God Moves into the Neighbourhood

Commission means “with a mission” or the “sent out”. Today in both services we will pray for our leaders and whole church to be sent out for the year to serve Jesus. It just so happens that our reading from Luke’s Gospel (4:14-28) is about the commissioning of Jesus for his great mission in the world. Here’s some background to the story:

Jesus heads to his hometown Nazareth, but so much has happened in a few chapters preceding. Luke tells us Jesus is the long awaited Jewish Messiah and “Son of the Most High” (1:32-33), and an angel shows up terrifying some shepherds to tell them that baby Jesus is “Christ the Lord” (2:11; “Christ” is Greek for King or anointed one, while “Messiah” is the Hebrew term meaning the same). When Mary and Joseph present Jesus to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem, a man named Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to declare to God that his “eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk 2:30-32). The hometown crowd know none of this.

John the Baptist prepares the way (3:1-20) for Jesus’ public ministry, and although John preaches “good news” to the people, this good news in Luke points to the coming of the saviour Jesus, the one who is revealed as God’s Son (1:32, 35; 3:22b), and receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit (3:22a; 4:14, 18a). Jesus’ first public statements in Luke (4:18-19) identify his mission and status as being the messianic figure of Isaiah 61:1-2, one who is Spirit-anointed by the Lord to preach/announce good news to the poor, sent to proclaim freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, release the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

But his old mates and family are having none of it. The church service ends badly with the congregation trying to toss Jesus off a cliff. At least it wasn’t a boring service! Jesus moves on and announces the imperatives of his mission by claiming, “I must preach/announce the good news of the kingdom of God…that is why I was sent” (4:43).

Jesus models a spirituality that is committed to prayer, regularly gathering with God’s people, honouring the Scriptures, and serving God’s purposes in the world regarding sharing the good news, doing justice and showing mercy. Could we find a better example of a healthy spiritual life?

Luke has told us Jesus is King, Lord, Saviour, Son of God, Christ, Messiah etc., but he looks and acts pretty much like a normal person. Yes, there are miracles to come, but the point remains that he wasn’t glowing and didn’t float 6 inches off the ground. The folks at Nazareth just saw him as one of them. Jesus is deeply spiritual and very human at the same time. What might this mean for how as Christians we can live a deeply spiritual and godly life?

May we all take seriously and to heart the call of God on our lives. 

Nicholas Tuohy

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