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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 23, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Luke 4:14–21

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“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.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (NRSV)

I am a skeptic. I ask questions about almost everything before I make up my mind. So, on first reading, I wondered what I would think about someone who stood up in church and said, “I am the answer.” Right away I would be asking myself, “Who is this, what is he saying, and why should I believe him.” Then I thought about how I have learned best—in school and in life. Like many of my professors, Jesus first had to capture my attention, and he does so in saying “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

OK, that sets the stage. Now what? At the heart of Jesus’ message is a recurring concern for the well-being of everyone around him: good news for the poor, freedom for prisoners and the oppressed, recovery of sight for the blind, and a year of God’s favor for all. It would seem he has come to help those suffering, in pain and in need of healing. He’s not making judgments about the good or the bad, the rich or the poor, or what we have done or not done. He’s talking to everyone.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. Jesus began his teaching the way he conducted himself from then on. He did not dictate or demand that we believe anything. He taught in parables using metaphors, similes, dramatic action, and very personal stories. Rather than logic and reasoning, Jesus draws us in with colorful stories of things to which we can all relate; he challenges and provokes us to think for ourselves, wrestle with what he’s saying, and come to our own conclusions about the content. Jesus invites us to look into our own hearts and trusts that we will be able to discern the meaning.

Emily Dickenson “got” Jesus, which made her such a brilliant poet: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant / Success in circuit lies. / The truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind.”

Holy Spirit, dazzle me with understanding as I grapple with life’s pain, suffering, and puzzles. Bless us with God’s favor, and open our hearts to see things as Jesus has taught us. Amen.

Written by Elise Magers, Assistant Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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