Reflection on Luke 4: 14-21

Matthew and Luke both tell the story of Jesus, and both give more space given to Jesus’ teaching than there does Mark. Matthew begins with the Sermon on the Mount as a way of identifying the heart of Jesus teaching on how we should live, Luke records Jesus speaking from Isaiah (ch 61) to give a core to his ministry and what he is about (as we see in today’s reading).

Jesus has received the Holy Spirit in a very visible way at his baptism and now he says that the words of Isaiah in a special way are fulfilled by himself. This is only a section from the longer chapter. The chapter begins with the Temptations (which we will consider at the beginning of Lent). After he has read from Isaiah the people speak well of Jesus but, as we will see, what he goes on to say enrages the crowd. The chapter ends with him casting out demons and healing – doing what Isaiah says will happen.

For today maybe, we should focus on what this passage of Isaiah has to say and how it helps us understand the ministry of Jesus; this is about good news to needy people, to the poor, to the captive to the oppressed and more than that it is about a year of the Lord’s favour, a time when the people will find themselves in a good relationship to God.

There is a question whether we should read this as primarily metaphorical – are the blind those that have not got the eyes of faith, the captives those who are trapped in a depression or anxiety? – and whether we should see this as the goal when the Kingdom comes in its fulness, or see at least glimpses of this as we work for the coming of the Kingdom in its fulness.

We can reflect on what this means and meant for Jesus ministry, and that is important – he did not “just” come to die, what he did and said in his years of active ministry help us understand more about God and more about what God calls us to be and do. So it is important also to reflect on what this reading says to us, and we may feel that it says very little. I suggest however it should challenge how we are as a church together.

In what way(s) does our local church live out this manifesto? Or – if you prefer – what does it say about our church if nothing of this is visible in our church, if nothing we do and say reveals this promise? It is a challenge.

Jesus is the messenger and we take on that role now. Jesus also made a difference for good, and we should aspire to do so now. The church is not (at least it should not be) a quiet backwater of religious tranquility, though it should be a place of peace. The weary should find rest, the lonely should find love, the lost should feel they are found, the struggling should feel supported, and the church in the more affluent areas should also be resourcing Kingdom-work – justice – the alleviation of needs – in poorer parts.

Matthew and Luke may record different teaching but both make clear that we must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only”. This is a challenge, but it is also the foundation of our hope – God in Jesus will bring justice and freedom and the year of favour, especially to those who are blind, oppressed, captive, poor etc. This is what we pray for, this is what we work for, this is what we hope for, this is what we know will be for real when we are part of the Kingdom in all its glory.

Rev’d Peter Reiss