Lk 4:16-30 Cut To The Chase
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me…”
So many things I take for granted. So many things I consider coincidental. St. Luke retells a story that must have been told a thousand times.
Out of the four evangelists, Luke’s Greek and writing style is considered superior to the rest. It is well polished and well thought out. He must have rehearsed it over and over again in his mind before writing it all down.
Reading today’s Gospel passage is like looking at a series of pictures. I see the Lord arriving in Nazareth. The streets are deserted. All eyes and ears and every heart, mind, body and soul are concentrated in a single place: the local synagogue. Then the Lord walks in. He walks into a small and crowded synagogue. All eyes instinctively look up; all mouths unknowingly open wide. Immediately everyone begins to measure him up. His cynics may have remembered him as being taller. His fans (or fanatics) may have been shocked at how much He had grown. Others may have hoped there would have been some halo above him. We all look for something to point to or to hold on to; and typically, it’s not the right thing; the important thing; the most revealing thing.
Regardless, the man of miracles, whom so much had been said, had finally arrived home and was now in their midst…and surrounded.
He stood up to read. The service began the second He arrived. The entire community had obviously been waiting for Him, for they wanted Him to read. The elders were the first to take a seat. I wouldn’t be surprised if they placed a gentle hand on the leg of the up and coming rabbis to take a seat. Today, in Nazareth, men, women and children would hear the great orator’s voice. Would it be thunderous? Would it be flowing? Would they detect a hint of nerves? Would the carpenter’s son be nervous? Would the Lord crack under pressure or would He perform exceptionally – memorably - well?
Again, instead of looking for authentic signs of wonder, they were looking for signs of blunder.
There exists little to no comment on how well the Lord read. This is by no means an indictment on the Lord’s performance. St. Luke, unlike the crowd, understood what was of great importance.
We know what is important by what he tells us. And what he tells us, is what was handed to Jesus. A scroll.
It is a scroll of the prophet Isaiah; the prophet of the suffering servant; the prophet of the Messiah. Unknowingly to man, but always knowingly from God; coincidental to man, but always providential from God, the chief rabbi handed a scroll to the Lord as if an angel had come down from Heaven and personally hand delivered it to Him. In it was the following passage:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. [Anointed = (Latin) Chrīstus (Greek) chrīstos, translation of Hebrew māshīaḥ anointed, Messiah]
In a dazzling dance, perfectly choreographed by the Holy Spirit, between God and man, the Lord, all at once, revealed, in a religious setting, and at the hands of the chief rabbi, His essence and mission to an entire village. As the Word of God was handed to Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among them.
“It can’t be! God can’t exist. He can’t be real.” Some people just can’t seem to cut to the chase. They can’t seem to get to the end of the story, the meaning, the point of life. They prefer to survive in the bureaucracy of time and space, the limited physical world, rather than thrive in the freedom and possibilities of an entirely different world. They prefer all things considered rather than all things possible. They can’t seem to see the hand of God to save their life!
When the Lord arrived home, he cut to the chase. With scroll handed to Him, Divine Providence led man, woman and child to Him. And instead, man, woman and child drove the Lord to the brow of the hill to hurl him down headlong. When God does not allow us to define Him, it means it’s time to get rid of Him.
The greatest nuisance in life is getting trapped in red tape. The greatest joy in life is getting through the red tape. Of course, things can go downhill from there, but it would be foolish to blame the epiphany we had. Instead, it would be wise to feel pity for those who live in and weave red tape.