Luke 4:21-30 – My Paraphrase and a Reflection

And [Jesus] began speaking to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it read.”

And all spoke well of him and admired the words of grace that came from his mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

And he said to them, “No doubt you will tell me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard done in Capernuam, do also here in your hometown.”

And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet finds approval in his own country. Moreover I tell you of a truth: many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was shut three years and six months, so that a great famine was upon all the land. Yet unto none of them was Elijah sent, only to Zarephath of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was made clean, save Naaman the Syrian.

Then all who were in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with rage. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and led him to the precipice of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could cast him down headlong. But he, passing through their midst, went on his way.

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In a paraphrase of a biblical verse, the former pastor of Riverside Church in NYC, William Sloan Coffin once said, “”You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you-uncomfortable.”  Aldous Huxley, the author of the novel “Brave New World” went even further when he said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”

This passage from Luke does both for different people.  It makes me uncomfortable when I consider how narrow-minded and parochial the church and Christians (including myself) can sometimes be.  And it made the people in the synagogue  positively furious . . . so furious, in fact, that they try to kill Jesus after only his first sermon!

I am reminded about a retreat that Barbara Brown Taylor once attended and then wrote about. The retreat leader asked participants to think of one person who best represented Christ in their lives. While many had the usual complements for those special persons who had “been there” during the “hard times,” one woman hesitated before answering. When she finally spoke she said, “I had to think hard about that question. I kept thinking, ‘Who is it who told me the truth about myself so clearly that I wanted to kill them for it?'” (Christian Century, March 18-25, 1998)

One more tidbit for thought comes from  Fred Craddock in his commentary on Luke, from the Interpretation series:

Jesus defends his ministry to outsiders by offering two Old Testament stories. Both Elijah (1 Kings 17:8-14) and Elisha (2 Kings 5:1-17), prophets in Israel, took God’s favor to non-Jews. That those two stories were in their own Scriptures and quite familiar perhaps accounts in part for the intensity of their hostility. Anger and violence are the last defense of those who are made to face the truth of their own tradition which they have long defended and embraced. Learning what we already know is often painfully difficult. All of us know what it is to be at war with ourselves, sometimes making casualties of those who are guilty of nothing but speaking the truth in love. For Luke, the tension that erupts here and will erupt again and again elsewhere is not between Jesus and Judaism or between synagogue and church; it is between Judaism and its own Scriptures. [p. 63]

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Luke 4:14-21 – My Paraphrase and a Reflection

I am in the fourth year of my journey through a four-year lectionary that I developed. The first part of the gospel lesson for this coming Sunday is found below.  The lesson is my own paraphrase. I find paraphrasing scripture (utilizing various translations and original language dictionaries) to be helpful for my my understanding them.  I have also included a brief reflection.

Luke 4:14-21(My Paraphrase)

Filled with the power of the Spirit, Jesus returned to Galilee, and rumors about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside. He then taught in their synagogues and was esteemed by all.

Then he went to Nazareth, where he had been raised, and on the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue, as was his custom. There, he stood up to read, and he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to make whole the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and the recovery of sight for the blind, to deliver the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he closed the scroll, gave it to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of every person in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began speaking to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it read.”

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Concerning the last phrase in the passage above, Fred Craddock has this to say in his commentary on Luke from the Interpretation series:

The age of God’s reign is here; the eschatological time when God’s promises are fulfilled and God’s purpose comes to fruition has arrived; there will be changes in the conditions of those who have waited and hoped. Those changes for the poor and the wronged and the oppressed will occur today. This is the beginning of jubilee. The time of God is today, and the ministries of Jesus and the church according to Luke-Acts demonstrate that “today” continued throughout these two volumes, “today” never is allowed be become “yesterday” or to slip into a vague “someday.” The history of the church does not, however, bear unbroken testimony to Jesus announcement….”

Fred’s quote causes one to raise the question:  what percentage of churches, with which you are familiar, are:

  • good news for the poor,
  • healing the brokenhearted,
  • bringing sight to the blind, (as my friend Brad points out below, this originally read “Blond.”  Oops.  :^)
  • freeing the captives,
  • delivering the oppressed,
  • or proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.

And I don’t mean these things in some non-specific, spiritualized, or intellectualized way either.

Of course, realizing the striking distance between church and Christ is but a first step in doing something to close the gap.  Sadly, it is also the only step that some ever take. They bemoan their lack of Christ-likeness, but then basically shrug their shoulders and move on to the next, less demanding, item on their agenda.   After all, what can they do?  To take seriously the mission as outlined by Jesus would completely alter the normal way of being the church. It would require too much of them, too many sacrifices, too much change, and so they (and I) complain about the way things are, but rarely actually do anything to to make things the way they ought to be.

This is not what Christ intended, in my opinion, and these verses are a clear call for us to take concrete actions to follow him, not just by saying the right words, but by also doing the right things.

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