Third Sunday after Epiphany
January 24, 2010 (Lectionary 3)
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19 (7)
1 Corinthains 12:12-31a
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.
Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring good news | to the poor, and to proclaim release | to the captives. Alleluia. (Luke 4:18)
1a. CONTEXT: Luke 4:14-21
This breaks into two unequal parts. Verses 14 and 15 serve as the introduction to the public ministry of Jesus. They are Luke's equivalent to Mark 1:14. Therefore, the opening verses are not to be regarded as simply a segue for Luke; they serve as a chapter heading for the next major section of the Gospel.
The second part of this reading is a related and programmatic . Its programmatic nature comes from its setting major themes for Luke. The , but not our reading, extends through verse 30. It speaks of Jesus' reception upon his return to Galilee. The shape of these verses is dependent upon what immediately precedes, the temptation in the wilderness. Only in Luke is Jesus full of the Holy Spirit when he enters the wilderness, and in the power of the Spirit when he returns. His resistance to temptation is a spirit-filled resistance which shows that he is not the Messiah which Judaism expected because he has, through the spirit, resisted every attribute of a Messiah. He has refused to be Moses, to be David and to be a Zealot. The spirit-filled Jesus is now prepared for an anointing because Luke has now redefined the word Messiah. This is the last instance in the Gospel in which Jesus is led by the Spirit. After his anointing Jesus functions on his own. The spirit will return in Acts as the prominent force leading the early church. But Jesus is now fully equipped.
This must also be read in conjunction with that which follows. Taken as a whole verses 16-30 prefigure the Palm Sunday story. In both place Jesus is hailed initially, but when he proclaims a Gospel other than that which the audience wishes to hear, he is rejected. In this story his time has not yet come and he is able to escape.
But these readings pave the way for a central Lucan theme, Jesus' rejection. From the beginning the people of are not prepared to accept his radical message of freedom from bondage and Satan rather than freedom from bondage to Rome. Luke is struggling throughout with the question of, why did the Jews reject their Messiah? The answer of course is that they were not looking for a Messiah that looked, sounded and behaved like Jesus. In his Gospel he must also redefine the concept of king for gentiles since Jesus' kingship is no less a radical reinterpretation of the concept for Gentiles than it is for Jews. Of course, Luke is forced to struggle with redefining the concept of Messiah because Jesus was crucified. Had Jesus died in some other fashion, then this process of redefinition would have been unnecessary. Jesus does not claim the title of Messiah for himself, it is hung on him at his death. But having died as the Messiah, Luke sets out to redefine the term to fit the attributes Jesus did claim for himself.
The quote from 61:1,2; 58:6 is Luke's creation. It perhaps serves to underscore the theme of rejection and resistance to change. 58:6 is a call for justice and righteousness, not fasting, as the appropriate response to one's own sin. It was not a popular message for the anonymous author of 58 and does not prove to be popular in Luke's setting.
1b. TEXT: Luke 4:14-21
14και υπεστρεψεν ο ιησους εν τη δυναμει του πνευματος εις την γαλιλαιαν. και φημη εξηλθεν καθ ολης της περιχωρου περι αυτου. 15και αυτος εδιδασκεν εν ταις συναγωγαις αυτων, δοξαζομενος υπο παντων. 16και ηλθεν εις ναζαρα, ου ην τεθραμμενος, και εισηλθεν κατα το ειωθος αυτω εν τη ημερα των σαββατων εις την συναγωγην, και ανεστη αναγνωναι. 17και επεδοθη αυτω βιβλιον του προφητου ησαιου, και αναπτυξας το βιβλιον ευρεν τον τοπον ου ην γεγραμμενον, 18πνευμα κυριου επ εμε, ου εινεκεν εχρισεν με ευαγγελισασθαι πτωχοις, απεσταλκεν με κηρυξαι αιχμαλωτοις αφεσιν και τυφλοις αναβλεψιν, αποστειλαι τεθραυσμενους εν αφεσει, 19κηρυξαι ενιαυτον κυριου δεκτον. 20και πτυξας το βιβλιον αποδους τω υπηρετη εκαθισεν: και παντων οι οφθαλμοι εν τη συναγωγη ησαν ατενιζοντες αυτω. 21ηρξατο δε λεγειν προς αυτους οτι σημερον πεπληρωται η γραφη αυτη εν τοις ωσιν υμων.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
Jesus Begins His Ministry
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and 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 proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles
2. ANALYSIS: LUKE 4:14-21
The conclusion of our reading at verse 21 is artificial. A more natural stopping place would be the inclusio formed by "Is not this Joseph's son?" which binds off the introductory comment "where he had been brought up." As is, the reading implies that what Jesus has said will be acceptable . As the next reading illustrates, and as we can anticipate, it will not be.
