Luke 1: 1–4; 4:14–21
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He 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, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke begins his Gospel in the style of classic Greek authors of the time. His introductory sentence, which is the four verses in today’s Gospel, followed the norms of the classic writers. This implies that he is about to write a work of literary importance.
In the first verse, Luke is referring to the coming of Christ, his life, death, resurrection, ascension and the consequences of these that is the setting up of his Church. Luke said that these things happened amongst us. Luke is a Greek and so these things had not happened for the Jews only but for the Gentiles too and in fact for all men.
Luke, in the second verse, continued that others or many had undertaken to put in writing the facts concerning Christ. As far as is known, only Mark and the Aramaic basis of Matthew were in any sense successful attempts at this.
In the third verse, Luke added that the eye-witnesses, who were the Apostles, and other Jewish converts joined them in the early days, including Paul as an example, had preached these facts. The facts were so astounding and far-reaching in their effects that they were easily remembered by the hearers. Thus the full story had reached Luke some thirty years after the Ascension.
However, in the fourth verse, Luke confessed that as a true historian, he must do his own research. He was not content to write down what others had written or what he had heard second hand. Since he joined Paul in about 50 AD, who himself had met some of the Apostles, he had opportunities of contacting “eye-witnesses”. He possibly met some of the Apostles in Palestine. He probably also met Peter in Rome while Paul was in prison in there between 61 and 63 AD. Lastly, he must have met the Blessed Mother while he was in Palestine from 59 to 61 AD during Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea.
We have no idea who was Theophilus, but Luke dedicated his second book, The Acts of the Apostles, to a person of the same name. Nevertheless, we can be certain that the Gospel was intended for all Christians especially those of Gentile origin, who were the vast majority at that time, for the purpose of confirming and assuring the truth of the Christian faith.
Now let us turn our attention to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. After the baptism in the Jordan and the temptation in the desert, Christ went to Galilee, where he spent most of public life according to the Synoptic Gospels.
The power and Spirit of God had descended on Jesus in Jordan. He was the Messiah. He had received the power and spirit of the prophets of old. His divine sonship was yet hidden. What the crowds who gathered to hear him saw was that he was a man of God. His words and work proved that he was sent by God.
When Jesus began his preaching in the synagogues of Galilee, at first he was well received by the Jews. In today’s Gospel we see Jesus was asked to read the lesson of the day in accordance with the custom of the time. Most likely the reading for that Sabbath was the messianic prophecy of the Second Isaiah or perhaps Jesus chose this very prophecy.
After reading the words of Isaiah, which refer to the Messiah and the messianic liberation of all the people, Jesus now tells his neighbours of Nazareth that he is the Messiah of whom the prophet spoke. The prophecy is fulfilled and he, the promised Messiah, has come. The question that we should ponder today is, do we realize that the promised Messiah has already come? Or we still are waiting for him to come? Amen.