Luke 4

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Verse 14: Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. (NRSV)

  • This is the very beginning of Jesus' ministry in Luke.
    • Mark 6:1-6 records these events too, but puts it later in Jesus' ministry. Matthew 13:54 also records Jesus teaching in Nazareth.
    • Mark shows us that this was not the literal start of Jesus' ministry, but it is a symbolic one.
    • He is preaching and getting a following. People are hearing about Jesus and he was getting a good reputation as a speaker and healer, then he went home.
    • Luke seems to be using this as a way of propelling Jesus beyond his hometown and closing that portion of his life for the reader.
  • Galilee is listed by Josephus as having 204 cities and villages, and the smallest containing 15,000 people (Fitzmyer 522).


Verse 15: He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. (NRSV)

  • There is no time frame on this period of teaching. It could have continued for quite some time before Jesus returned to Nazareth.
  • Teaching in the synagogue as someone traveled was a standard thing for Rabbi's to do at the time.


Jesus Teaches in Nazareth

Verse 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, (NRSV)

  • Even though Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Nazareth was where he grew up. These people would have known him his entire life.
  • Synagogues were not the central form of worship until after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Until then it all centered around the sacrifices at the temple. Though by this time synagogues were obviously gaining power.
  • Apparently, this is one of the earliest references to a synagogue in the world, let alone in the Bible.
  • There was a standard format for synagogue meetings.
    • You would come in, wash yourself ceremonially, and take a seat.
    • There would be a cabinet containing the scriptures.
    • Someone over 13 would come up and read from the scroll, usually several places (Torah and prophets at least). This could be anyone.
    • For more info, see Follow the Rabbi
    • After the reading, the reader of either the prophets or the torah usually gave a short message.


Verse 17: and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: (NRSV)

  • The following quote is from Isaiah 61:1 and 2.
  • The reader in the synagogue did not get to pick what was read. That went according to a very specific schedule. (we don't really know if this was instituted by the time of Jesus, however. Some people argue that Jesus picked this passage, which “found” might indicate).
  • This is a complicated situation.
    • Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew, but most synagogues in Palestine read from the Aramaic translation as not enough people knew Hebrew (Fitzmyer 531).
    • But the version we read here in Luke was written in Greek, now translated to English.
    • That means we are four languages away from the original.


Verse 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, (NRSV)

  • We spiritualize this passage, make it for release from “spiritual bondage” but that isn't what it is referring to, or at least not completely. Jesus seemed to really mean healing the blind, bringing hope to the poor, and releasing prisoners.
  • ”Bringing good news” is the same word we use for “evangelize.”
  • Being poor in that day and age wasn't about money alone. It was also position, power, legal rights, family, and much more. Being poor was being without something important to life, and there are many things that qualify us for that. Jesus came for all of them.
  • Blindness/sight later on (18:35-43, and in Acts too) is tied to salvation, not just a physical sight.
  • The prisoners being freed were probably referring to people in financial debt that had been imprisoned because they couldn't pay their bills.
  • Release here is a release from bondage, and coming into God's kingdom.
  • The word used for “release”, “relieve”, or “go free” can also be taken to mean “forgiven”.
  • There is a double meaning in Greek here. There is the physical releasing of captives, given good news that they are free. But there is also the spiritual side that using the same words means that Jesus was evangelizing, and bringing salvation to the oppressed.


Verse 19: to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (NRSV)

  • The Year of the Lord's favor is also the Year of Jubilee
    • It was a year when every debt was forgiven. Property was given back to those who had to sell it, and slaves were freed.
    • Even though this was in the law, people didn't do it. Jesus here isn't talking about purely that celebration but more.
  • Oddly enough, Jesus stops quoting before the end of the thought.
    • It would normally continue “…and the day of vengeance of our God.”
    • Jesus did not come to bring vengeance. No vendettas.


Verse 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. (NRSV)

  • As the people reading changed regularly, there were regular offices in the synagogue to keep things running smoothly.
  • When everyone “gazed intently” at Jesus in the synagogue it implies trust and respect (Fitzmyer 533).


Verse 21: Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (NRSV)

  • ”He began to say” seems to indicate that he said more than is recorded here, though the sermons usually were short in synagogues.


Verse 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?” (NRSV)

  • The people dodged Jesus' message to them because he was one of them. They wanted something from him, and the message itself was lost.
  • They really seemed to be proud of him, like he was the shining star of their town. That is probably why he got to read that day, they invited him in as the returning hero.
  • The words spoken are not great words, but “words of grace” (Nolland 198).
  • It is debatable whether the crowd's creation was disbelief, or greed.
    • One idea is that the people didn't buy that Jesus really was a prophet and “isn't this Joseph's son” means they don't think he's a prophet.
    • Another option is that it's greed. Everyone spoke well of Jesus and were still happy right before “isn't this Joseph's son” and so that should be taken as making a claim on him, and not as a denial of Jesus' credentials.
    • The people are only mentioned as being upset after Jesus tells them they won't get what they want.
    • It is possible this was a statement of excitement, that the people were hoping this would lead to something great for them.
  • The next few verses show that the town quickly turned against him. It seems that they expected special treatment, that he would do even cooler things because he was in his hometown. They wanted a free ride and got ticked because Jesus didn't give it to them.


Verse 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.' ” (NRSV)

  • The crowd didn't ask Jesus to cure them, he knew what they were thinking. Whether this was because they were being obvious about it, or because Jesus knew their thoughts is debatable.
  • ”Doctor, cure yourself” had a meaning of "take care of your own" and included not just the healer but his family and friends as well. In this case, the town where he grew up.
  • The proof of whether a doctor was any good was if they could cure themselves successfully. Jesus was implying that they were expecting him to set up a fourth of July fireworks show for them or he wasn't really a prophet.
  • Jesus was thought of as a child by these people. They wouldn't accept him and so he told them he would be putting his energy elsewhere, and they attacked him.
  • Unfortunately, Luke hasn't mentioned Jesus in Capernaum.


Verse 24: And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. (NRSV)

  • Apparently Jesus didn't do any miracles here.
  • This is a very similar wording to Mark and Matthew's accounts, but with some changes.


Verse 28: When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. (NRSV)

  • This was a rather long speech before people got upset with him. They did not like him saying that he would get a better response elsewhere (Fitzmyer 538).


Verse 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. (NRSV)

  • Growing up, Jesus probably played on the same hill they tried to throw him off of. No one can seem to find a hill today that would apply to this story in modern Nazareth, however (Fitzmyer 538).


Verse 30: But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (NRSV)

  • Jesus' escape is not attributed to a miracle, he just walked through them.
    • The key to this escape is that it wasn't his time so it didn't happen, but it could have been him just using a trail down that they didn't know about.
    • This episode is a foreshadowing of what is to come through the rest of Jesus' ministry. He is well liked, then he tells the truth, is hated because they wanted something else, they try to kill him, but in the end he comes back through them alive.


Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

 VerseDirectionTopicAudienceOccasionCategory
Grace Welcomes the Unworthy14-21We find grace when we come to Jesus and honestly admit we are nobodies.GraceGeneralGeneralMessage Idea