Luke 4: 18-19
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus returns to Nazareth not long after healing the nobleman’s son. We cannot be absolutely sure of the timing of this event; if Jesus returned to Nazareth it did not happen at the beginning of His Galilean ministry. So why did Luke place it here, not in chronological order? It may be to help people to understand the purpose of Jesus’ ministry, what kind of people He is intending to reach. It also pictures how He would be received – initially people would be glad but then many would reject Him. It is the same today.
Jesus returns to Nazareth, the place where He grew up and attended the synagogue regularly. Did He look forward to going home? We’re not told. But we’re told He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit and the news of this went out throughout the region (verse 14). Many ordinary people were greatly affected by His ministry – the news spread of His miracles and teachings. Luke is setting the scene. When Jesus left Nazareth He was unknown, now He had become widely known. He was very popular, everyone was speaking about Him.
On the Sabbath everyone went to the synagogue and read. Jews living outside of Jerusalem only went to the temple on special feast days. However, the synagogue was like our local church, the place where people attended on a regular basis. There would have been two scripture readings – one of law and one from the prophets, and a time of prayer and praise to God. Jesus was given the opportunity to give a reading. The attendant gave Him the book of Isaiah so He could read from that. He read from Isaiah 61. He would have read and then sat down, the congregation would stand. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Jesus, waiting for Him to start teaching once He had sat down (verse 21). Probably everyone was wondering what He was going to say. All were waiting for Him to speak. They were hoping He was going to be their Messiah. He had performed so many miracles, given great teachings. Was He the one they were waiting for? The Isaiah reading related to the Messiah. They waited expectantly.
Yet Jesus does not begin by reminding them of their golden days, of their past. Nor does He make promises about a better future to come. He spoke about that day, ‘today.’ Scripture would be fulfilled in their hearing. The focus is upon them – how they will receive this word. You can imagine them whispering how good it was. Their initial response was they spoke well of Him and marvelled at His words. They recognised Him as Joseph’s son. But Jesus knew deep down what they were thinking (verse 23). Their expectation of Him being their Messiah was that He should do more miracles in Nazareth than anywhere else – they would have special privileges because He was from their hometown. But Jesus also revealed a prophet is not received in their hometown (verse 24), giving the examples of Elisha and Elijah.
God is sovereign. He can choose who He will save. He will show mercy to whom He likes. That may include Jews, it may include Gentiles. The people then became angry. They tried to kill Him by taking Him out of the village to throw Him off a precipice. He walked away. Whether He returned to Nazareth we’re not told.
The initial amazement and enthusiasm was followed by rejection. How often is this repeated throughout scripture? We see it in the rich young ruler who ran to Jesus asking what he could do to inherit eternal life, but he later walked away sad because he didn’t hear what he wanted to hear.
This is not always the case, some do go on to receive salvation. How is it some follow Him? Verse 18 answers this, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Jesus’ purpose, His mission – He’s been anointed to preach to them. Jesus came for the poor, the broken-hearted, the captive, the oppressed. He spoke to everyone but only certain kinds of people would follow Him. Who are the broken-hearted, who are the blind, the captives? It’s easy to think they are the people who were physically healed by the presence of Him. This is not the case. The Bible not only refers to people who have no money but also those who are looked down on in society, those who are seen to be humble.
The broken-hearted are those who have been through some crisis. The heart is the seat of emotion. The term relates to spiritual, not physical. The blind see and understand things of God. These people recognise sin has come into this world and affected this world. It has affected their own lives too. Others in the world may not see that. They recognise that they have been brought low, maybe through a series of events. They see themselves having no worth. They recognise God has brought them to a point when they see themselves as sinners. Their lives are filled with sadness, broken lives filled with sin. They are glad to hear the gospel and come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus didn’t come to walk around Galilee to see, talk and heal people for temporary help. His ministry is far greater. He has come to restore people to God, to give people eternal life. This is the good news! The Lord came not only to those who need to be saved but also to those who have back-slidden. Friends, here is a wonderful message. May this be an encouragement to turn to Him and keep following Him.