Employment was different in Jesus’ day. There were no headhunters or online job boards. Most people didn’t even go on interviews. They just woke up in the morning and pretty much did whatever their father did. Shepherd’s kids become shepherds. A fisherman’s kids become fishermen. And the carpenter’s kid, well, he built things like his father did.
Then one day, Jesus set down the hammer and took on a new job. It was something he seemed to be pretty good at because word was spreading around of all the amazing things he had been doing. When Jesus returns to synagogue in his hometown everybody’s there, eager to welcome back the local kid who’d done good.
Like we talked about last week, Jesus is invited to read the lesson for the day. They hand him a bulky scroll from the prophet Isaiah, and Jesus unrolls it looking for a familiar text. When he finds it, he reads:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then Jesus rolls up the scroll, returns it to the attendant, and takes his seat. Again, if you were with us last week, this was the cue for the congregation to listen to his interpretation on the reading. Although Jesus said very little, it was a lot for the people to take in. It was only one powerful sentence. One that is still just as provocative today.
Looking out at all those familiar faces, Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In one powerful sentence, as Charles Hoffacker describes, “Jesus claims those ancient prophetic words as his own personal mission statement.” And what a statement it is.
Imagine a company posting a job description like this on monster.com. Who among us would submit a resume? The workload seems endless, the hours look horrible and the pay isn’t that much better. And let’s not forget the risk to your personal safety and well-being. But let’s say you want to apply, where does one even get the skills or qualifications for this kind of work?
I could argue that at his baptism God’s Spirit empowered and employed Jesus for this role: to bring good news and announce the Jubilee Year when God’s justice will reshape society.
I could also argue that we’ve been empowered and employed by the same Spirit, for the same purpose, haven’t we? Yet, how many of us are lining up to apply for this job opportunity?
watch the message here
Given the state of our world these days, I fear most of us are standing in the line with those Nazarenes who want toss Jesus off the cliff then do what we just heard him say.
I get why the people in seats of power are upset. They hear Jesus and fear they have to give up their unfair advantage. Who among us is willing to give up our power and privilege?
It also makes sense why those who were complacent in their faith are upset. They hear Jesus and know he’s forcing them take an honest look at their habitual infidelity to God. When was the last time you took inventory of your faith? And how did it make you feel?
But not everyone was upset. Those who knew the severe pain of economic inequality and social injustice hear Jesus differently. To those who were out of work, crushed by debt, or had been crying out to God for rescue and reprieve this was good news.
Just as it had been to the foreign widow, the only one who God fed in the middle of a famine. Or the enemy commander whose leprosy was the only one God cured in the midst of a war. To those who needed the year of God’s favor to be upon them, their savior had come.
As so many gospel stories will attest, Jesus not only spoke these words. He lived them out as well. So much so that he was considered a threat to the order of things.
Katie Hines-Shah writes, “Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth is his ministry in miniature. His job will be misunderstood, downplayed, and disrespected.” She later adds, “Jesus followers are not guaranteed acceptance” either. We need to keep this in mind, since we've been empowered and employed by the same Spirit of God that was upon Jesus.
I’m sure his life would have been easier had he remained a carpenter. Likewise, our life might be easier to just go with the status quo. Wake up, go to work, pay our taxes, and buy stuff. That might be fine with you, unless of course, it’s this status quo that’s made your life a living hell.
"These words from Isaiah 61 – where the prophet proclaims God’s care and reversals of fortune for all those in need – Jesus has claimed them as his own personal mission statement."
What then does that say to you and me, and to all who take the name of Christ as our own?
Today, four football teams will battle it out for a chance in the Super Bowl. The job of their quarterbacks is to get the ball in the hands of those who will score goals. It’s the job of the defense to stop him from succeeding. Jesus is calling us to work. Will we take the ball for God? Or rush to stop God’s will from being fulfilled?
Before they try to throw him over the cliff, our Lord reminds this angry mob that they are covenant partners with God. They’ve been empowered and employed to live their lives in such a way that all people would see God among them. And find salvation in God’s heart. The job is still the same today as it was then.
In Christ, God’s covenant is given to us. In our baptism, God blesses and anoints us for the task at hand. As such, we are called to be living examples of God’s love as a community of faith, hope, and charity for all people. If the scripture is to be fulfilled, if good news is going to reach all people, then we need to move into that space between hearing God’s word and doing what God has employed us to do.
Jesus doesn’t tell his disciples to sit back and let me handle it. Instead, he sends all of us out into the furthest corners of the world to be the good news of God’s great redemptive love. We can sit here and wait for miracles to happen. But Jesus is calling us to go and be the miracle. Go bind up the brokenhearted. Give hope to those without vision. Liberate the oppressed and release people from whatever debts they carry.
The job of Christ is the job of all who claim his name. It’s not enough to be hearers of the word. Our job, as Christians, is to live in Christ’s likeness – to embody the Word of God by literally becoming it.
As we move into Anamesa, our job is to be little Christs in every space; making great things happen for those who need it the most. For it’s in the sacred space between our hearing and doing, others find hope and freedom, mercy, grace, and love...lots and lots of love.
We are the body of Christ Jesus, a Church filled with the Spirit of God. His mission is ours now.
For the Spirit of the Lord is upon us.
The Spirit of the Lord has anointed you and me to bring good news to the poor.
The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to proclaim release to the captives.
The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to help the blind recover their sight.
The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to free the oppressed.
The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Today, may this scripture be fulfilled in our hearing. And in our doing.
Hines-Shah, Katie. "Living By The Word." Christian Century, January 12, 2022. (accessed on January 28, 2022)
Hoffacker, Charles. Jesus’ Mission Statement. January 27, 2013 (accessed on January 25, 2022)
Kubicek, Kirk Alan. We Are His. February 3, 2019. (accessed on January 28, 2022)
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”