The reading from is loaded. The audience heard it and knew themselves to be poor, captive and oppressed. They were taxed by Rome, occupied by a foreign power, and forced to obey pagans. Their initial reaction would have been one of support for Jesus' message. But it becomes obvious that the initial message is not the heart of Jesus' message.
Instead, seeing the position of this story as being influenced by a theme similar to that of the temptation story, we must read the references to poor, captive, blind and oppressed as references to being in bondage to Satan, not to Rome.
By this time in Intertestatmental Judaism
aphesis as forgiveness and release from Satan, not Rome, is also consistent with Luke's understanding of Jesus' mission as stated in Acts 10:36-38. Thus Luke depicts Jesus as standing before a group anxious to hear words of rebellion against Rome, instead hearing words exhorting them to be free from Satan. They were stunned, then angered.
3. STRATEGY: Luke 4:14-21
The temptation for preachers, confronted with the reality that poor means "poor in spirit " is to preach ONLY about poverty in spirit, but this would not be true to the text. The Gospel has a preferential option for the poor, not because the poor are holier than others, but because the poor know that they can depend upon nothing other than God. This realization of absolute dependency led to the development of poor as meaning "poor in spirit." We are surrounded by examples of the poor in spirit, and those who are both poor in spirit and simply poor. It is no less true today that it was in the first century, that people are more than willing to be freed from the bondage they know about and identify, but do not wish to be free from bondages they find attractive. We each have our Rome we wish to be set free from, but often it is not the major problem. This passage provides the preacher with the opportunity to pave the way to Easter. Here we begin the process of misunderstanding Jesus and in that process participate in crucifying him along with those who in the first century actually did the deed.
The temptation which Jesus resisted was to interfere in the world and to take away our individuality, our ability to make decisions and to be important. The call which this passage presents us with is a call to recognize that we are on the journey to freedom and to finding ourselves. We are on the way to being empowered. It is much easier to not empower the poor, be they poor in spirit or in fact. It is much easier simply to take care of the poor and hope that they will be grateful. But the biblical model is to empower. That is, to set free the chains which bind and to take part in the acceptable year of the Lord.
Each week in Epiphany another aspect of God revealed in Christ makes itself known. This week emphasizes that God is on our side in the struggle against evil. The question is, are we on His?
4. REFERENCES: Luke 4:14-21
Juel, Donald. LUKE-ACTS, THE PROMISE OF HISTORY. Atlanta: Knox Press, 1983.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 4:14-21
Some appointed hymns for this day include the following:
LOOK FROM YOUR SPHERE OF ENDLESS DAY (LBW 402)
O GOD OF LIGHT, YOUR WORD, A LAMP UNFAILING (LBW 237)
HAIL TO THE LORD'S ANOINTED (LBW 380, HB 616)
THANKS TO GOD, WHOSE WORD WAS SPOKEN (HB 630)
WORD OF GOD, COME DOWN ON EARTH (HB 633)
GOD HAS SPOKEN TO HIS PEOPLE (HB 536)
GOD HAS SPOKEN BY HIS PROPHETS (LBW 238)
Of these, perhaps the most interesting is Willard Jabusch's modern interpretation of an old theme, set to a Hasidic Torah song (Yisrael V'oraita) by Richard Proulx. Since the text deals in some ways with the response to Jesus by his own people, this could be an occasion to make mention of Jewish-Christian relations and to point out that the gospel is not consistent with anti-Semitism. Perhaps it would be possible to have a church-synagogue exchange or at least have an opportunity for members of two congregations to interact or attend one another's services. Such programs, begun modestly in very small and even dwindling congregations have made a profound difference in communities where they are encouraged. Perhaps this would be the time to begin planning other opportunities for Jewish-Christian understanding during the coming Paschal season as well.
Conversion of Paul
January 25, 2010
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends
Psalm 67 (3)
Prayer of the Day
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant that we may follow his example and be witnesses to the truth of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. This Jesus | God raised up,
and of that all of | us are witnesses. Alleluia. (Acts 2:32)
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