A prophet announces things. Sometimes those things are about what is to come, often based on what has already occurred. (It didn’t take a crystal ball for Old Testament prophets to predict that Israel would drift away from God – there was a well-established cycle of drawing near and fading away across the centuries.) Too much emphasis has been placed on the prophets’ reputation for announcing messages about the future. A primary job is to announce what is the current reality – that’s the form of Jesus’ prophecy in Sunday’s gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30).
When Jesus began his public ministry of “bringing good news to the poor…proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, (letting) the oppressed go free, and (proclaiming) the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19), he was announcing that this had begun. His arrival was about fulfilling what Isaiah anticipated.
And all of that sounded good, so long as it was directed at the right people. “Good, Jesus, we have some poor people right over here and a captive down that street. My sister is blind, I feel oppressed, and Nazareth needs the Lord’s favor. Thank you for bringing these good things to us,” was certainly his hometown synagogue’s attitude. What they had not anticipated – and what angered them – was that Jesus was announcing these good things for far more people than the ones of Nazareth or even Israel. He wasn’t even keeping it within the Jewish community. Right from the start in Luke, Jesus is proclaiming a ministry to all. His love and mercy would be boundless, which, their response proved, was not a welcomed announcement.
Let’s pray that 2000 years later and as recipients of a ministry that reached beyond Jesus’ own religious community, we not only welcome his announcement, but join him in bringing it to fulfillment.