Our passage from Luke 4 this morning provides some important glimpses into Jesus’ life as well as his self-understanding. And one key to both Jesus’ life and mission is his anointing by the Holy Spirit, marking him as God’s chosen, Messianic servant, in fulfillment of the Scriptures—our Old Testament. In the previous chapter in Luke 3, Luke has told of Jesus’ baptism during which, as he was praying, “heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” So we have here a picture not only of Jesus’ identity but also of the three Persons of the Godhead confirming Jesus’ call as Messiah and his triune identity as a member of that Godhead. This is the first anointing of Jesus by the Spirit recorded for us by Luke.
Luke then provides Jesus’ genealogy demonstrating not only that Jesus was God but also that he was fully human. Now whereas Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1) traces back to Abraham whom God called to be the seed of a nation that would eventually become Israel, Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy not to the origin of the Jewish people but to the origin of all humans. Luke goes all the way back to “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (3:38). As we will continue to see in Luke, Jesus’ anointing would be as Messiah not only to the remnant—or true believers—among his own Jewish race but also to the entire human race, including the Gentiles, or non-Jews.
Next, in the passage immediately preceding ours this morning in the beginning of Luke 4, Luke presents Jesus in the wilderness for forty days being tempted by the devil. But before Jesus was tempted, we learn that he was “full of the Holy Spirit” and “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (v. 1). This is Jesus’ second anointing by the Holy Spirit. At the end of this time in the wilderness Jesus, the last Adam, is victorious in resisting three temptations by the devil—and this is unlike the first Adam from whom he descended who, along with Eve, succumbed to the serpent’s temptation. Sometime after Jesus’ temptation—and its important to notice that this wouldn’t be Satan’s last attempt at tempting Jesus for we’re told that after he had finished tempting Jesus the devil “left him until an opportune time” (v. 13)—Jesus returns to Galilee. Galilee is his home turf. It’s where his hometown, Nazareth, is located. This is akin to saying that Ipswich is in the county of Essex. And again it’s important to note that Luke states that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit.” This is Jesus’ third anointing.
Luke’s continuous mention of the Holy Spirit being upon Jesus is not incidental for the Scriptures foretold not only the coming of the Messiah but also the Spirit’s coming upon the Messiah marking him as God’s true servant. Listen to these words from Isaiah 11:1–3a: “1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Similarly in Isaiah 42:1 it states: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” Those in the synagogue with Jesus would have been familiar with this background. And Luke in a none-too-subtle fashion is making the point that Jesus is the promised Messiah for God’s promised Spirit has been put upon and rests upon him.
So as Jesus returns to Galilee, again he—as God’s anointed Messiah—does so in “the power of the Spirit.” Initially all is well. Jesus’ reputation precedes him for “news about him spread through the whole countryside” (v. 14). Not only that but, verse 15, “He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” So at least in the beginning of the recounted events, Jesus is popular. His good teaching and good works are acknowledged and recognized by those whom he taught in the synagogues.
Next, Luke tells us that Jesus “went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (v. 16). Scholars believe that Jesus had been teaching throughout Galilee for at least a year before he returned to his hometown of Nazareth. And as you know, the synagogue was where the Jewish congregation met for religious worship and instruction. It functioned in a manner similar to how a church now does—both synagogues and churches are comprised of gatherings of followers called out by God for worship and teaching. And it was Jesus’ custom to attend synagogue. If only we were as faithful in our church attendance as he was in his synagogue attendance! And, yes, in saying this I do realize that I’m preaching to the choir for we’re all gathered this morning for just such religious worship and instruction.
Well, that morning, Jesus was responsible for the Scripture reading much as Bob was responsible for reading this morning’s Scripture. So far, so good. Nothing unusual here. So Jesus “stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him” and he unrolled it. They didn’t have printed books in those days. The Scriptures would have been written by hand on scrolls that would be rolled up and stored until needed. Unrolling this scroll, Jesus turns to a passage in Isaiah 61:1–2a and reads the following: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Upon reading this passage, Jesus will make explicit what Luke has made implicit in his Gospel—namely that the anointing being spoken of is not by oil but by the Holy Spirit. Again three times Luke has noted the Spirit’s connection with Jesus: First at his baptism, next at his temptation, and finally when he returns to Galilee to teach throughout its synagogues. And as was the case as we considered Isaiah 62 last week, Isaiah 61 also comes from a section in Isaiah that extends from chapters 56–66 and tells of a promise and prophesy from the LORD of a future time of ultimate deliverance and judgment. During this future time of salvation all things will be renewed by God once and for all.
