Bible Study January 14 for Worship January 27Posted: January 13, 2013
Bible Study January 14 for Worship January 27
Luke 4: 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country.
15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read;
17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
According to Luke Jesus went back to Nazareth with some of his disciples after beginning his ministry. How long had he been absent? Luke doesn’t tell us. Had he taken up residence in Capernaum? Luke doesn’t tell us. Had his family already come to Capernaum to try to bring him home? Luke doesn’t tell us. So for our reading of the text today let’s make some assumptions. Jesus had left Nazareth and the carpenter’s shop to go follow John the Baptist for a while. After his baptism, he went into the wilderness for a time to explore within himself the meaning of messiahship. All of the temptations in the wilderness point to a struggle concerning what kind of leader/teacher would he become.
Sometime before or while he was in the wilderness or not too long after he came out of the wilderness John the Baptist was arrested. (It makes some sense that John’s arrest may have prompted Jesus’ departure into the wilderness. Sort of a get out of Dodge move.) So Jesus returned from Galilee but went to Capernaum, because there are fishermen with whom he had made friends while following John. The fishermen were in a rebellious mood, because of Herod’s new taxes and the regulation of the fishing industry that was squeezing all of the profits.. Jesus began preaching, teaching, healing and eating with people, all kinds of people. News of his ministry reached Nazareth, and his relatives sent a delegation to try to bring him home to care for his mother. Jesus rejected his relatives.
Jesus then began traveling around Galilee and made a stop in the synagogue at Nazareth. So far from occurring at the very beginning of his ministry the scene in our gospel lesson may have been much later than it appears here in Luke.
The people of Jesus’ home village had heard rumor of his ministry, so they were anxious to hear how would Jesus address them? Jesus turned to the prophet Isaiah and read a provocative and revolutionary passage that closed with the proclamation that the acceptable year of the Lord has indeed arrived, and the fulfillment of the prophet’s vision was in their hearing? That was radical stuff.
The prophet Isaiah was celebrating the release of the Jewish captives from slavery in Babylon. Cyrus the Great had conquered Babylon and the more enlightened approach of the Persian Empire was to allow subject peoples to return to their homelands, worship as they pleased, and in local matters govern themselves. They owed allegiance and taxes to the Persian Empire, but otherwise they are sort of left alone. For the Jews, who had been beat up by one conquering empire after another this was about the best they could hope for – relative peace and prosperity and the freedom to be themselves. In fact Persian rule was so benign for the Jews, many, many Jews remained in Persia into the modern era. The Babylonian Talmud was considered to be more authoritative than the Jerusalem Talmud.
The netzer clan that settled Nazareth did not return from Babylon until about 100 BCE, several years after the Jews had won their independence from the Selucid Empire. Jesus people had been returned to Israel less than 100 years before Jesus was born, and while Nazareth was a Jewish village, only a few miles away was the cosmopolitan City of Sepphoris with Jews living along side of Gentiles.
As we try to understand our scripture it is probably worth a look at the entire chapter 61 of Isaiah :
61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
5 Aliens shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
6 but you shall be called the priests of the LORD, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.
7 Instead of your shame you shall have a double portion, instead of dishonor you shall rejoice in your lot; therefore in your land you shall possess a double portion; yours shall be everlasting joy.
8 For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
We can speculate whether or not Jesus read the entire chapter that certainly speaks of a brighter fairer day of justice than the Jews of Nazareth would have been experiencing under the oppression of Roman Occupation. It is hard to imagine that these words would have been heard as anything short of revolutionary.
Our scripture next week will deal with the crowd’s reaction, but just on the face of it, looking around even today we might say, “this Jesus is nuts.” If this is the acceptable year of the Lord, what gives? And indeed that is the very question we might ask ourselves. What gives Jesus? If the acceptable year of the Lord has arrived, why is there still war, why are school children gunned down in cold blood, why is unemployment persistently high? So the challenge that faces followers of Jesus even today is what is the Good News?
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. Where did Jesus return from?
2. Where did Jesus return to?
3. When Jesus returned what activities did he begin doing?
4. Where all did Jesus go before he came to Nazareth?
5. Where did Jesus go on the Sabbath?
6. How was the scripture chosen for Jesus to read?
7. What part of the scripture did Jesus read from?
8. After reading the scripture, what did Jesus do?
9. What did Jesus say about the scripture he read?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. How long do you think Jesus may have been absent from Nazareth, when he returned in this scripture?
2. Why do you think it was Jesus’ custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath?
3. Do you think Jesus was reading one of the appointed scriptures for the day, or did he specifically choose the passage from Isaiah?
4. Of whom was Isaiah speaking, when he wrote Isaiah 61?
5. How do you think people in the synagogue in Nazareth might have responded to the words of the prophet?
6. How do you think people in church in the 21st century can hear Isaiah 61?
7. What do you think the good news is?
8. How do you think the community of faith needs to present Isaiah 61 today?
9. What so you think is the mission of United Church?
Week of January 21 – January 27: Third Sunday After Epiphany – Luke 4:14-21 – Good News, Good Ways – Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Psalm 19, I Corinthians 12:12-31a.