Be still and rest in the Lord.
“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.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Jesus may have started his sermon by tickling the ears of his listeners. This would explain why they were initially amazed by Jesus’ gracious words. Isaiah 61 was a text that celebrated God’s faithfulness to the Jews. It seems like a hard text to get people upset, but something happened during the course of the sermon that turned the listeners away from Jesus.
We do not know exactly what Jesus said, but the ensuing conversation seems to imply that Jesus hurt their pride. The Jews were understood to be the chosen people of God. They were to be the light to all nations. God established Israel as God’s servant to bring the year of the Lord’s favor to the world. While we understand Isaiah 61 as a Messianic passage, the Jews interpreted the text as the nation of Israel being the servant who would perform these gracious works of God. I believe it is at this point in Jesus’s exposition that things turned ugly.
When Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It could be that Jesus looked at his fellow Jews and meant something like, “You have failed your end of the covenant. Your worship does not honor God. You are so concerned with being Jewish and being God’s chosen people that you have forgotten those in the greatest need. You have no care for the poor or the prisoner; you hate the Romans and other Gentiles. You have been swayed from the mission that God gave you to perform. Where you have failed God, I will be faithful. God gave this mission, and I will fulfill it. Serving God is my mission.”
God, help us to be your servants. Help us to see the oppressed and the prisoner. Give us boldness to proclaim freedom to all those we may consider beneath us. Amen
Go with God!