So Jesus’ Jewish audience in the synagogue would have heard these words in a way similar to how Isaiah’s audience would have heard them when he first proclaimed them—as a recording of a glorious future period in which God would deliver his people into his kingdom by means of his chosen servant. The “year of the Lord’s favor” would have been understood not as a calendar year but as a period of time during which salvation would be proclaimed. This would be the Messianic age when God’s chosen Messiah—or Christ—would come to deliver his people from all suffering and ills, both spiritual and physical. And again, given Israel’s history of being taken into exile—by Egypt, by Assyria, by Babylon—and even now in their dispersion, or Diaspora, throughout the Roman world and beyond, the Jewish believers in Jesus’ audience in this synagogue must have been longing for the fulfillment of these words from Isaiah 700 years in their past.
So think about it. The day about which Isaiah prophesied would be one in which God by his Spirit would anoint his chosen one to perform wonderful healing tasks. He would proclaim good news to the poor. He would proclaim freedom for the prisoners. He would proclaim recovery of sight to those who were blind—set the oppressed free—announce the year of the Lord’s favor, the arrival of the Lord’s salvation and kingdom. This future Messianic age would be a time of re-creation. This future period would be a glorious one in which people would begin to experience God’s shalom—his peace—his making right of everything that had gone wrong beginning with Adam and Eve’s disobedience at the time of the Fall.
After Jesus reads these words from Isaiah, he rolls the scroll back up, returns it to the attendant, and sits down. This would have been the custom at the time: to stand while reading the Scripture—a custom we continue to practice each Sunday as we read the Scripture—and to sit while teaching. And, we’re told in verse 20 “The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.” Can you feel the tension? You would have probably been able to hear a pin drop in the synagogue once Jesus sat down. All eyes were on him. And all of this anticipation builds up to a climax in Jesus’ declaration: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 20).
As already noted, Luke has prepared us for this climax by making clear previous to this account three mentions of the Holy Spirit being upon Jesus—again, at his baptism, temptation, and entering of Galilee. Previous to this account Luke has made clear that Jesus is God’s Messiah who is anointed by God’s Spirit. And the dots are connected for us as Jesus himself now indicates that he is the one concerning whom Isaiah prophesied. Today Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus.
When Jesus read these words from Isaiah he was making public what he already knew to be true—that he was not only Jesus, son of Joseph, the carpenter’s son, but he was also Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, God the King who had now come in the flesh to deliver and provide salvation for his people by ushering them into his Kingdom. He was announcing that he was not only Jesus, Mary’s son, but this day he was proclaiming that he was Jesus Christ, that is, Jesus the Christ; Jesus the Messiah who was sent by God to proclaim good news to the poor—and to the prisoners—and to the blind. He was Jesus the Christ who had come to proclaim the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy for now indeed was the year of the Lord’s favor; now indeed was the time of God’s salvation. And the resting of the Holy Spirit upon him confirmed his identity and call.
In looking beyond this morning’s passage, it’s worth noting that initially, at least, people accepted this statement from Jesus that Isaiah’s Scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing. In verse 22 we read “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” These words were so gracious that they even asked if this was really Joseph, the carpenter’s, son for Jesus was standing not on the authority and interpretation of the rabbis but upon his own interpretation and confirmation of Isaiah’s words. Yet Jesus’ real sermon came in what follows. He goes on to predict his future suffering on the cross when his own people would scoff at him saying, “Physician, heal yourself!” (verse 23) Jesus also makes clear that simply being Jewish does not mean one is automatically part of God’s chosen people. He points out that Elijah was sent not to widows in Israel but only to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon (vv. 25–26). Similarly, he says, Elisha didn’t heal those with leprosy in Israel, but he only healed Naaman, a Syrian, from leprosy (verse 27). Jesus’ point in all of this is that even in times of old, whenever those in Israel rejected God’s messenger and message of redemption, God would send his messenger to Gentiles who did receive his message even though they were not part of God’s initial chosen nation and people.
Luke highlights for us how Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, at whose birth even Gentiles—as represented by the Magi— acknowledged him as Lord, has come to save not only a remnant from Israel but any who will recognize, acknowledge, and proclaim him to be what he is—Savior and Lord of all peoples on earth. And the result of all of this is that “all the people in the synagogue”—the very people who had spoken well of him after he had merely read and not yet interpreted Isaiah’s words—now became “furious” going so far as to drive Jesus out of town with the intent of throwing him off a cliff (vv. 28–29). They, too, were rejecting God’s message and messenger as Israel had done in the past. So Jesus “walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (v. 30). And we can only assume it was miraculous that he went through unscathed. It wasn’t his time yet.
