The Third Sunday after the Epiphany; Year C (1/24/2016)
Lessons:Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 (7) 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a St. Luke 4:14-21
Prayer of the Day: Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
4:14 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.”
St. Luke 4:14-21 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Today this Scripture Has Been Fulfilled
Imagine what it must have been like for the people of Nazareth on that day when Jesus returned to preach his first sermon in his hometown after the beginning of his public ministry. St. Luke tells the story in some detail — we’ll begin reading it this week, and finish next week. He has been traveling throughout Galilee to rave reviews. “Praised by everyone,” St. Luke tells us. No doubt his friends and neighbors have heard the news. Miracles, healings, Bible classes… the boy next door has clearly grown up and become a man — even a man of God, filled with the Spirit, if the reports coming in to Nazareth are accurate.
He makes his way to the synagogue on the Sabbath, as he did every week when growing up in Mary and Joseph’s home; as he does every week now as an adult. He stands up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah is handed to him, and he turns to the sixty-first chapter where Isaiah is speaking words of promise to the people of God who were being held captive in Babylonia. Isaiah describes himself as filled with God’s spirit, sent with good news for the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed. The year of God’s favor is at hand.
It is a powerful story for the people of Israel. Some six hundred years before Jesus was born the Babylonian army had destroyed Judah and Jerusalem, abducted their leading citizens, and most importantly: placed in jeopardy the promises God made to their ancestors Abraham and David. For nearly fifty years these faithful people waited in a foreign land, praying and hoping for God to send a Messiah who would set them free and restore them to their homeland. In time, God’s answer came. The year of God’s favor arrived. Cyrus of Persia rose up and conquered Babylon, and the Israelites were set free to return to the land of their ancestors. The year was 539 b.c., and for generations to come this story would serve as a reminder that God loves them dearly — a love that was on full display when their prayers were answered, and they were freed from their captivity.
Jesus finishes, and every eye is fixed on him. What will he say? How will he enlighten us about this ancient story? What will he teach us about the way God moved through Isaiah to give those people hope; the way God moved through Cyrus to give those people freedom? They have heard this text over and over. They have heard countless sermons about how God’s power and love, evident so many years earlier, continue to be with them in their own lives.
But then comes the shocker: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Today? Today is the year of God’s favor? Today the Spirit of God is moving? Today God has anointed someone to bring good news to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed? What in the world is Jesus talking about? Surely, he doesn’t think he is equal to Isaiah?
Jesus’ first sermon makes a bold statement about how he understands himself and his ministry. As he traveled around Galilee he was praised by everyone. But how will the people of his hometown receive this message? Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing?
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What must he people of Nazareth have thought about Jesus, who they’ve known since he was a child?
- What might they have been expecting to hear in his first sermon?
- What claim is Jesus making about himself in this story?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What role do God’s power and love play in my own life?
- How do I understand God, based on what I know about Jesus?
- How has Jesus set me free from what binds me?