Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Questions on the gospel of Luke

The other day the Mary Help of Christians community of Zone A met for lectio divina, and reflected on the gospel of the coming Sunday, Lk 1:1-4, 4:14-21. The group had some questions, which I will try to address.

1. "Was not the Holy Spirit with Jesus all the time?"

- The gospel has Jesus saying: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. It does not say that the Spirit descended on Jesus. But the gospels do say in other parts - chiefly the Baptism of Jesus - that the Spirit descended on Jesus. So the question stands. What can we say? Perhaps only this: that God is everywhere; yet he manifests himself in a special way at certain times and certain places. Perhaps we can see the Baptism of Jesus as a special moment of this manifestation. In fact, the Baptism is in some ways part of the feast of the Epiphany, the feast of the Manifestation of Jesus. Jesus is manifested as the Christ, the Anointed One, the One anointed with the Spirit. He is manifested as the Son, the beloved Son of the Father.

2. "The people of Nazareth did not believe Jesus as the Messiah."

From the gospel, it would seem that they did not; or at least, that the majority of them did not. There is nothing surprising about this. Jesus grew up in their midst. His identity as more than just a good boy or young man becomes evident only slowly. One of the moments of this revelation is the passage we have been reflecting on. He enters the synagogue of his home town, reads a significant passage from Isaiah, and declares that it has been fulfilled.

All the gospels, in every passage, aim at revealing the true and full identity of Jesus. And all of us, even though we believe, are still slowly coming to realize who he really is.

3. "Why did Jesus have to refer to what the prophets had written? Why did he not just say and do all he wanted according to his Father?"

- I suppose it was the Father's will to have a long preparation for the arrival of Jesus in the Old Testament, through the history of Israel, and especially through the
prophets. So naturally when Jesus came, he presented himself as a fulfilment of the prophecies. In fact, it is mostly Matthew who presents Jesus in this way, precisely because he was writing for a largely Jewish community. Luke is writing to Gentiles, to non-Jews, and so he quotes the Old Testament and prophets more rarely. The passage we have been studying is one of the exceptions. But it has a power that enables it to speak even to non-Jews like us: Behold today this scripture has been fulfilled in your presence.

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