oppressed by Rome during Jesus’ present era.
Of course Jesus has more to say and it will flip the expectations of all the people in his hometown of Nazareth, but I will save that for next week. In the mean time, what are your expectations for what Salvation means? Who are the prisoners, the poor, and the blind? Who are and who are not included in your list?
Have a Blessed Sunday!
Pastor Mark Molter