Jesus Preaches in the Synagogue
42 At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. 43 But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the 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.
What to do with this educator’s commentary
This commentary invites you as a teacher to engage with and interpret the passage. Allow the text to speak first. The commentary suggests that you ask yourself various questions that will aid your interpretation. They will help you answer for yourself the question in the last words of the text: ‘what does this mean?’
This educator’s commentary is not a ‘finished package’. It is for your engagement with the text. You then go on to plan how you enable your students to work with the text.
Both you and your students are the agents of interpretation. The ‘Worlds of the Text’ offer a structure, a conversation between the worlds of the author and the setting of the text; the world of the text; and the world of the reader. In your personal reflection and in your teaching all three worlds should be integrated as they rely on each other.
In your teaching you are encouraged to ask your students to engage with the text in a dialogical way, to explore and interpret it, to share their own interpretation and to listen to that of others before they engage with the way the text might relate to a topic or unit of work being studied.
Structure of the commentary:
The world of the author’s community
The world at the time of the text
Geography of the text
Questions for the teacher
Text & textual features
Characters & setting
Ideas / phrases / concepts
Questions for the teacher
Questions for the teacher
Meaning for today / challenges
Church interpretations & usage
The World Behind the Text
See general introduction to Luke.
The World of the Text
Text and Textual features
Written as the end to chapter four, it rounds off what has just happened. Jesus has spent 40 days and nights in the desert being tempted by the devil; returns to preach at the synagogue and announce his ministry using Isaiah 61 (Lk 4:18,19), is dismissed as the son of a carpenter, and begins his healing ministry, casts an impure spirit out of a man, and a fever from Peter’s mother in law.
Jesus now attempts to leave but ‘they’ try and prevent him from doing so. Jesus insists, and by implication, is left alone.
This short passage demonstrates a pattern which Luke will employ often, in which Jesus withdraws himself from the crowds to sustain and reflect (Byrne, 2015 p. 64).
Characters and Setting
The story is set in Nazareth, an area in Lower Galilee. This passage can be confusing for readers as Luke states in the last verse: “So he kept on preaching in the Jewish meeting places in Judea,” however, some manuscripts use Galilee in place of Judea (Catholic Bible, CEV, Catholic Edition with Encyclopedia). The following passages include both references to Lake Gennesaret (another name for Galilee) and Judea, so it becomes clearer that Jesus does travel and attracts followers from many regions in the area.
The Greek translation for synagogue is beit knesset, meaning house of assembly. The Greek translation is used because the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) were translated into Greek 200-300 years before Jesus. It is different to the Temple and played a major role in Jewish life as people generally only travelled to the Temple in Jerusalem once or twice per year for specific celebrations. Jesus frequented synagogues on a regular basis where he taught, prayed and even healed people.
In this text we hear Jesus departed at daybreak. Especially in Luke’s Gospel, prayer is a part of Jesus’ daily routine. Sometimes this prayer will be done in public and sometimes in private. As he is just beginning his ministry and mission, this withdrawal show us something of the nature of Luke’s Jesus – that time spent alone with God was important in forming Jesus as human.
The whole chapter shows different responses to Jesus and this pattern will also continue: some will love what Jesus says and does, others will criticise and diminish him for it. As chapter 4 ends the crowds have begun to see the work of Jesus and they are impressed. It is of little surprise that they want to see more of Jesus and wanted him to stay in their presence.
- Jesus in prayer: Being a devout Jew, Jesus would have followed the prayer routines of the day. Jesus is never far from God, and He often finds His Father in deserted places, where he is able to discern and pray.
- Jesus’ Mission: It is the first time in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus uses the word must (Greek: Dei) as an adult (Byrne, 2015 p.64) to explain the fact that his mission is set for a wider audience. Jesus first uses the word must when he is a child found in the temple and states: “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49b) (Byrne, 2015 p.64). This concept of Jesus being for a wider community is repeated throughout Luke, even in the infant narratives when Simeon announces that Jesus will be a Messiah for all, when he presented at the Temple (Luke 2:31), (Fallon, 2012).
World in Front of the Text
Questions for the teacher:
Meaning for today/challenges
We live such busy lives, and we want to share so much of our lives with our friends and our peers. This means we often are connected by social media, texts, and other forms of technology. Our minds are constantly not only processing our own thoughts but the thoughts and emotions of others. For us to have a true relationship with ourselves and our God, it is vital that we take the time to switch off, to spend time alone, without devices, without the input of other people or the media. Jesus used prayer to discern and to come to know God. He found God in both building, the synagogue, but also often in nature, alone. Jesus teaches us that this time is not only important, but vital to truly live in the way Jesus taught and modelled.
Knowing your purpose
We are all made in the image of God, and we all have a purpose in the world in which we live. We can often find it challenging to work out our “calling” and on occasion confusion can reign as many people try to influence the decisions we make. This can be done with the best of intentions, and it can be difficult to truly know what we “must” do, especially when this may conflict with what others want of us, including family members and respected and trusted peers. Through the practice of deep listening, which can be achieved by time with yourself, you can become more likely to trust yourself and the God within, so you too can fulfil your mission in the world you live in today.
This reading is read during Week 22 of Ordinary Time during the weekday masses. Weekday Mass Readings are read during alternate years.