CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: In Your Hearing
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
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
You have to give Jesus credit; that is the shortest sermon…ever.
We are told that "all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips." No wonder--if this happened today, many people would be grateful to get out of service in time for the game or for brunch before the Baptists get there. Now, some snarled, saying “isn’t this Joseph’s son?" as if that gives them permission to tune him out. They think they know him. They no doubt have stories of him as a child doing things children do. It is hard to grow up in the eyes of your hometown. And it can be tempting to discredit this walk-in teacher, this lay preacher who has no credentials, but there is something there. A way with words, a sense of timing, a wisdom beyond his young years. How often do they say, “He speaks as one with authority”? Little do they know….
Let’s step back a bit and look at where Jesus is coming from. Not long before he broke onto the scene, Jesus was one in the crowd. Like so many, he came to the waters of the river Jordan to be baptized by John. For others, this interaction promised forgiveness of sins. For Jesus, the waters of baptism meant something deeper. He was drawn to this moment, in humility, hope and anticipation that this would be the time. And it was. As he came up out of the water, the presence of the Holy Spirit shined upon him, and he heard the voice of his heavenly father, saying “You are my child, the beloved. In you I am well pleased.”
From that moment, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, first into the wilderness for fasting and prayer. While there, he faced his own personal temptations, the shadow side of the revelation of his baptism. He emerged from the experience with deep understanding of himself, of what to do and of what not to do, and with direction for where his life and passion would go.
And now, the Holy Spirit leads him back to Galilee, back to his homeland and people, to begin to proclaim that the moment is now: God is about to fulfill the promises that the faithful have held on to for generations.
Notice the way Jesus does this. He does not do it by proclaiming himself as the messiah and raising an army to overthrow the oppressors. Others have done that. He comes as a teacher, as a preacher. He draws inspiration, guidance and even authority from the words of the prophets and the ongoing story of God and God’s people. It is possible, when Jesus unrolled the scroll with the words from the prophet Isaiah, that Jesus had a moment of clarity. This is the way to do it.
Look at what Jesus does after this encounter with the words of the prophet Isaiah.
He brings good news to the poor. Indeed, these are the people with whom Jesus spends most of his time. He does not give his energy to trying to convert the rich and powerful to a new understanding of God’s priorities. They are often too invested in the kingdoms of this world to be open to living in God’s Kingdom.
He proclaims release to the captives. The radical way Jesus forgives sin liberates people from the bondage of things they have done and things done to them. It grants them permission to live in this moment, unencumbered by guilt and shame that keep them from loving unconditionally. Look at the face or watch the body of a person who has truly been forgiven. It is as if a great burden has been lifted from them. Like shackles that have fallen to the floor.
Jesus gives sight to the blind. He physically heals them. There are many stories of Jesus healing people who are blind, or lame, or sick, or diseased. Through his teaching, and his example, he seeks to open the eyes of people to see the world through new eyes, eyes of faith.
He lets the oppressed go free. He does this by leading them to the truth, by reminding them of who they are--made in the image of God. He calls them beloved children of God. Jesus knows that the beginning of the end of any form of oppression is to know that you are worthy of dignity and respect. “We are," as Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminded people frequently, “made for goodness.” Isn’t it amazing that the very words people need to hear to begin to live into freedom is the very message Jesus heard as he came out of the waters of baptism?
When Jesus reaches the line, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” he hands back the scroll and says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus brings us into the present moment and says now is the time. Now is the time to hear the good news, now is the time for the least among us to be heard, now is the time to forgive and be forgiven, now is the time to look around and see, to be healed in body, mind and spirit, and now is the time be set free from all that binds you, from all that oppresses you.
Even as we remember these words from long ago, it is still today. Today, if you hear the message of Jesus, know that this is God’s hope, God’s wish, God’s will for you: that you know you are a beloved child of God, worthy of dignity and respect. You are made for goodness.
The Rev. Canon Earnest Graham is a regional canon in the Diocese of North Carolina.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus