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Posted January 17, 2007

Book: The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers: Luke Year C
Author: John Shea
Liturgical Press. Collegeville, MN. 2006. Pp. 330

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

A beloved storyteller and theologian, Shea provides a unique commentary that’s ideal for preaching, teaching, or simply meditating on the Gospels. His writing is poignant and conversational making this a tool valuable for professional ministers, but also Christians who reflect on the Gospels for personal spiritual growth.

Shea draws readers into the people and situations that Jesus encountered in ways that are evocative and inspirational. This resource is based on Catholic and Revised Common Lectionaries, making it accessible across Christian denominations.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 4:21-30

Pleasing and Displeasing

After his baptism, in an ecstatic moment of prayer, Jesus received a revelation that he was the beloved Son of God filled with divine pleasure. However, the full import of this revelation was not immediately known. At this point in the story Luke helps the readers gage what is at stake by inserting a “backward” or “downward” genealogy. The genealogy starts by saying “Jesus was the son of Joseph.” Then it recounts Jesus’ Jewish ancestors all th way back into prehistory where Jesus becomes “Son of Adam.” Then, in a glorious leap, the lineage ends with Jesus as the “Son of God.”

This genealogy acknowledges Jesus belongs to the Jews, to the human family as a whole, and to God. But the way it is structured, with the telltale parenthesis, “Jesus was the son (as was thought) of Joseph,” focuses the upcoming tension. People will stay on the first level of Jesus’ Jewish identity and be unable or reluctant to acknowledge his universally human and divine identities. The people most prone to do this will be the people of his own hometown.

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

Jesus has just read the prophesy from Isaiah about one who is anointed with the Spirit and destined to bring about a better world. His startling commentary on this prophesy is that it is no longer a prophesy. It has been fulfilled. The quickly drawn implication is that Jesus is the fulfillment. He has borrowed Isaiah to flesh out what the voice said to him when he was at prayer after his baptism. “You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.” the mission associated with his identity as the Beloved Son has been clarified.

But the exact language can lead in another direction. The prophesy is fulfilled in their hearing. If they have the capacity to receive Jesus and his message, the prophesy will be fulfilled. A better world will come about. But if they do not have the capacity to receive Jesus and his message, the prophesy will not be fulfilled. Their first response is encouraging for they seem to welcome these challenging words of Jesus.

Although the hometown people in Mark reject Jesus because they know him too well and cannot take his wisdom seriously, these hometown folks claim him and marvel that one of their own is so eloquent and privileged. However, the reason for their pleasure is the assumption that he is Joseph’s son. As Joseph’s son, the benefits of which he speaks — will be bestowed on the village of Joseph. Those who are speaking favorably of Jesus are smacking their lips. They will ride Jesus into a better life. Jesus senses this is the source of their praise and approval.

He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’

It is so obvious that the son of Joseph of Nazareth should help Nazarenes that it is enshrined in a proverb. But Luke’s genealogy warned (it was thought) he was the son of Joseph. His Jewish ancestry was real but not the whole picture. It was a first level that led to deeper considerations. His hidden roots were Son of Adam and Son of God. These deeper connections may elude the people of Nazareth, but they are clear to the one who heard the voice during prayer after his baptism and purified himself of the desire for exemption and privilege in his exchange with the tempter.

Table of Contents:

All Sunday in Cycle C