Luke 4:14-21


The Synoptic Gospels omit Jesus' earlier Judean ministry, John 1:29-4:42, which comes between verses 13 and 14 of Luke chapter 4. Matthew 4:12 and Mark 1:14 state that Jesus left Judea for Galilee after the imprisonment of John the Baptist.

Luke 4:14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

Luke 4:15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

Verses 14 and 15 tell us of the beginning of the great Galilean ministry of Jesus.

IN THE POWER -  "Endued with the power of the Spirit,"  reminding us of Luke 3:22. Jesus' human nature was empowered by the Holy Spirit for His work.

NEWS -  "Report."

At this time Jesus was an itinerant preacher.

PRAISED HIM - This implies that they did not yet recognize Him as the Messiah. The word denotes general admiration. He had not yet met opposition but soon would, see verses 28-29.

Geldenhuys: His appearance caused a tremendous sensation and He was at that time still in very high favor with the people.

Is this visit in Nazareth the same as that described in Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6? Those who answer in the affirmative are Lenski, Ylvisaker, Morris, Stoeckhardt, Hendriksen, and Marshall. Those who answer in the negative are Arndt, Fahling, Beck, Robertson, and Plummer. Eminent scholars have taken these two views.

Those who say that the accounts are the same say that Luke has moved it forward in his Gospel to give it prominence in the Galilean ministry. Those who say that there were two visits to Nazareth, of course, have little difficulty. There are similarities as well as differences. We leave the question unanswered.

Much has been written in the last two decades by form and redaction critics concerning Mark, Q, and the various traditions. This is summarized by Marshall. He then makes this statement.  "The variety of analyses offered shows that there is no simple solution to the problems of the narrative."  In other words, the critics cannot fathom the great mystery of the inspiration of the Scriptures. It is truly God's Word, given by inspiration. We leave it at that.

Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.

The NIV translation puts a period after  "as was his custom."  That is evidently done to avoid the impression that His custom included  "getting up to read."  This is the only recorded instance of Jesus reading.

Luke 4:17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

SCROLL - The Greek word gives us our word  "bible."  Similar scrolls have been found at Qumran. Negative modern critics maintain there are two Isaiah books, an early writing called  "Isaiah I" and a later writing called  "Isaiah II." Note that here no distinction is made, Jesus reads from the Scroll of Isaiah.

Jesus Himself found the passage which He wanted to read. Arndt says this was natural since Jesus was familiar with the writings of Isaiah. Lenski says Jesus found the passage by divine providence.

Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,

Luke records the LXX rendering, which sufficiently reproduces the Hebrew. The main difference is the line:  "And recovering of sight for the blind"  for the Hebrew:  "And the opening of the prison to them that are bound."  This is taken from Isaiah 61:1ff. The text is reporting what Jesus read. The final phrase in the LXX  "and the day of vengeance"  is omitted deliberately by Jesus, for He is stressing the Gospel.

Note the clear teaching of the Trinity in the first four words of the Greek, the Lord, the Spirit, and Christ.

Christ is declaring Himself the Messiah with the words  "He has anointed Me."  The sentence has no punctuation in Greek, in other words it would run,  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor."  This is the first sentence. The remainder of verses 18 and 19 is simply a restatement of this same truth in different words.

Verses 18 and 19 must be wholly spiritual as will be noted later. The poor, the captives, the blind, and the crushed denote repentant sinners. Compare Romans 3:20. Impenitent sinners reject the Gospel as did these people at Nazareth. In fact some have said that Luke's account here is the equivalent of John 1:11.

What does the Messiah announce to these people? The Good News, forgiveness, restoration of sight, and release.

Arndt: 'The poor' we may say are those that lack righteousness: 'the blind' those people who cannot find the way to heaven; 'the captives' the prisoners of Satan; 'those shattered' the people that are crushed by the weight of their sins.

Jesus is talking about forgiveness of sins, God's great gift to men in Christ. This was the essence of His ministry and preaching throughout the New Testament.

Luke 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

"To announce a season when the Lord welcomes people."

Marshall: Concretely, the allusion is to the 'year of jubilee,' the year of liberation among men appointed by Yahweh in Leviticus 25, and now made symbolic of his own saving acts.

'Year' must be given the general meaning of 'season' 'period'. The jubilee year was a season of blessing.

The Jubilee Year was typical and symbolical of the fulfillment of God's promises in Jesus. Verses 18 and 19 are very similar to the words of absolution used by pastors in the common order of service. They announce, declare, proclaim forgiveness of sins and absolution in the name of Jesus.

The word 'faith' is not even mentioned. Faith does not begin something. Faith receives what is already there.

Luke 4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,

And then He returned the scroll to the man in charge. By the way, Jesus was a man of order and service. He did not expect others to wait on Him.

Luke 4:21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

These are the very words of Jesus.

FULFILLED -  "Has been brought to full completion."  Isaiah 61:1ff is clearly a rectilinear prophecy of the Ebed Yahweh.

IN YOUR HEARING -  "While you are listening."  What a momentous occasion! These words clearly indicate that verses 18 and 19 are completely spiritual.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Luke-John, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 22-24. Used with permission.

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