The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
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.
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
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.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.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 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:
See the general introduction to Luke
Text & textual features
Characters & setting
Ideas / phrases / concepts
Questions for the teacher
The world in front of the text
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 & textual features
This narrative in Luke’s Gospel marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Luke summarises Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth by conflating different events found in Mark and Matthew, into one story. This story consists of two parts –
a) the proclamation of Jesus’ ministry and
b) Jesus’ rejection by his own townsfolk.
The event Luke speaks about happens during Jesus’ public ministry for Mark and Matthew. However, by placing it at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, Luke can show that from its outset, Jesus’ ministry was deliberate, focussed, and inclusive. Luke can use Jesus’ appearance at the synagogue to set out the type of Messiah Jesus will be and the characteristics of his ministry, as well as bring about a sense of what is to come in the Gospel.
Characters & Setting
Jesus is portrayed as an observant and faithful Jewish man who regularly worshipped (“as was his custom” v.16) in the Synagogue.
Elijah and Elisha are two prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) who confronted the unjust ways of their king. Both Elijah and Elisha took their ministry beyond Israel and healed non-Jews. Jesus wanted to illustrate that God’s concern was for all people, both Jews and Gentiles so his mission is also inclusive of all.
The Synagogue is primarily a centre of worship. In the time of Jesus, the practice was to read a piece of Torah followed by a reading from the Prophets. Special guests were invited to read and preach about the selected passages.
Galilee is a region in the north of Palestine. It is divided into two areas – Upper and Lower Galilee. Many of the towns and villages that Jesus visited are located in Galilee eg Capernaum, Cana, Nazareth.
Nazareth is a small village located in Lower Galilee, south-west of the Sea of Galilee. It was the town where Jesus lived with his family.
Prior to this event, Luke records his account of Jesus’ baptism (Lk 3:21-22). At his baptism, Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit which then directed the words and actions which comprise Jesus’ ministry. As a result, Jesus’ reputation was spreading across Galilee. His work in Galilee was looked upon favourably – except when he came to those who knew him near his hometown of Nazareth.
Jesus stands in the synagogue and finds and read from the Prophet Isaiah (Is 61:1-2a). In applying this passage to himself, Luke has Jesus fulfill the messianic expectations found in the scriptures of Israel: he is the ‘anointed one’ they have waited for– the Messiah.
For some, this ‘man from Galilee’, son of Joseph, was not what they had envisioned of a Messiah; rather they were expecting a political leader who would bring about a new golden age for Israel. The rejection Jesus faces anticipates his ultimate rejection in his crucifixion (Luke 22:1 – 23:49).
Luke, writing to a Gentile community, needed to show that the Good News of Jesus Christ was for all people, not just the chosen ones. By reading from Isaiah (61:1-2a) they heard of Jesus’ commitment to a ministry of inclusion and hospitality for all – Gentiles included.
Questions for the teacher:
The world in front of the text
Questions for the teacher:
Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.
Meaning for today/challenges
In this passage, Jesus proclaimed the “year of the Lord’s favour” (v. 19). While this year began in Jesus’ lifetime, it is still being proclaimed and lived today. Just like Jesus, Christians are baptised and they are also filled with the Spirit of God. Therefore, the Christian’s mission is to bring good news to the poor, liberate captives, give sight to the blind, uplift the exploited and proclaims God’s grace. This passage contributes to the body of Catholic Social teaching of the Church.
Jesus’ interpretation of the passage from Isaiah, produced a mixed response. Some people were amazed and responded enthusiastically while others were concerned about his message resulting in his rejection by the people of Nazareth. This shift from admiration (v.22) to reproach (v.28) occurred because Jesus’ words disturbed the equilibrium of the audience. Sometimes proclaiming the good news brings discomfort to the comfortable such that the message is not welcome. Proclaiming the Good News, challenges people to step outside their comfort zone. It asks people to reach out to others beyond their own circle of interest to bring compassion and hope to the broken.
There is a maxim which says that ‘the Church doesn’t have a mission; but the mission has a Church.’ Jesus entrusted his mission to all disciples (Mt 28:16-20) and he expected them to continue his work of proclaiming and establishing the Reign of God on earth by continuing God’s loving, healing, reconciling, liberating, forgiving and redeeming work.
From the very beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has emphasised the Church as ‘missionary.’
“The Church, the universal sacrament of God’s love for the world, continues the mission of Jesus”Francis, Message for World Mission Day, 2020
“We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing.”Francis, Evangelli Gaudium, 2013, n. 273.
For Pope Francis, this focus on the Church as missionary is about going out to the margins as messengers of compassion and continuing God’s loving, healing, reconciling, liberating, forgiving and redeeming work.
This passage is used on a number of different occasions. Rather than reading this passage as one continuous story, this Scripture passage is read as two separate events – a) Jesus proclaiming his mission and b) Jesus being rejected.
Year C – Sunday Gospel
Luke 4:14-21 is the Gospel of the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. The second part of this story, Luke 4:21-30, is the Gospel for the following Sunday, 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
a) Thursday after the Epiphany (early January) – Luke 4:14-22
b) Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent – Luke 4:24-30.
c) Monday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 4:16-30.
Chrism Mass or Mass of the Oils
The Gospel used in this Mass is Luke 4:16-21 which is the passage where Jesus proclaimed his mission. This liturgy is celbrated by the bishop and the priests of the diocese. During this Mass, held during Holy Week, the bishop blesses the sacred oils to be used in the celebration of the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick) across the diocese for the next year.
Also, the priests renew their priestly promises including their commitment to serve the people of God and then, with the whole congregation, together they renew their commitment to the Gospel mission.