Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Gospel 8

posted by xscot mcknight

We come to the end of this week’s series on gospel with a potent passage, one dearly loved by liberation theologians and justice workers and one of which many reducers of the gospel today are fearful. Here’s my opinion on this matter: liberationists tend to reduce the gospel to this text while the traditional evangelical tends to mitigate this text. Let’s embrace it and all the other gospel texts.

Luke 4:16 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, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 ?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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord?s favor.? 20 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. 21 Then he began to say to them, ?Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.?

These verses and those that follow clarify what Jesus’ gospel is beginning to look like:
1. Jesus’ gospel is about Jesus: the “egocentric” element of this text is palpable. Jesus preaches a gospel that is a gospel about Jesus.
2. Jesus’ gospel brings justice: to the poor, to the captives, to the oppressed.
3. Jesus’ gospel brings healing to the blind and marginalized.
4. Jesus’ gospel is Jubilee-like (Lev 25; Luke 4:19a).
5. Jesus’ gospel is so stubbornly about himself that folks want to do him in (Luke 4:28-29).
6. I take this gospel about Jesus to be central to defining what kingdom gospel is: kingdom gospel is Jesus gospel. Justice gospel without Jesus is not kingdom gospel or Jesus gospel. Jesus gospel is kingdom gospel is justice gospel. Any gospel that does not have those three words — Jesus, kingdom, justice — is not a biblical gospel. We’ve seen this straight through from Psalms to Jesus.
Luke 4 shows that what happened in Nazareth was Jesus’ task: “43 But he said to them, ?I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.? 44 So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.”



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Simon

posted October 2, 2008 at 1:01 am


Hmm, I’m not convinced with your point 5. People want to do him in just after he’s been talking, not about himself, but about how the prophets of old would occasionally sidestep Israel and go out towards the Gentiles. The idea that the Jesus’ gospel would be inclusive of the Gentiles is what made folks want to do him in.



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John C

posted October 2, 2008 at 2:32 am


“Justice gospel without Jesus is not kingdom gospel or Jesus gospel. Jesus gospel is kingdom gospel is justice gospel. Any gospel that does not have those three words ? Jesus, kingdom, justice ? is not a biblical gospel.”
That’s really well put, Scot. What would you say to those who stress that Jesus accomplish this through preaching (to the poor), exorcism (thus releasing captives/the oppressed), and healing (of the blind), and who argue that the Nazareth manifesto is enacted when Christians concentrate on those ‘spiritual’ activities (or perhaps just preaching alone!), not when they get distracted by socio-economic activism or political campaigns.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 2, 2008 at 4:56 am


Simon,
Very popular view you are advocating; it stems, I think, from Jeremias. The problem is two-fold: the text does not say they reacted because he cut off quoting at vengeance on Gentiles. It makes the Jewish folks who got mad at Jesus viciously antagonistic about Gentile inclusion (in other words, it’s a racial/ethnic thing). I suspect they went after Jesus because of his willingness to say the text was fufilled in him — that’s in the text.
John C,
The whole task is our whole task.



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Rick

posted October 2, 2008 at 5:46 am


Rather than mitigating the passage, don’t many simply spiritualize the passage? For various reasons (for example: people do not know of many blind being healed), the whole passage becomes one about spiritual well-being. Releasing, recovering, and freeing are all taken out of the down-to-earth realm.



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Simon

posted October 2, 2008 at 6:17 am


Scot, I think you’ve misunderstood what I’m saying; you’re ready for the counterargument, but not the one that I actually made. I didn’t mention cutting off vengence at all.
First Jesus does indeed say that the text was fulfilled in him. The crowds’ response to this is to be amazed at his gracious words. Maybe they just like the very short sermon, but they seem to have no problem with him saying that the text was fulfilled in him; after all, they’ve been waiting for the Messiah to come. The Messiah coming is, for them, a Good Thing and not a Bad Thing, and it is reasonable that they are happy to hear that he is the one they have been waiting for.
Then he talks about something else, and the mood changes. The happy crowd becomes an unhappy crowd. Your explanation does not deal with what was said to change the happy crowd into the unhappy crowd, whereas mine does. The “something else” that he talks about is the extension of the Messianic role to assist the Gentiles, (not condemn them) and he cites prophetic precedent for this happening.
In short people are mad because he’s being inclusive, not because he’s being exclusive.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 2, 2008 at 6:40 am


Simon … from cell …
Lk 4.23-27 comes next. The point is that a prophet is without honor.
The issue is not inclusion. Perhaps you mean not doing his works in Nazareth?



