Sunday (January 27): "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit"

Meditation: What does the Gospel of Luke tell us about Jesus and his mission and what he came to do for us? Many skeptics question the reliability and accuracy of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. Luke tells us that his account is utterly believable because it comes from firsthand witnesses (Luke 1:2) who knew Jesus personally, heard him teach, saw his miracles, and witnessed his atoning death on the cross and his rising from the tomb to everlasting life.

Luke begins his account by addressing his friend, Theophilus, a name which means "beloved of God" (Luke 1:3). In so many words Luke tells his friend (and us as well), I am writing to you the most incredible story humankind has known - and which many witnesses and messengers of God's word have openly explained on many occasions. Luke wants his friend and all who read his account to "know the truth" (Luke 1:4) concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was sent from the Father in heaven and anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring us the good news and power of God's kingdom.

The "good news"of Jesus brings new life and freedom
The word "gospel" literally means "good news."  The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ and the new life and freedom he has won for us through his atoning death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection to everlasting life and glory with the Father in heaven. The Gospel is the all-powerful and all-merciful word of God for us today as much as it was for the people who first heard it in Jesus' time. It's a life-giving word that has supernatural power to change, transform, and bring freedom and healing to those who accept it as the living word of God. Are you hungry for God's word of truth and mercy, love and forgiveness? And do you want to grow in the knowledge of God and what he has accomplished for us through his Son, Jesus Christ?

Jesus came in the power of the Spirit
Luke tells us that Jesus was about 30 years of age when he began his public ministry (Luke 3:23). Right after Jesus was baptized by John and anointed by the Spirit at the River Jordan (Luke 3:21-22), he spent 40 days in the wilderness to devote himself to prayer and fasting (Luke 4:1-13). At the end of this period of spiritual preparation and testing, Luke tells us that Jesus "returned in the power of the Spirit to his own land of Galilee" (Luke 4:14). Jesus chose to begin his public ministry in Galilee first, rather than in Jerusalem, the holy city and temple of God. This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1,2. 

Luke tells us that Jesus chose to publicly announce his mission in the synagogue at Nazareth. The people there were familiar with Jesus since it was his custom to regularly attended the weekly Sabbath service. Jesus was also known by many in Nazareth as a "carpenter" (Mark 6:3) and "son of Joseph" (Luke 4:21). When the president of the synagogue called on Jesus to read from the book of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus chose to read Isaiah's description (verses 1-2 of chapter 61) of  what the Messiah would do when he came to restore God's kingdom for the people of Israel.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Isaiah 61:1-2).

Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be sent by God and anointed in the power of the Holy Spirit to preach "good news" and bring healing, blessing, and freedom to all who were oppressed (see Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus awakened their hope in God's promises when he announced that this word was now being fulfilled in his very own person. Luke tells us that the people of Nazareth spoke well of him and received his "gracious word" with amazement and wonder. But they also openly questioned how the "son of Joseph" would fulfill this Messianic mission (Luke 4:21). Jesus challenged them to believe the word God had spoken through the prophets and the word he now speaks in God's name through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus renews and strengthens us in faith, hope, and love
The Lord Jesus speaks this same word to each of us today - he comes to bring us healing and restoration, pardon and freedom from the oppression of sin, despair, hopelessness, and destruction. Do you believe his word with expectant faith and trust, or with doubt and indifference? The Lord will not refuse to pour out his Spirit on all who trust in him. Ask the Lord Jesus to renew in you the joy of the Gospel and the freedom to live each day with trusting faith, joyful hope, and fervent love.
"Lord Jesus, you are the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams. Through the gift of your Holy Spirit you bring us truth, freedom, and abundant life. Fill me with the joy of the Gospel and inflame my heart with a burning love for you and a deep thirst for your word."

This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/