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The Mission of Jesus Part 1

What was the mission of Jesus? Why did He come to earth? A passage from the gospel of Luke helps us understand this. I will be taking the next several weeks to unpack this important scripture.

jesus.001

But before I do, let me ask you, who is God? Or maybe what is God? You might say that:

  • God is holy
  • God is powerful
  • God is omnipotent
  • God is love
  • God is wise

He can be described both abstractly and concretely.

  • God is a shepherd
  • God is a rock
  • God is living water
  • God is bread
  • God is a nursing mother
  • God is a father

These words not only create images but smells, touch and even taste. Scripture does not emphasize thinking about the goodness of God but rather “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

When examining the life of Jesus people describe him as “powerful, wise and gentle,” yet in concrete terms Jesus was born in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, and had the heavens and angels announce his birth. A manger is a place for water, not hay. Animals were brought out to graze. Food was not brought into a stable.

The word Bethlehem (bet lehem) means house of bread or place of bread. In Arabic the meaning is house of meat. I love this dual meaning with Arab brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which means “branch or shoot”, referencing the messianic words of Isaiah 11 which states, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.

Connecting the western and eastern understanding, Jesus is:

  • the Light of the world came into the world and announced by starlight.
  • the Bread of life and Lamb of God was born in the city of bread and meat.
  • the Living Water was placed in a water trough.
  • and, the Shoot from Jesse’s stump grew up in branch-town.

Jesus gave his inaugural address boldly and shockingly in branch-town, declaring His spirit-led messianic mission.

Luke 4:14-16

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.”

The town of Nazareth

Understanding the synagogue service requires some history regarding Nazareth, a town of about 200-250 people founded by returnees from Babylon in about 150 B.C. The people named the community Nazareth, deciding they were the ones where the Messiah would come. They named the town neser (branch), referencing the messianic words of Isaiah 11:1. They were saying, “We are Nazareth. We are Jesse’s family and the messiah is going to be from here.” Yet everyone looked down on them. Remember the often quoted saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” In other words, “What right do they have to claim the Messiah?”

The setting of Jesus speaking in Nazareth

The gospel of Luke is a sequential gospel, placing things in chronological order. This helps provide a proper context for the passage.

According to Luke, Jesus is baptized and spends 40 days in the wilderness preparing for ministry. After this He, “returns in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. Jesus ministers throughout the Galilee region. This suggests he was a member of the synagogues in a number of communities, including Nazareth and Capernaum.

Luke 8 gives the story of Jairus, the synagogue ruler of Capernaum. The man had various responsibilities. He was the custodian of the building and the master of ceremonies for weekly services. He had the responsibility to schedule synagogue speakers and record the Scripture read and discussed. A list was posted on the wall for the community. A portion from the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, was read along with a section from the prophets.

The Scripture reading was selected far in advance. Similar to Liturgical churches today they created something like a Scripture calendar, detailing what whould be emphasized each week. In Jesus’ day some believe the Scripture passage may have been selected as far as 200 years in advance, evidence points to at least 3 years. This has huge implications to the particular passage Jesus read on that particular day. God is not a God of coincidence. He arranged this moment years before it occurred.

Jesus, one of their own, did some wonderful things in Capernaum and was scheduled to speak in the Nazareth synagogue. The place may have been packed with townspeople. The speaking list posted Jesus as the selected teacher.

Citizens believed the Messiah would come from their community. Jesus healed people, cast out demons, and did amazing things in the region. They came to the synagogue wondering if one of their own was who they were waiting for, if this was the one they should be expecting.

Next week, we’ll look at the message Jesus shared…

The challenge

Grow in your understanding of God. He is holy and powerful our Shepherd and the Rock.

What does God mean to you? Share your comments below.

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Comments

  1. Anisa Baker says:

    Very cool insights we usually don’t hear about–thank you!

  2. I hope the 3-part series is insightful and challenging as we consider following in the footsteps of Jesus.