Luke 4:14-21


A passage like this always reminds me of Jonah. When the Spirit of the Lord shows up - run away! Because a God-sized blessing always comes with a God-sized mission.

Year C
Epiphany 3

Sunday between January 21 and January 27 inclusive

Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 4:14-21, The Message   or   Luke 4:14-21, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement in oral presentations is not required. Otherwise, please acknowledge source as, "David Ewart,"


The context for this passage is Luke 3:22, Jesus' baptism:

and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the bodily form of a dove. And a voice came from Heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Luke then provides 3 forms of evidence for the truth of this wildly outrageous claim of the highest possible honour for this lowest status hillbilly carpenter's son:

  1. The genealogy of Jesus, Luke 3:23-38, which ends, "... son of Adam, son of God."
  2. The 3 cosmic tests of Jesus' loyalty to God, Luke 4:1-13. "If you are the Son of God, ..." (Verses 4:3 and 4:9), and "If you will worship me (Satan), ..." (Verse 4:7).
    [Aside. Similar testing will occur at the end of Jesus' life when the crowds watching his execution on the cross will taunt him, "If you are ..." (Luke 23:35, 37, and 39)]
    Jesus passes these tests - honourably - not by demonstrating his own power / wisdom / glory, but by quoting from Scripture the power / wisdom / glory of his true Father - God. It is God who has ascribed to Jesus the honour of being a Son. And so, as any honourable, worthy son would do, it is God's wisdom and honour that Jesus defends in rebutting the tests of Satan.
  3. Gossip spreads about Jesus and his public reputation grows as people speak well of him, Luke 4:14-21.

Verse 14. Note that the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus (Verse 3:22), then fills Jesus (Verse 4:1), then fills Jesus with power (Verse 4:14).

The baptism of Jesus took place in the Jordan River in the south of Israel. Jesus returns to his home province of Galilee in the north. Jesus' words and deeds cause people to take favourable notice of him, and gossip begins to spread.

Verse 16. The true test of one's public reputation is what those who knew you before think about you now. Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth, "where he had been brought up."

Verse 18 and 19. Remember that Luke has already told us that the Holy Spirit has descended on Jesus, filled him, and filled him with the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, reading from Isaiah 61:1-2, we hear that the Spirit has "anointed me."

The passage from Isaiah reflects the themes that we have already heard in the songs sung at the conception and birth of Jesus by Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-45), Mary (Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79), angels (Luke 2:13-14), Simeon (Luke 2:29-32), and Anna (Luke 2:38).

A passage like this always reminds me of Jonah. When the Spirit of the Lord shows up - run away! Because a God-sized blessing always comes with a God-sized mission:

(the Spirit) has anointed me ... in order to ...
   bring good news to the poor
      (the poor - not just one or two, but all the poor)
   Release to the captives,
   recovery of sight to the blind,
   let the oppressed go free,
   proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

Sure God. Easy. Consider it done. (Where's the nearest whale? I'm so outta here.)

Verse 21. So, just in case you've started to relax because you've noticed that this God-sized mission has been given to Jesus and not you, the first thing Jesus says is:

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Yikes. Jesus gets anointed for the mission, but it turns out that it is only in our hearing of it - in our internalizing of it - in our realizing of it - in our living of it - that this God-sized mission will be fulfilled / completed / accomplished.

As we will see in next week's lesson, Luke 4:21-30, Jesus' hometown crowd are both amazed and challenged / insulted by Jesus saying this.

Amazed, perhaps, that a long-held hope is about to be realized.

Insulted, perhaps, by the unstated implication that the reason these long-held hopes had not been fulfilled sooner is that we had not "heard" them in spite of them having been read to us over and over again.

Hmm. What about us? What about our hearing of this scripture? Any hope of it being finally fulfilled in our hearing of it? (Where's that whale when we really need one?)

David Ewart,,
Short, easy to use, faith inspiring explanations of the meaning of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for your sermon, homily, bible study, or reflection.

Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 242-243; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al.

Luke 4:14-21 (NRSV)

   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."  

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Luke 4:14-21 (The Message)

   14 Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. 15 He taught in their meeting places to everyone's acclaim and pleasure.

   16 He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, 17 he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

      18 God's Spirit is on me;
            he's chosen me to preach the Message
               of good news to the poor, 
          Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
               recovery of sight to the blind,
          To set the burdened and battered free, 
      19      to announce, "This is God's year to act!"

   20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. 21 Then he started in, "You've just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place."  

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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