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Setting & Meaning of Luke 4:21-30

This chapter starts with a newly baptized Jesus being lead by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days. After being tempted by the devil and successfully overcoming him, Jesus returns to his ministry in Galilee teaching and healing as he goes. After an undisclosed amount of time, Jesus finds himself in his home village of Nazareth where he takes his customary place in the synagogue on the sabbath to read from Hebrew scripture. Jesus recites passages from Isaiah 61 and 58 pointing towards the purpose of his incarnation. Verses 21 to 30 all takes place within the synagogue and document the congregation’s reaction to Jesus’ proclamation of fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah and his interpretation of what their reactions will be to the reality of who he is contrasted to the reputation and expectations that have preceded him.

Jesus comes to Nazareth with a history. He is Joseph’s son and is presumably known well by everyone in the village. Jesus also comes to Nazareth with a reputation and his village has certain preconceived expectations. The Nazarenes now know that Jesus is much more than a kind carpenter with an amazing knowledge of Hebrew scripture. His new reputation as a healer has preceded him. The Nazarenes expect Jesus to both prove that he is a healer – more than just “Joseph’s son” – and – given his healing abilities are true – to cure his village of all its physical ailments. They expect him to have favor upon his village folk, that they will become the focus of his healing “prophethood.” Jesus knows his home village better than they know him. He confronts their expectations head on.

The “year of the Lord” Jesus proclaims, the “good news” he shares, the “release” and healing he brings is not reserved for his friends and family. With Jesus it isn’t about who you know, it’s about faith and relationship with God without respect to what you might get out of it. If your continued relationship with God in Jesus is based off his continual outpouring of healing to your present condition, then it’s no relationship at all. Jesus meets you in the suffering and promises an eschatological liberation of healing. Healing in this present phase of God’s kingdom isn’t promised or necessarily God’s desire. God heals – and doesn’t – to best serve his purpose of humankind’s ultimate recreation through the coming kingdom of God in Christ. Jesus invites all the world into the in-breaking life of the Triune God. Not just his family, not just Nazarenes, not just Israel, but all of humankind. Jesus calls, but those who cannot stretch beyond their expectations rush to anger instead of humble assent to the will and love of God. In anger they ask the Son of God to leave and Jesus allows them their agency. “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.”

Works Referenced

Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Bovon, François, Helmut Koester, Christine M. Thomas, Donald S. Deer, and James E. Crouch. Luke. Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2002.

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

Keck, Leander E. The New Interpreter’s Bible: Luke - John. Abingdon Press, 1996.