Aloneness is a persistent thread running through the story of Jesus’ life. It resonates with us through the human condition we share with our Savior. In today’s reading Jesus has emerged from forty days in the desert alone. His experience is magnified because the devil barks at him the entire time. Fresh from baptism, the Messiah is beginning initiation into the fallen world of humanity. Having shunned the devil, Christ is primed (“filled with the power of the Spirit”) to begin his mission of salvation and redemption. The journey goes smoothly and the countryside is abuzz for this new ministry—until he arrives in his hometown of Nazareth.
If you have spoken to a roomful of people, then you have experienced a twinge of aloneness. The message you impart will be well received, or it will not. In the niv translation the section subheading of these verses reads, “Jesus Rejected at Nazareth.” If Jesus does not feel alone when he starts reading from Isaiah, he certainly feels so when leaving town.
We might ask ourselves several questions about this scene in the synagogue: Why is Jesus given the Isaiah scripture to read? How does Jesus come to choose the specific section (Isa. 61:1-2)? Why does he stop reciting Isaiah’s prophecy at “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”? Why does Jesus sit down before concluding with, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”? These last words get him run out of town. Rejection remains the story of Immanuel. Although Jesus is often alone, either of his own choosing or by others’ spurning, he is seldom lonely. For he is one in the Father as the Father is one in him. (See John 14:10.) Jesus was often alone but never isolated because the Spirit of the Lord was on him.
Come, Holy Spirit. Lead us out of isolation into the refuge of Immanuel. Amen.
How do we feel when we read the Word of God? The Israelites rejoice in God’s law. At the time of the restoration of Jerusalem after the return from exile, Ezra reads from the Law and explains its meaning to the people. They respond by holding a feast because understanding God’s teachings is a source of joy. The psalmist says that God’s law revives the soul, causes the heart to rejoice, and helps us to see clearly. Paul continues with his teaching on spiritual gifts, emphasizing that all members of the body of Christ have an important role. No one can claim to be any more important than anyone else. In Luke, Jesus reads from Isaiah and declares that his messianic ministry will focus on justice, mercy, and healing.
Read Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10. When has God’s word overwhelmed you? How did you react?
Read Psalm 19. How do you seek to speak or sing words acceptable to God? How does this shape your life?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. Within the body of Christ, as within our human bodies, parts compensate for one another. How do you take on more to support the body of Christ when others struggle? How do you allow others to take on your roles when you struggle?
Read Luke 4:14-21. In what ways have you rejected Jesus?
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