Sunday, February 17, 2019

Epiphany 7C Readings & Commentaries


The middle portion of Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” speaks primarily of love and its requirements in deed, such as the love of enemy, the treatment of those among us who are poor, and the love of the stranger.

1st Reading:  Genesis 45:3-11, 15
Joseph, the next to the youngest of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob, was sold into slavery by his older brothers, who grew tired of his dreams of predominance over them, and the special treatment he received from their father.  Joseph ends up in Egypt, and, despite many trials, he ends up as chief steward of the land. When famine comes to the region, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain, where they must deal with Joseph, who eventually reveals his identity in today’s passage. Joseph does not seek revenge but takes the long view (see today’s psalm), that God has meant all that has happened for good, or, we might say, has used all that has happened for good.

45:3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’” 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
Psalm 37, one of the longer in the collection is a wisdom psalm, directed, perhaps, at those troubled by the continued presence of injustice in the world.  Do not be discouraged, the psalmist says, the appearance of wealth and power in this world is an illusion.  Trust in God, the psalmist says, acknowledging that this will require patience (v. 7).

1     Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
            do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
2     For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
            and like the green grass fade away.
3     Put your trust in the Lord and do good; *
            dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
4     Take delight in the Lord, *
            and he shall give you your hearts’ desire.
5     Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, *
            and he will bring it to pass.
6     He will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
            and your just dealing as the noonday.
7     Be still before the Lord *
            and wait patiently for him.
8     Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
            the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
9     Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
            do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
10   For evildoers shall be cut off, *
            but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land.
11   In a little while the wicked shall be no more; *
            you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
12   But the lowly shall possess the land; *
            they will delight in abundance of peace.
41   But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the Lord *
            he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
42   The Lord will help them and rescue them; *
            he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,
            because they seek refuge in him.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
As Paul continues his arguments regarding the resurrection, he tackles the difficult subject of, as we say in the creeds, “the resurrection of the body.”  Greek culture could grasp the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body was beyond the average Greek’s belief.  Paul’s argument is that there are many kinds of bodies, including spiritual bodies.  Earthly human flesh will be transformed.

15:35 Someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being;” the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Gospel Reading: Luke 6:27-38
The middle portion of Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” speaks primarily of love and its requirements in deed, such as the love of enemy, the treatment of those among us who are poor, and the love of the stranger.  When one practices this kind of love, judgment falls to the floor and forgiveness is raised as the highest of values.  Luke changes Matthew’s “Be perfect” to “Be merciful (v. 36). Perhaps they were simply using different collections of these sayings of Jesus, but it could also be that Luke understands the perfection of God to be shown most clear in the mercy of God.

6:27 Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2019.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. Go to our website for more information.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Epiphany 6C Readings & Commentaries


Our Gospel reading is the beginning of “The Sermon on the Plain” (as opposed to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew).

1st Reading:  Jeremiah 17:5-10
These words from Jeremiah are somewhat unique in the tradition of his book as they are more wisdom-like than prophetic.  The parallels to Psalm 1—itself in the wisdom tradition—are clear.  As is normal for wisdom literature, a simple choice is offered between the way of life with God or death trusting in one’s own strength.  Here the metaphors of a shrub in the desert and a tree flourishing by the water make the choice clear.

17:5 Thus says the Lord:  Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. 6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. 9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it? 10 I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm 1
Psalm 1 is about the (idealistic) contrasting fate of the righteous and the wicked.  As such it serves as a kind of preamble to the entire psalter, proclaiming one of the most basic themes of the psalms, that this is a moral universe that cannot be disregarded.

1     Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of
                            the wicked, *
            nor lingered in the way of sinners,
            nor sat in the seats of the scornful.
2     Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
            and they meditate on his law day and night.
3     They are like trees planted by streams of water,
       bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
            everything they do shall prosper.
4     It is not so with the wicked; *
            they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5     Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when
                            judgment comes, *
            nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6     For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
            but the way of the wicked is doomed.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Paul’s argument for the truth of the resurrection of the dead continues.  His argument is simple (even if his syntax is not).  We cannot proclaim Christ’s resurrection without also proclaiming the general resurrection.  The “first fruits” is an ancient biblical notion.  We bring always our first fruits (i.e., not what is left over) to God (see, for example, Exodus 23).  Here Paul is saying that the risen life is Christ’s offering of “first fruits,” on behalf of all humankind.

15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

Gospel Reading: Luke 6:17-26
Our Gospel reading is the beginning of “The Sermon on the Plain” (as opposed to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew).  Matthew’s sermon is 99 verses long; Luke’s only 37, with some of the material from Matthew moved to other settings.  Both start with beatitudes, but Luke’s are quite different.  They are more direct, not as spiritualized.  And they include “woes.” Both blessings and woes very much continue the theme of the Great Reversal from this Gospel.

6:17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. 20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2018.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. Got to our website for more details.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Epiphany 4C Readings & Commentaries


Love in 1 Cor 13 is “agape” in Greek, a particular kind of love that is hard to translate into English.  Sacrificial love, perhaps, or the old word “charity.”  It is love that bears all things for the other.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Our Old Testament reading is the call story of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is young when he receives it, and he shrinks back (who would not at the grand pronouncement God makes to him at the beginning?). The call stories of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel all contain a similar detail. The Word of God is placed in or on the mouth. Here with a touch, for Isaiah it is the hot burning coal, and for Ezekiel a scroll he is to eat. It symbolizes the internal presence of God’s word in the prophet’s life.  The six verbs of verse 10 are in many ways an outline of the Book of Jeremiah.  In regard to the rebellious nation, God will “pluck up, pull down, destroy and overthrown, and then (re-)build and plant.”

