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Good news for the lowly and hungry

October 8, 2022

Daily Scripture

Luke 1:51-53, Luke 4:16-21

Luke 1

51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52 He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.

Luke 4

16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
19 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor [Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6].

20 He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. 21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”


Daily Reflection & Prayer

Mary’s song showed that the effects of John’s and Jesus’ births went far beyond two happy rural families. Pastor Adam Hamilton said many of us “fail to realize how subversive, even revolutionary, Mary’s song really was…. Mary’s words should make us uncomfortable. They point to a concern God has for the poor, and a sense that the rich have received theirs already.… We have the obligation and calling to be used by God to ‘fill the hungry with good things.’” * Jesus shared his mother’s sense of his mission. Invited to read in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, he chose Isaiah’s promise of hope for the lowliest groups in his society, and then announced to the congregation that he fulfilled Isaiah’s scripture.

  • John’s gospel said (cf. John 1:1-3, 14) Jesus was the power behind all of the calls to justice by Israel’s prophets (e.g. Amos 5:24), psalmists (e.g. Psalm 82:1-4) and wisdom writers (e.g. Proverbs 31:8-9). So it wasn’t startling that when Mary rejoiced that her child would fulfill God’s promise to bring justice to an unjust world, she echoed the song the prophet Samuel’s mother sang in 1 Samuel 2:3-5, 8. Nor was it surprising that Jesus’ half-brother James, whose letter we just studied, echoed the need to live out God’s concern for the poor in a world that has always struggled to live justly (cf. James 2:1-5). In what ways are you rich or powerful? In what ways “lowly” or “hungry”? Are you willing to accept help in any areas where your life may be “lowly”? Does Mary’s song move you to actively use the ways you are rich and/or powerful to lighten the burdens of the lowly and hungry, not just to further enhance your own wealth and power?

Lord God, I don’t want you to have to pull me down or send me away empty-handed. Give me the wisdom to share what I have, not to hoard it just for myself. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of  Justin Schoolcraft

Justin Schoolcraft

Justin is a Provisional Deacon in the United Methodist Church and serves at the Leawood location. In his work with small groups and young adults, his passion is creating a culture of community where everybody feels like they can belong.

Over the past few weeks I have been teaching a Sunday morning class on the Book of Revelation. Over the course of seminary and personal pursuits, I have somehow found myself with a deeper awareness of Revelation’s meaning than almost any other book of the Bible. Alongside that journey has been a love of teaching what I’ve learned.

This round of teaching the book has been interesting. I invited the young adult group I lead to sit in on the class made up of people who are older than them (I’ve learned in ministry not to say “older people.”) Across generations the people in the Sunday School room resonated with what I think is the central theme of the book: the fierce justice of God directed not at people who haven’t believed in Jesus, but at oppressive systems of power and mechanisms of death. Death, and all its sinister systems, is what gets judged in Revelation.

It’s not that different from the Magnificat or the triumphant proclamation of Luke 4 we read about today. In the Magnificat, the arrogant and proud are scattered and the poor are fed with good things. In Luke 4, Jesus declares that the Spirit of the Lord was on him, a poor carpenter from Nazareth, and that the blind would receive sight, the oppressed would be liberated, and the enslaved would be released. Yeah!!!! Wow, I resonate with that. I love that.

I bet you love that, too, don’t you? You want to see that day. The day when death is judged. The day when pain is done away with. The day when oppression held over vulnerable people like a hammer over a nail is stricken from the face of the earth. Bring that day, Lord Jesus.

But it’s the later words of Jesus in Luke 4 that leave me challenged and confused. Jesus reads that proclamation of righteous power from the scroll and then says something baffling: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it” (Luke 4:21).

What do you mean it’s been fulfilled, Jesus? Look at the world we live in. You say these words… that liberation has been fulfilled. But prove it. Because it doesn’t look like it. Nations are invaded, the poor grow poorer and the rich richer, the climate grows hostile, and the greedy get everything. Meanwhile, people die of sickness and cancer, and our justice system sends innocent people into prison. What do you mean it’s been fulfilled?

But then I look at the cross. The cross that theologian Karl Barth once called “the sickness and the cure.” It is this evil and injustice that put Jesus there (the sickness). And it was Jesus’ willingness to die rather than give up his calling that has given the world new life (the cure). And the Resurrection showed that nothing with the power to kill can really kill.

Which is why the message of Revelation, of Mary, and of Jesus is indeed fulfilled in our hearing. No injustice has the power to triumph over the Good News, even if it looks like injustice wins a temporary victory. It is fulfilled today because in Jesus we have seen what the end of time will look like: all the evils of the earth that inflict death on the undeserving are held under judgment by the resurrection of Jesus. And if the Spirit of the One who resurrected Jesus lives inside of you today, this moment… well, then I suppose even the worst case scenario is nothing to fear… and that we don’t have to wait for the end of time to get to work.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Adam Hamilton, The Journey: A Season of Reflections. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011, pp. 87-90.