14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When 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, 17and 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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And 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. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
|Ruins of Sepphoris|
This week's lectionary reading in Luke's gospel finds us in Chapter 4. Jesus returns to the synagogue of his youth and reads from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. The passage he chooses may well have been written about Isaiah himself. Now, Jesus applies them to himself and they take on new meaning.
His focus will not be on the religious whom he sits among. His focus will be on the poor, those that are not full participants in their faith. Jesus will make them valued members of his faith and recipients of his all encompassing love.
He will seek those who cannot seek him: the captives, the blind, the oppressed. To them, he will proclaim the love of God.
He claims ownership of this passage and proclaims himself God's anointed. He does not claim to be the Messiah yet. This is the opening of his ministry. He is setting the stage for the revelation of divinity that is to come.
Why would he choose to make this proclamation in Nazareth? Nazareth, where he grew up, was a small village of Jews. However, Nazareth was adjacent to a new city, Sepphoris. Sepphoris had been rebuilt by Herod Antipas after it was destroyed by the Romans in 4 BCE. By the time of Jesus it was a bustling city whose population was much influenced by Rome. Perhaps Jesus intended for his words to go beyond the boundaries of Nazareth to Sepphoris.
Those that frequented the synagogue in Nazareth may well have frequented the ten synagogues in Sepphoris. Having grown up in the area and worked in Sepphoris, Jesus would know that what was said in Nazareth would spread to Sepphoris. In a subtle way, Jesus is announcing himself not just to Jews but also to Romans.
Jesus tells those that hear him that the world is changing, that a new force has entered into both the world of Jews and the world of the Romans. There is no fanfare, but God's good news is seeping into the world. Drop by drop hearts will be changed.