Jesus’ opening speech in the Nazareth synagogue, narrated in Luke 4: 16-30, marked the arrival of his mission to “bring good news to the poor.” This essay seeks to focus on this key event and explore Luke’s approach to the ministry of Jesus, regarding His interaction, concern, and works, toward the poor, within the Gospel.
Strauss (1995) claims that it is almost universally accepted that Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth was programmatically significant to the Gospel of Luke. In fact, all the commentators referenced in this essay postulate that Lucas has a special focus on highlighting the plight of the marginalized; in fact, Moyter (1995) states that the Gospel of John, for example, “shows no concern for the poor.” (p. 70). Strauss (1995) proclaims the idea that Jesus does indeed affirm, in the Nazareth sermon, that He is the “messianic herald” both in announcing and in bringing about the eschatological salvation of God. (p. 221).
This essay will initially focus on the theology of the Nazareth Synagogue Rejection narrative before detailing some of the works of Jesus that are highlighted in Luke and that demonstrate the breadth of His interest in liberating the poor. Furthermore, the use of the word poor in this essay should be taken in a broader context, as expressed by Green (1993, 1994) and others, such as for those who are socially marginalized.
THE THEOLOGY OF LUKE 4: 16-30 AND ITS CONNECTED SCRIPTURE
Strauss (1995) highlights the analogies of Jesus in vv. 25-27, regarding Elijah and Elisha – their works in these verses in blessing the Gentiles – that His public ministry would focus on the outsider, e.g., the sinner, the tax collector, the women, the lame, the children and non-Jews; more categorically, looking for the gentile population. Although Strauss (1995) indicates that this messianic call sought to redeem the “‘outcasts’ in the Gospel,” he emphatically stops before saying that these verses announce “God’s rejection of Israel.” (p. 223). Until that time, the passages suggest that the Nazareth congregation was simply in awe of Jesus’ words. In verse 28, however, we learn that they were “filled with anger” in response to Jesus’ comparisons with these prophets.
Strauss (1995) evokes the strong link, theologically, of the books of Isaiah (prophecy) and Luke and Acts (fulfillment), for example, with reference to “light and darkness, blindness and sight” in relation to the healing and the release of those ‘in prison’. (p. 237). In fact, there are intrinsic links in both Luke and Acts with Isaiah (Strauss, 1995).
The quotation from the Isaiah passages in Luke 4: 16-30 is extremely interesting. Hertig (1998) exaggerates this in justifying the congregation’s “astonished” responses. It tells us that the framework that Jesus used when he quoted the parts of Isaiah 61 and 58, that He is proclaiming the freedom of Yahweh to the oppressed, but does not go so far as to quote the second half of verse 2 of chapter 61 – “and the day of the vengeance of our God, “which means that the Jewish expectation that the Messiah will do just that is wrong (also in Strauss, 1995). It is worth noting that Hertig (1998) quotes Prior (1995) as saying that the combined use of Isaiah 61 and 58 “intensifies the social dimension of the prophetic message. [providing] a surprising corrective for any religious practice that is carried out without caring for the poor, and especially when religious activity continues in the very act of oppressing them “(p. 168). Strauss (1995) broadens the aspect of Jesus” real portrait -mesianic “painting the picture that the Christ is not the kind of Savior that Jewish Tradition really expects” (p. 198).
Strauss (1995) agrees that the Nazareth congregation surprises and offends us at the same time because of Jesus’ words. However, Hertig (1998) argues that while Jesus perceives the congregation’s response as outright rejection, it is actually a positive response. This event is “transitory in the life and ministry of Jesus.” (p. 168). Green (1995) cites that Jesus says “I” three times in the passage. It is Hertig (1998) who raises the intention of Jesus to install the year of jubilee as initially mentioned in Leviticus 25 as part of the messianic mission – “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” and the phrase “he sent me to proclaim the release of the captives”. Strauss (1995) argues, however, that while the jubilee theme may not be central to Luke’s message, he suggests that, eschatologically, it does apply to “the deliverance of those afflicted by Satan.” (p. 221).
In the exegesis of the passage, Hertig (1998) shows that Jesus is not only “the bearer of good news for the poor, but also the deliverer of the poor in their sufferings.” (p. 172). This leads him to hypothesize that liberation is holistic in nature: it brings spiritual, physical, socio-political and psychological freedom to the oppressed (Hertig, 1998).