As we think about this morning’s passage, I think it’s easy for us to forget that because Jesus has come, we are no longer in period of waiting for Messiah, but are in a period of fulfillment. It’s easy for us to forget that Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, has come because we still have the poor among us; we still have prisoners needing to be set free; we still have those who are blind among us; we still have those who are oppressed. And because all of this is the case, we can forget that for us things have changed.
Things have changed because we have the good news of Jesus. We not only have the good news Jesus brings—as this has been recorded for us in the Scriptures—but we have the good news of Jesus himself. If we have acknowledged our sin and our need for Jesus and turned from our sin and turned to him not only as our Savior who delivers us from our sin and our need but also our Lord whose wisdom and guidance and discernment we seek that we may live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to him, then what more do we need?
If we have come to a saving faith and knowledge of Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, then we have found the pearl of great price for which we would gladly sell everything else we owned for the sake of owning it. For if we have given our lives over to serving not ourselves but Jesus Christ, that very Jesus now dwells in us by the Holy Spirit with which he has sealed us and united us to himself and who indwells us not only now but for all eternity. If we have given our lives to serving Jesus Christ, then we are now in Christ. He has now given us himself—his very life—by means of his indwelling Holy Spirit that we might never be separated from him by anything in this life or the next. If we have given our lives to serving Jesus Christ then even death is unable to separate us from his eternal love.
But, you may ask, what about those poor and prisoners and blind and oppressed who are still with us? Isn’t the fact that they are with us an indication that Messiah hasn’t come? This is a fair and important question but it loses sight of the fact that simply because Messiah has come, it doesn’t follow that suffering will automatically cease. When Jesus Christ lived on earth, he did care for the poor. He did set prisoners free. He did heal the blind. He did unbind the oppressed. And he did this not only at a physical level but also at a spiritual level. So he healed, for example, not only those who could not see physically but also those who could not see spiritually. With the coming of King Jesus came also his kingdom—his shalom—his peace—his beginning to make right everything that had gone wrong when Adam and Eve, our first parents, first disobeyed God.
But brothers and sisters, what is incredible to consider is that the means that God in Christ has determined to continue to expand his Kingdom influence until his final coming is by means of you and me. That’s right. He has determined to use we who ourselves may be struggling with being poor and who may have physical and spiritual limitations of our own and oppression of various kinds. We are the ones our Savior and Lord has determined to use to bring about his peace—his shalom. We are the ones our Savior and Lord has determined to use to bring about his new creation—to make things the way he intended them to be from the very beginning.
And, again, he has done this by giving us himself—by giving his Holy Spirit who now indwells us. And his Holy Spirit now continues to work in conjunction with both God’s Risen and written Word which he’s left for us that we might know and become the people he desires us to be. For ultimately God desires us to be like himself. Ultimately God desires us to be like Jesus. And the primary way we can learn what Jesus Christ is like is by reading the disclosure of himself he has left us in the Old and New Testaments.
So now there is a sense in which Isaiah 61’s prophecy which Jesus fulfilled can now also be fulfilled in us for we, too—because of Jesus Christ’s life and work—have been anointed by the Holy Spirit and we, too, in a completely derivative sense can know that: The Spirit of the Lord rests on us—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and we, too, can delight in the fear of the Lord. We, too, can seek to live our earthly lives in a manner that is pleasing to him for we have his Spirit—and we have his Word—and we have one another and now belong not only to our heavenly Father but also to each other.
This is one of the reasons why we encourage the sharing of prayer requests and needs. We don’t have to struggle and suffer in silence. God has given us each other to care for one another. But this is only possible if we share our concerns with one another.
Brothers and sisters, it’s my prayer today and always that we live in the truth that, broken vessels though we may be, God has deemed us worthy of living our lives for him. In our own small way, we can help those who are poor among us. We can bring God’s truth and light to help us through dark times. We can help carry each other’s burdens when we’re feeling oppressed. When we weep with those weep, we are doing God’s kingdom work. When we rejoice with those who rejoice, we are doing God’s kingdom work (Romans 12:15). When we are able to see and care for one another’s needs, we are continuing to reflect God’s kingdom—his shalom—his peace. We are accepting not the way that things are, but are helping to make them as they ought to be—as God intended them to be from the beginning. Today and always may God’s Kingdom come—may his will be done on earth as it is in heaven—to the praise of our loving and gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Let us pray….
 NIV study Bible indicates that “Probably all the events of Jn. 1:19–4:42 occurred between Lk. 4:13 and :14.”
 Also a small portion of Isaiah 58.
 Luke 23:39: One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”; Matthew 27:42: 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
 I Kings 17:1–15.
 II Kings 5:1–14.
 Matthew 13:44ff.