“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked (4:18-22 NIV).
People look forward to special events, like birthdays and anniversaries or vacation trips. In our time, we look forward to the end of the pandemic and all its restrictions on social activity. Followers of Christ more importantly look forward to the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the next great event in God’s plan for his people. Come, Lord Jesus!
With this is mind, think back to Christ’s return to his hometown of Nazareth after the start of his public ministry in Judea and parts of Galilee. Everyone has anticipated what this former local carpenter but now preacher and doer of miraculous signs would say in their synagogue. Jesus has read from the opening lines of Isaiah 61. What would he say about them? Luke tells us two general things that Jesus said.
First, the Lord Jesus said that the Scripture he had just read had been fulfilled. This was an astounding claim for a man, even a prophet to make. Jesus claimed that what he was doing (his preaching and doing of signs and wonders) was the fulfillment of this Scripture! He asserted that this text was about him and his works. This was not the only time that Jesus told people that the Bible was a book about him (cf. John 5:39; Luke 24: 25-27; 44-48). But it was surely a shocking proclamation from a guy from their hometown.
They did not grasp the significance of Jesus’ message. Their minds went in a different direction, as the rest of this passage shows. They heard Jesus saying that he could do supernatural acts like healings, and they were prepared to accept that part of his message. And to see Jesus perform signs and wonders among them! However, the spiritual part of his message, that he could restore a person’s relationship with God, they totally missed. This is not unusual, even in our time. People love to hear that Jesus can get them out of their personal troubles. If a preacher promises healings and financial prosperity from Jesus, that Jesus will make their present life better, then people will flock to Jesus. But if a preacher declares that Jesus can meet a person’s spiritual and moral needs, that he can provide a new and secure relationship with the living God, that Jesus is concerned about an eternity living for the glory of God forever… well frankly, people aren’t too interested in those matters. So then, his hearers in Nazareth spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips….
Second, Jesus spoke gracious words. Here was the Son of God announcing to people that he had lived among that God was gracious. God freely welcomes alienated, oppressed, burdened, enslaved people to him. God rejoices when those in spiritual need come to him to have their needs met, to receive an eternal welcome from the King of the universe, to fill them with joy (Psalm 16:11). God is good; he enjoys being gracious to people who deserve wrath. The words of Christ Jesus are gracious words for people, for he reveals God to us. Are we glad for his gracious words? Do we praise God for his Son through whom the news of our salvation came?
The last line of the above text reveals that some of Jesus’ audience had their doubts about Jesus. They couldn’t see how Joseph’s son could do such things. They liked the sound of the words, but they couldn’t see how he could meet their expectations. The same is true for many who hover around the edges of true Christianity with its supernaturalism. Their attitude is “how can these things be real? They cannot since miracles can’t occur. And so they remain on the sidelines. But what of you? Will you trust in Jesus Christ who died and rose again that we may have true freedom?
Grace and peace,