The poor in Luke’s context are put in Old Testament terms as those of “humility both social and religious.” (Hertig, 1998, p. 173). This shows us that the poor are not only those who lack economic resources, but those who are “victims of the unjust structures of society.” (p. 173).
Green (1994) notes that in no less than six different places we see the use of the word “poor” in the Gospel of Luke. However, he is quick to quote that the word is used in very different contexts, referring to many different types of suffering, including: the oppressed, the afflicted, the hungry, the persecuted, and a few different forms of the physically disabled.
EXPLOITATION OF JESUS ’CONCERN FOR THE MARGINALIZED
From the above discussion it is clear that the Gospel of Luke describes the core of Jesus’ ministry to liberate the outcasts of society. Once again, Green (1995) shows Luke portraying Jesus “continually in the company of the outcasts of society.” (p. 84). This section will discuss the actual development of theology through some of the examples that Luke brought us.
The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 1-10) is topical in its use of the ‘rich man’ paradigm shown by Hertig (1998). Zacchaeus is shown to give away half of his possessions and pay four times what he owes to others. Zacchaeus ‘action effectively demonstrates the “jubilee theme” – the spread of wealth to the poor – and summarily receives Jesus’ blessing. (p. 175). Seccombe (1983) shows how Luke cleverly places the account of Zacchaeus after the story of the blind beggar (chapter 18), demonstrating Jesus’ deep concern for the salvation of all those far from God, the rich. Y poor; the socially marginalized. Luke seeks to show that both Zacchaeus and the blind beggar have the same position in the kingdom of God (Seccombe, 1983).
In the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14: 15-24), Hertig (1998) shows the later use of Jubilee language. The eschatological meaning of this parable is profound. Not only will those invited to the Dinner decline the invitation, but once new guests are invited, anyone from the initial list who comes to the Dinner will be rejected! In verse 21, Luke quotes Jesus referring to the second guests as “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” deducing that the ‘outcasts’ of society would be the recipients of the second invitation for all.
The overt evidence of Jesus’ ministry to the marginalized group of women is another recurring theme in the Gospel of Luke. Green (1995) shows nine key passages in Luke in which women are portrayed in a positive light, being restored to life by repenting of sin, being benefactors of the Lord, and even being “mouthpieces for God” as Mary and Elizabeth were in the birth. narrative. In fact, it is in the resurrection narrative that the women are blessed by witnessing the events and believing much more easily than the disciples initially. This shows women in a much more godly light than men: “Their faithful testimony contrasts with the response of the male disciples.” (Green, 1995, p. 93).
Hertig (1998) states that “Lucas’s jubilee theme of rich and poor is a promise for the poor and a challenge for the rich.” (p. 176). I have used this essay to highlight Luke’s message of Jesus’ ministry to the outcasts of society, framing it eschatologically, along with the jubilee theme of Leviticus 25; whose evidence was lacking in Old Testament times (Hertig, 1998).
Green (1994) shows Luke’s approach to paving the way for understanding that Jesus’ mission was, is, and will be one of “proclaiming[ing] release the captives “and leave[ing] the oppressed go free “to their eternal salvation.
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Green, JB ‘Good news for whom? Jesus and the “poor” in the Gospel of Luke ’59 -74 in Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament Christology. (Eds. JB Marshall and M. Turner. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.)
Green, JB, New Testament Theology: The Theology of the Gospel of Luke. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995).
Hendrickx, H., The Third Gospel for the Third World – Volume Two-A. (Claretian Publications, Philippines, 1997)
Hertig, P., The jubilee mission of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: reversals of fortunes in Missiology: An International Review, Volume XXVI Number 2 April 1998.
Motyer, S., ‘Jesus and the Outcasts in the Fourth Gospel’ 70-89 in Mission and Meaning: Essays Submitted to Peter Cotterell. (Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 1995.)
Seccombe, cinematographer, Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt – Possessions and the poor in Luke-Acts. (Professor DDr A. Fuchs, Linz, 1983.)
Strauss, ML, The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: the promise and its fulfillment (sic) in Luke’s Christology. (Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, England, 1995.)
Willoughby, R. ‘The concept of jubilee and Luke 4: 14-30’ 41-55 in Mission and Meaning: Essays Submitted to Peter Cotterell. (Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 1995.)
All referenced Bible verses are taken from the New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan ISBN 0-310-90236-3.