1:4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Psalm 71:1-6
These opening verses of Psalm 71 are an individual’s plea for refuge from enemies.  The familiar image of God as rock and tower (castle) are found here, but also, in verse 6, the image of God as midwife.  This image is hard to see in this translation; the NRSV translation is better:  “Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb…”

1     In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; *
            let me never be ashamed.
2     In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; *
            incline your ear to me and save me.
3     Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; *
            you are my crag and my stronghold.
4     Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, *
            from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.
5     For you are my hope, O Lord God, *
            my confidence since I was young.
6     I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
       from my mother’s womb you have been my strength; *
            my praise shall be always of you.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Is any passage of Scripture better known or more heard except perhaps Psalm 23? This is a beautiful passage—Paul at his best.  It is popularly read at weddings, but its original context and intent had nothing to do with marriage.  The Corinthians were a conflicted community.  Paul has been working at this from several angles ever since the letter began.  Finally, at the end of chapter 12, he says, “but strive for the greater gifts.”  Then love is revealed as the greatest of them all.  Love here is “agape” in Greek, a particular kind of love that is hard to translate into English.  Sacrificial love, perhaps, or the old word “charity.”  It is love that bears all things for the other.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Gospel Reading: Luke 4:21-30
We are joining a story in the middle with this reading. Jesus is in the synagogue in his hometown, Nazareth, and has read a passage from Isaiah about proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives…the year of the Lord’s favor.  He sits down, and then our reading begins this morning. His commentary on the reading is brief but provocative, in particular that word “today.”  Many take offense.  He seems to be acting more important than they “know” he is. Jesus rubs salt in the wound by talking about the acceptance by God of two Gentiles (see 1 Kings 17:8-16 & 2 Kings 5:1-14).  Jesus is questioning the “special relationship” they believed they had with God.

4:21 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2018.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution. Bulletin inserts are available. For more info go to our webite.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Epiphany 3C Readings & Commentaries

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue
Brooklyn Museum
Here we have Jesus participating in synagogue worship on the pattern of his ancestor Ezra.  

1st Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Our first reading is a portion of the report of the priest Ezra’s reading from the “Book of the Law” (probably the Torah) after the return from Exile in Babylon.  As the story goes on in chapters 9 and 10, the people engage in fasting and confession and renew the covenant with God.  The “Water Gate” was part of the newly rebuilt walls of Jerusalem.  The rite takes place outside the Temple, however, which would not yet have been rebuilt.  This pattern of reading and interpreting of Scripture would continue and become the core of synagogue worship, and would eventually carry over into Christian worship as well.  Nehemiah 8:13-18 is the establishment of the Jewish festival of sukkot, or “booths.”

8:1 All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. 2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm 19
The first six verses of Psalm 19 focus on God’s dealings with the creation; verses 7-14 turn to the subject of the Law.  The transition from creation to law has led some to believe this originally was two psalms, but the psalmist seems to be saying that the Law is as natural and necessary for human living as the creation is for the natural world.

1     The heavens declare the glory of God, *
            and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2     One day tells its tale to another, *
            and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3     Although they have no words or language, *
            and their voices are not heard,
4     Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
            and their message to the ends of the world.
5     In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
            it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
            it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6     It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
       and runs about to the end of it again; *
            nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7     The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; *
            the testimony of the Lord is sure
                            and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8     The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart; *
            the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9     The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; *
            the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10   More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, *
            sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11   By them also is your servant enlightened, *
            and in keeping them there is great reward.
12   Who can tell how often he offends? *
            Cleanse me from my secret faults.
13   Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
       let them not get dominion over me; *
            then shall I be whole and sound and innocent of a great offense.
14   Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
       be acceptable in your sight, *
            O Lord , my strength and my redeemer.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Paul has just spoken of the “varieties of gifts but the same Spirit” (12:1-11).  He reiterates that at the beginning of this section.  The Spirit into which we are baptized trumps our ethnic and social differences.  We become one body.  He then takes off on this image of the body to talk about the diversity that does still exist among us.  The body as a metaphor to talk about how the many function as a whole was well known in Paul’s day.  A number of Greco-Roman writers used the metaphor to talk about the functioning of the state.  Paul makes a bold claim here, however: “You are the body of Christ.”  This is beyond metaphor for Paul.  It is a new reality created by baptism.

12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts.

Gospel Reading: Luke 4:14-21
Here we have Jesus participating in synagogue worship on the pattern of his ancestor Ezra.  Many things are going on in this text.  Luke is continuing to emphasize that Jesus was a faithful Jew.  He is also setting up another theme of his, that Jesus is our primary interpreter of Scripture.  Jesus is setting forth his agenda, finding it in Isaiah 61:1, 58:6 & 61:2.  The interjection of 58:6 is significant in that it is a reflection on Leviticus 25:8-12, the description of the year of Jubilee.  The Year of Jubilee was an every 50-year time of liberation from debt and restoration of status (including lost property).  For Jesus, this is what being the Messiah means—to fulfill this liberation today.

4:14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:  18 “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 release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2018.  All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study, with attribution.