Just as we did for Advent, we will be posting a series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s sermon scripture during this season of Epiphany. You may use these devotions as you want – for yourself, with a group or as a family; all at once, or broken up throughout the week. We suggest you start with the Scripture readings before you engage the other pieces. Enjoy!
“Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee…” This week we return to Luke, and we need to play a little catch up. Two weeks ago Luke told us about Jesus at the River Jordan with his cousin John the Baptist (so many Johns!), receiving baptism by water like all the other ordinary followers of John. With a little bit extra.
The Holy Spirit comes down out of the heavens and blesses Jesus. Then that Spirit causes him to go out into the wilderness to get prepared for his ministry, then back into civilization to preach and teach. And when Jesus gets to his hometown he reads a passage from Isaiah that talks about what this Spirit has come upon him to do. Jesus’ friends and neighbors were not shocked into silence merely by the words read, but rather what they represented.
Through exiles and empires and revolutions, Isaiah’s words about being saved from all these troubles had come to be associated with a Messiah of the Judean people. For Jesus to declare that these words of Isaiah applied to himself was indeed a shock. And not just for the people in his hometown – we see this idea continuing to surprise, delight, and terrify people throughout the Gospels.
But, let’s go back to the words he read. Perhaps the most shocking thing about them is how ordinary they are. Remember, they said that the Spirit of the Lord had come upon him and anointed him to bring good news to the poor, release for those held captive, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. All of these are things that God calls each of us to do. There is nothing in here that any of us cannot do. So, what makes them the acts of a Messiah?
These acts are simple on their face, but anyone who has engaged in this work knows how exhausting even good news can be. Not everyone is ready to hear good news, and certainly not those in power who are benefitting from people being poor or oppressed or in prison. Any one of us who has lived paycheck to paycheck, been hungry, felt trapped, or who has actually been in jail or prison knows that it can seem easier to stay in bad circumstances we are familiar with rather than trying to do something completely new and uncertain. And we also know how it feels to do this work when we feel empowered and lifted up, like it will be ok even if it takes a lot of energy or time. This is what is different about Jesus – he is filled with the Spirit.
When we are filled with the Spirit, we feel like we can do anything. And we may make real change in peoples’ lives, even when we are not aware of how much. And, like Jesus, as we do this work the Holy Spirit becomes contagious. People see it in us and want it for themselves, and can get caught up in it with us. Jesus, filled with the Spirit, saves us, and saves others through us.
That is the work of a Messiah.
- What is a time you were frustrated by a problem? Were you able to fix it or not? How did that make you feel?
- What is a time when you felt the Holy Spirit? What was going on around you? What did it make you feel like? Is it easier to deal with tough problems when you feel filled with the Spirit?
- What is a big problem or issue that you would like to help change? What is one thing you could do to work on it right now?
God, sometimes we look at the problems of the world and they seem so big. Help us catch Your Spirit so that we can see the world through Your eyes. Help us wade into the unknown and the big problems filled with Your unquenchable Spirit, keeping us awake and alive. Help us keep doing the work you’ve called us to even when it is hard. Like Jesus, may we stand and declare a new day and new life for all. Amen.