Every year, actor Will Smith returns to Philadelphia to support nonprofits that work against violence. Last year, he and his son returned to applaud the efforts of a program helping teens in underprivileged communities. When movie stars visit their hometowns, they usually make headlines. It is wonderful when they use this attention to focus on important causes.
In today’s passage, Jesus returned to Nazareth, where He grew up, and again preached at the synagogue. The passage follows His baptism by John the Baptist and His temptation in the desert in Luke 4. By this time word had spread about Jesus and His message. His teaching in synagogues was well received (vv. 14–15).
While most of our traditional Christmas decorations feature Jesus as a baby, His purpose on earth went far beyond His infancy. To demonstrate that purpose, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah 61 to announce His anointing and commissioning by the Holy Spirit. This text describes the purpose of Christ’s coming: “to proclaim the good news to the poor” and to “set the oppressed free” (v. 18).
Jesus read the passage and sat down. He had the attention of everyone in the synagogue. He chose that moment, in His hometown, among those He had known His entire life, to reveal His heavenly purpose. “Today,” Jesus said, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
Initially the people responded positively to this declaration, but they also had questions. They wondered how this ordinary young man could claim to be the fulfillment of prophecy: “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (v. 22). Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, sent to redeem the world.