“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 liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to free those who are oppressed,”Luke 4:18.
Growing up under the parental guidance of Mary and Joseph, Jesus regularly attended the synagogue in Nazareth. There, the boy and, later, the young man participated in traditional worship services on the Sabbath, which were led by the ruler of the local synagogue. Typically, that order of worship included:
Songs (often from the Book of Psalms)
Prayers (some of which also came from the Psaltery)
Bible readings from the Law and the Prophets, which had been copied onto scrolls of parchment and safely stored during the week in a small room similar to a big closet
Homily or short sermon from the day’s readings
Blessing and dismissal from the Jewish priest
This order of worship and family routine went on, week after week, year after year, as Jesus faithfully attended worship service, occasionally standing up to read from Holy Scripture then sitting down to say a word about that reading.
But, did Jesus always do this?
Did He faithfully attend the worship service, regardless of how He felt?
Say, for instance, He had just spent 40 uncomfortable nights and 40 long days without food in the desert. Wouldn’t that make Him too tired and achy to sit on a stone bench for weekly worship?
What if He had been tempted in every way humanly and spiritually possible for almost 6 weeks? Wouldn’t He be too exhausted – mentally and spiritually – to think clearly, much less bring God’s wisdom and truth to other people?
And yet, after the 40 long days and nights of the Temptation in the Wilderness, which the fourth chapter of Luke also talks about, Jesus headed home and “as was His custom” went to worship at the synagogue in Nazareth where He had grown up.
Apparently, other Jewish worshipers had become accustomed to seeing the young man on the Sabbath and hearing Him read from Holy Scripture. So, when Jesus stood up to read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, no one tried to stop Him. Quite likely, they leaned forward on the benches lining the interior of the stone block building, so they could better hear.
As was their custom, the people listened and spoke well of Jesus and marveled at His words. So, when He stood up to read Isaiah 61:1-2, the people listened intently.
They waited as Jesus rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant.
They fixed their eyes on Jesus as He sat down to speak about the passage He had just read from the Book of Isaiah.
Then something totally unexpected happened. Jesus told the people, “Today these words you have just heard have been fulfilled.” (See Luke 4:21.)
It probably took the people a moment to realize what He had said. When they finally got it, they were not impressed. They were enraged!
Despite their reaction, Jesus tried to explain. He tried to teach the people. He tried to warn them, but they were too furious to listen. Not only did they cast Him out of the synagogue that day, they tried to throw Him off a cliff!
Since His time to die had not yet come, Jesus passed through their midst without getting hurt. But the words He left behind – the words He fulfilled that day – were proven true, again and again, throughout His ministry on earth.
After His death and resurrection, this same Spirit of the Lord came upon the church at Pentecost.
And the Holy, Eternal Spirit of the Almighty God cannot and does not die.
Today, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon two or more people who gather in Christ’s name (Matthew 18:20.)
Today, that Spirit empowers Christians to continue as Isaiah prophesized and as Jesus Christ taught and said and did:
Bring the Good News of God (Gospel) to the underprivileged, the lowly, the humble – whether they’re destitute or financially rich but poor in body, mind, or spirit.
Announce liberty. Broadcast freedom.
Open the eyes of those who have been blinded, whether by illness, fear, anger, resentment, false expectations, or something else that hinders sight, foresight, or insight.
Free the oppressed. Ease burdens.
And come together often as God asks us to do (Hebrews 10:25) and Jesus Himself regularly did: to sing, pray, listen, learn, and worship the Almighty God as one church body – the Body of Christ on earth.