Formations 06.02.2019: God Made Us for a Purpose

Luke 4:14-19

When my daughter was three or four, she became fascinated with our church’s music minister and his “batond.” She had a little yellow fairy wand that she loved to wave around while she sang. She was “batonding,” she explained, and when she grew up, she was going to be a “batonder.”

Over the past year, she has included this story in who knows how many college application essays, explaining her goal to study music education. She then goes on to share how music—and music teachers—have made a positive difference in her life, teaching her (among other things) confidence, teamwork, appreciation for the arts, and self-esteem. Along the way, she has learned that the word “baton” doesn’t have a “d” at the end.

Children can change their ideas about what they want to be as often as I change my socks, but not Rebecca. She has never wavered from her dream of sharing her gift of music with others in the classroom. She may well switch majors once she gets to college—lots of people do. But her love of music, like her love of children, goes far deeper than mere career goals. I’m confident she’ll be sharing the joy of music wherever she goes, tomorrow and long into retirement.

Is that what she is “anointed” to do? I wouldn’t dare to presume. But it does strike me that there is something powerful, even holy, about a firm sense of what you are meant to do. I think of Eric Liddell, the missionary whose former career as an Olympic runner is dramatized in the movie Chariots of Fire. He states, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth establishes the agenda for his ministry. In a few words, Jesus expresses what he is meant to do, the goals that drive his ministry. He is filled with the power of the Spirit, he says, and the Spirit has anointed him to perform a far-ranging ministry of redemption for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed.

What has God equipped and inspired you to do?

Discussion

• What did you want to be when you grew up? Is that what you ended up doing with your life?
• In what activities do you most strongly feel God’s pleasure?
• What does Jesus’ Nazareth sermon reveal about what he thought was his most important work?
• How do the deeds of compassion Jesus mentions reflect the goals of the kingdom of God?

Reference Shelf

The Synagogue Meeting

In the NT, “synagogue” is used with reference to the gatherings of Jews in Galilee and in the lands of the dispersion. It is the informal, unstructured nature of these gatherings that allows Jesus and Paul to wander in, to be invited to offer an exposition of the scriptures, and to present their interpretation of the text. At the same time, however, the open attitude of Jesus and Paul toward participation in these modes of fellowship—including the common meal—was offensive to the Pharisaic insistence on the maintenance of ritual purity as the essential condition for covenantal participation and identity. It is for this reason that in the gospel tradition there are frequent references to “their synagogues,” mostly from Matthew (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54). The clear implication is that the Christians have their own counterpart to these gatherings. The designation that Matthew chose for these conclaves of Christians is not synagoge, synagogue, but ekklesia, church, as Matt 16:18 and 18:17 show.

Howard Clark Kee, “Synagogue,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 867.

What Kind of Messiah?

The text he read is not exactly an outline of what Jesus does in the rest of Luke, but the headings cover many of his activities and major emphases.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: Jesus the speaker repeats what Luke the narrator said about him: he is being led by God’s Spirit. This puts Jesus in the category of “prophet,” a point that Luke will make later in this episode. It also means that Jesus, as a character, is following the pattern already set in this Gospel by Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, and John the Baptist. Throughout this Gospel, Jesus will be identified as a prophet, by the types of miracles he does, by the manner in which he champions the poor against the wealthy, by the way he predicts judgment falling on the disobedient people of God, and by the way he calls for repentance in view of the coming kingdom.

Because he has anointed me: The Hebrew word “Messiah” and the Greek word “Christ” both mean “anointed one.” The root idea of the Messiah was to fulfill God’s promise to David that there would always be a king from his line over Israel (2 Sam 7:8-17). The “anointed one” would be God’s choice to restore that line, to rescue Israel, and to bring God’s salvation. But specifics on the Messiah—human or angelic? mortal or immortal? king or prophet or priest or some combination?—were all debated in Jesus’ day. There was no single “messianic ideal” that Luke was trying to correct; there was, instead, a variety of views, and Luke was fitting Jesus into the mix. But as the Gospel progresses, there are also strong hints that for Luke, “messiah” or “king” is not a straightforwardly positive thing to say about Jesus. Thus, Jesus’ inaugural text does not simply say, “because he has anointed me,” but “because he has anointed me to evangelize the poor.”

Richard B. Vinson, Luke, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008), 119–20.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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