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Simon

posted October 2, 2008 at 7:31 am


And why is a prophet without honour? “But in truth I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in Elijah?s days, when the sky was shut up three and a half years, and there was a great famine over all the land. Yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to a woman who was a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, yet none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
Two examples of prophets reaching out beyond Israel to the Gentiles. Then the crowd gets mad.



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John Frye

posted October 2, 2008 at 7:33 am


Simon,
You misunderstand Jesus’ OT citations. Jesus is not arguing for Gentile inclusion; he is indicting his own home town for their unbelief. The people in the synagogue are just as hardhearted as those in Elijah’s day.



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Simon

posted October 2, 2008 at 7:35 am


OK. Weird, though, a whole OT full of choice quotes about Israel’s hardheartedness and he happens to choose two where Gentiles were blessed instead. Guess he meant us just to overlook that detail.



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John Frye

posted October 2, 2008 at 7:36 am


Simon,
Don’t play off the change in attitude. Remember Holy Week? It begins with “Hosanna!” and ends with “Crucify him!”.



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Mike

posted October 2, 2008 at 12:16 pm


Scot etal,
I’d like to take a stab at this, as this passage summoned me to re-read the Greek NT, as v.22 seems in context to either fuss up what follows, or if reconsidered, make better sense of the crowd’s attempt to toss Jesus over the cliff, as well Scot’s point (5.).
*emartyroun*: as often translated above and elsewhere, “And all *spoke well* of him…” Except in Luke (and Acts): this is the only use of *martyreo*, and it is often rendered in English as *spoke well.* You find *emartyrei* in Jn. 17:21, except that gets rendered, “the crowd…*bore witness*.” Of course, we’ll let John be John, etc., etc. But: *bore witness*, or *heard [him] clearly*, perhaps sits better in the context.
*ethaumazon*: translated here as “…and [they] *marvelled* at the gracious words coming from his mouth.” I get the sense here that *thaumazeo* does not obligate us to infer that the reaction was favorable. And if context means anything, the behavior of the crowd lends us an important suggestion that the quality of the reaction was *unfavorable*
So, where does this get us, if anywhere? The crowd heard Jesus loud and clear: and that generated an hostile response of wonder, and here’s my hypothetical crowd response: “Fulfillment of the Scripture in the person of Jesus? No way!” The follow-up comments of Jesus (about the Gentiles) chapped the crowd’s back-side. And, what followed was the assassination attempt on Jesus.
Otherwise, if we keep the popular translation, we’re still left with a very peculiar reply of Jesus to the crowd’s reaction, and certainly the change in attitude is also remarkably different. OK! Push back, one and all! :)



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Michael

posted October 2, 2008 at 4:41 pm


I agree with Simon and would challenge the idea in point 5 that the crowds’ anger is connected with Jesus’ insistence on his centrality of the gospel.



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nitika

posted October 2, 2008 at 9:36 pm


I don’t see the justice emphasis that you seem to highlight… good news, healing, liberation (twice!), but “justice” I don’t see at all. Are you using the word justice to summarize the things proclaimed to the poor/captives/blind/oppressed?



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Simon

posted October 7, 2008 at 6:44 am


Mike: OK, if we’re going to Greek-niggle, let’s damned well Greek-niggle properly. Verse 22 has the two imperfects you speak of, with the crowd sitting in an attitude of “bearing witness” or “hearing” or “marvelling” (whether positive or negative, doesn’t matter). Then against this imperfect background, in verses 25-27 Jesus says the stuff about an inclusive Gospel that I contend is the controversial bit, and then in verse 28 there’s a big fat hairy aorist ?p??s??sa?, followed up with an ??????te? ta?ta just to hammer the point home. “On hearing this, they at that point became filled with rage.” The crowd’s mood decisively changed as a result of what was just said.
nitika: Action on behalf of the oppressed is “justice” in the Old Testament sense. I tried to summarise Western versus Eastern perspectives on justice at http://blog.simon-cozens.org/post/view/1224 and the book I mention (Green and Baker) has more on the topic, particularly noting the work of Norman Kraus.



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