When Jesus arrived in his hometown of Nazareth following his baptism by John, he went to the synagogue and was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus selected a text from Isaiah 61 to read:
“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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Upon finishing the reading, Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. What could have been just another relaxed Sabbath, with pot roast for dinner and an afternoon of televised football games, had Jesus only stopped there, became a moment of truth. With the eyes of everyone in the synagogue fixed upon him, Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21).
Think about the implications of these words for followers of Christ. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for a future coming of Christ as so many think we do. Today is the day of Christ’s coming! We can’t waste our time debating whether Jesus comes to save some or save all. Today is the day of God’s salvation! We aren’t in a position to form a task force to look into the possibilities for realizing God’s reign on earth. Today is the day God’s Realm comes near!
Jesus’ inaugural message is one of liberation. His words reflect a call to justice, and a concern for the tangible needs of real people. Those who have been cast aside by society are brought into the center of God’s concern through Jesus’ appropriation of Isaiah’s words. As Dorothy Day once said, “The Gospels record that Jesus preached good news to the poor, and an essential part of that good news was that they were to be poor no longer.”
It is as though Jesus is saying that today God’s justice has won out. Today I am proclaiming release to the captives – whether it is captivity to cycles of poverty that hold people down or captivity to the sins of greed and selfishness. Today I am saying that the blind can see – whether it is those blinded by poor diet and health or those blinded to the grace of God in the world. Today I am telling the oppressed to go free – whether that oppression takes the form of prejudice or of despair.
The urgency of Jesus’ message is spoken to us. The immediacy of Jesus’ mission is ours to take up. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
There is no time to waste! Today is the day to renew your commitment to Christ. Today is the day to bring a message of grace and hope to the world. Today God’s Spirit anoints you with the power of love to offer good news for all of creation.
Words (c) 2013 Mark Lloyd Richardson