Home is where the heart is
January 12 2001 by Ken Vandergiff , Luke 4:14-30

Home is where the heart is | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Home is where the heart is

By Ken Vandergiff Luke 4:14-30 Do you have a motto that you live by, a statement that provides direction to your actions and goals, that anchors you when life becomes hectic and confusing? Did you compose it for yourself or did you borrow from the wisdom of another? Plato's "Know thyself," Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist," or Robert F. Kennedy's "Some men look at the things that are and ask 'why?' I imagine things that can be and ask 'why not?'" are notable examples of mottos that express the essence of the individual's life and character. Our lesson focuses on a text that Jesus selected to define His ministry. We can say that it functioned as His motto.

While Matthew, Mark and Luke record this incident (Matt. 13:53-58; Mark 6:1- 6), Luke's account has two notable differences that point toward the importance of this text for Luke's story of Jesus. Matthew and Mark state that Jesus taught in the Nazareth synagogue, producing astonishment in the audience; only Luke records the content of Jesus' teaching, namely the quotation from Isaiah.

Second, Matthew and Mark place the incident later in Jesus' public ministry, while Luke sets it at the beginning. Commentators on Luke largely agree that this text is programmatic for Luke's gospel; Luke is telling his readers to interpret the rest of Jesus' actions in the light of this statement.

Defining life's direction (Luke 4:16-21) Although precise records are sparse, historians suggest that the first-century synagogue service included various prayers (such as the Shema, Deut. 6:4-9), a reading from the Torah, readings from the prophets and psalms, exposition of the readings, and the Aaronic blessing (Num. 6:24-26). Since laymen, under the direction of the synagogue ruler, often read publicly, Jesus' reading is not unusual. What is significant is His choice of texts - the Septuagint (Greek) translation of Isaiah 61:1-2.

Six centuries before Jesus, in the context of the Babylonian exile, God had raised up a prophet to announce good news to that oppressed generation. Now Jesus defines His role in the same way. His ministry brings good news to the poor (Luke 6:20; 7:22; 14:13; 16:19-20; 18:22) and recovery of sight to the blind (Luke 7:21; 18:35-43). The statements "to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, ... to release the oppressed" contain an instructive wordplay: "freedom" and "release" are the same word - aphesis - in the Greek text. The word often conveys a physical release from captivity, as it likely did in the original context of Isaiah 61:1. Aphesis is also used for forgiveness - release from sin. Both senses are important here. Jesus frees from sin; He also provides release from the many other kinds of bondage - physical, emotional, social, economic - that plague humankind. An unbalanced focus on either of these limits the fullness of Jesus' ministry.

The rest of the gospel clearly shows how these words gave direction to Jesus' life. His words also claim us. If we follow Him, we continue the life role He set, proclaiming good news to the poor and release to the oppressed. "Today," Jesus said, the good news is announced, not in some vague "someday." It may be unsettling to measure our churches and ourselves by these criteria, but such is the claim of Jesus upon us.

Opposition (Luke 4:22-30) Initial acceptance of Jesus (v. 22) quickly turns to rejection. The sense of the proverb in verse 23, "Physician, cure yourself," is unclear. The proverb seems to be an insult directed at Jesus, but such a change in tone does not fit well with verse 22. Some have suggested taking "yourself" as a general reference to Nazareth itself, which would fit the context but is an unnatural reading of the proverb.

In any case, Jesus challenges the "in-group" loyalty of His audience. They believe that, since Jesus did great works elsewhere, surely He will do even more in His hometown. Immediately He reminds them of Elijah and Elisha, whose great works benefited outsiders, non-Israelites (1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14).

Like Jesus' audience, we may still bristle when God's good news of acceptance goes to outsiders, to those who are "not our kind of people."

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1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergiff , Luke 4:14-30 | with 0 comments
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