This passage is often marked as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It follows his experience in the wilderness with temptation. Jesus is empowered by the Holy Spirit and begins teaching, quite successfully (verse 15). Even the disciples refer to him on occasion as ‘Teacher.’ This is one of the great roles Jesus played during his earthly life. Then Jesus comes to his hometown to teach, and something remarkable happens. His own people dislike him. In fact they are so angry they try to throw him off a cliff. Many a preacher has gotten a good chuckle noting that he or she has never been threatened with being thrown off of a cliff because of a sermon they preached, but if ever they were they would be in good company. That’s the story we all know, but the Lectionary reading stops short. Instead, we just get the opening in Jesus sermon, or teaching. Openings are fun things. They set the tone. And here we get the opening to Jesus’ sermon, and the opening words of his ministry as recorded in the gospel of Luke (recognizing that even Luke says other teachings had already happened, we should note that this is the point of particular importance due to it being recorded). Jesus starts by reading from Scripture. This is the only place where we see Jesus read scripture. He quotes from scripture on a regular basis, but as for opening a scroll and reading… this is it. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that we only see Jesus read scripture in community with other people. Is it highly likely that he read it on his own too? Yes. But this is a good reminder that we should start with scripture, but also not neglect the community of faith.
Then there is the matter of what Jesus read. The short passage from Isaiah shows us the foundation of the good news. Verses 18 and 19 remind us who the gospel is for and what Jesus coming means for them. ‘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.’ As we follow Jesus we are drawn to be a part of these things too. The opening really does set the stage for the rest of Jesus ministry, and for the faith as a whole.