Luke 4:14-21

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When 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, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 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. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, fresh from the wilderness, heads home.

This movement – from wilderness back home – is a recurrent theme in the Hebrew scriptures. It is a reversal from the creation story where Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise into the wilderness. Abraham travels through the wilderness to a new home. The people journey through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land. The refugees from Babylon begin the long walk home once freed by the victory of the Persians. In fact, most of the Hebrew scriptures were written before/during/after such tumultuous times. Especially, like the words that Jesus today recites from Isaiah, after the Babylonian Exile.

Jesus, digging deeply into the origins of this promise/hope, tells the people that “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus announces that the time for liberation has come. This is his purpose. This is his job description. If you want to know what Jesus was always about, start here.

What would constitute good news to the poor? How about enough food to eat, a place to live, clothes to wear, an education for their children, anything beyond the constant stress and worry about barely holding on to life.

Release to the captives? A legal system that goes beyond laws and reaches for justice for all.

Recovery of sight to the blind? A health care system available to everyone for the physically ill and an intellectual environment focused on facts, on truth, for those who refuse to see.

Let the oppressed go free? A shared life based on seeking the common good rather than protecting a privileged life dependent on the subservience of a poorly treated underclass.

The fulfillment that Jesus seeks is not a pie-in-the-sky spirituality unmoored from the daily lives of people. It is just the opposite. It is a new relationship among people who, together, covenant to live within the boundaries of the will of God for freedom, liberation, justice, and peace for all people.

Tomorrow we will find out how this vision goes over with the folks from Jesus’ hometown.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you know that the wilderness is wherever people struggle to hold on to life. The wilderness within – hunger, homelessness, addiction, constant war, physical illness, hopelessness, despair – weighs upon us. We pray for continued vigilance and willingness to seek freedom for all. Guide us on the journey from the wilderness back home. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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