Luke 4:18-20 – 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.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
When what is considered normal can no longer endure with the demand of the times, a minor adjustment will not do. A conscious, voluntary decision to become involved in or initiate a substantial change departing from what is normal is called – revolutionary. We read of change makers in history and the conditions out of which they emerged; however, we may underemphasize what happened inside of them when positioned next to what they achieved. Perhaps, the most revolutionary acts begin inside of us and may be as powerful as the changes we produce.
Luke’s Gospel is artistry in motion and Jesus’ first sermon is cinematic. An attendant hands Jesus a scroll that just happens to unroll to Isaiah’s words and in a largely illiterate society, this carpenter’s son reads – or doesn’t. Perhaps Jesus, had so digested the power of his tradition that all he needed was “The Spirit of the Lord, and the rest bubbled up from within him. More than any other gospel, Luke engages the stuff of social and political life. Unlike our time, there was no separation of church and State in this 1st century world. It was actually impossible to even see it that way. Political reality constituted religious claims as government rested on religious allowances and approvals. People could not simply choose to ‘support’ or ‘oppose’ Rome as we do today with our own government. These were actual life or death matters. With Spike Lee and DuVernay-like precision, Luke shows Jesus relying on the foundation of the community he belonged to, reaching into his history for the Spirited words of Isaiah beyond himself to empower and inspire in their now. Jesus, aware of what it may mean for his life under the rule of Rome, proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor to a largely subjugated people in a precarious time in the faces of the powers that shaped the structures of his life.
In an atmosphere where some of us vie to be recognized as human, where the bible and faith is cited to evade the critical engagement of the powers that shape the structures of our lives…Jesus proclaims that something is available to us on the inside that opens us to possibilities that transform us to act on the outside.
The word ‘favor’ in this text can also be translated grace. Choosing grace, recognizes that the powers that shape the structures of our lives do not determine how we live them. The most revolutionary acts begin with accepting possibilities beyond the prescriptions of the powers that overreach. And Jesus is clear, your good news, release, recovery, and freedom are not somethings you earn. Those possibilities are unmerited.
Liberating God, help us to recognize that we are not brokers of others good news, release, recovery, and freedom…we are co-conspirators toward them.