In the Lectionary

February 3, Epiphany 4C (Luke 4:21–30)

There’s a lot of urgency in that single word today.

What a day! Jesus has returned home to Nazareth and made his way to the synagogue, as is his custom. The hometown boy who’s done well has come home to preach, and the synagogue is no doubt packed—Luke says his fame has spread throughout the countryside. People love a winner, and they love a spectacle. This crowd knows Jesus and he knows them, so they turn out to hear him preach—this favorite son, back in the synagogue, back to the friendly and familiar, back to a day that used to be. They expect to experience exactly what they have experienced in the past; they are backing into the future with their eyes on what’s behind. They crowd into the synagogue to relive the glorious days of what used to be.

Luke makes the preliminaries brief and hurries us into the synagogue. Once inside, with worship under way, Jesus stands up to read. As he ascends the steps, the attendant draws aside the silk curtain containing the sacred manuscripts and hands him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Whether the Isaiah scroll was handed to Jesus by prearrangement or by providence we do not know. The synagogue had no official readers; any competent male member could read one of the lessons. This is the only place in the Bible where Jesus is portrayed as reading. What a sight it must have been: the Word reading the word.