But he [Jesus] said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” Luke 4:43 (ESV). As we progress through the season of Epiphany, the Light of Christ continues to shine and disperse as part of God’s very design. Today Luke shares with us the early days of Jesus’ growing ministry of teaching and healing. Here we discover the “purpose” and divine mandate behind Jesus’ coming.
Many of us at one point or another in our life have asked the question, “Why is this happening to me?” Here, I don’t mean the cause-and-effect realities of our lives as in how a surgery results in the need to rest. No, I mean the questions that seek our greatest need of understanding meaning and purpose for our lives. These questions may not always be center stage in our life. But especially when things are turning out differently than we had hoped, expected or desired the question of meaning and purpose is critical for moving ahead.
In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus continues his early ministry of preaching and healing in and around the city of Capernaum. We read this morning three different settings which Luke uses to help us gain a sense of Jesus’ overall purpose and mission, especially as the expected events take a turn different than expected by those who were witnesses of it. We should note that for Luke, the healing ministry of Jesus and the teaching ministry of Jesus are not distinct or separate ministries but part of what the Spirit had been doing in and through Jesus’ life. The passage from Isaiah 61 that Jesus had read in the synagogue in Nazareth speaks to this: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me… to proclaim good news to the poor… and recovering sight to the blind…” (Luke 4:18/Isaiah 61:1).
So as Jesus enters the synagogue in Capernaum we see He is first confronted by the shrieking disturbance of a man controlled not by his own will but by unclean spirits or demons. “Their” question concerning Jesus’ presence in relation to them begins to unfold the “purpose” of Jesus’ ministry in Luke. “Have you come to destroy us?” While Jesus’ presence is not good news for the spirits, it is freedom for the captive! The man is freed and left unharmed from their grip. The casting out of the one means wholeness and restoration for the other. God’s Word is at work to root out as much as it is at work to build up; to bind as it simultaneously loosens.
Next, Jesus enters into the house of Simon (later to be called Peter but not yet). His mother-in-law is struck with a fever and trapped in her bed in a similar way that the man was gripped by the unclean demon. Yet, just as Jesus’ presence frees the man, so we see His presence in Simon’s home now frees his mother-in-law. With a word she is restored and now can even serve them! This isn’t a gradual but remarkable release that ends in service to others. Finally, Luke tells us that late into the night people of all the surrounding area came bringing their loved ones and friends to Jesus so that He would touch them. Here the superlatives of many and all ring again and again to emphasis how the front door of Peter’s home became a shining beacon of health and healing. Not until early morning does Jesus find a quiet moment and place to commune with the Father. As the crowds converge on Jesus, their expectation of him returning to the unending needs already lining up at the door seem to go unfulfilled. Jesus is off in a different direction. He is on to other towns and villages, synagogues and homes. Why, Jesus? Are there not needs to be met and sermons to be given? In His reply, we hear the commission of His Father. The One who again and again had sent His servants, young and old, to root-out and build up, to bind and release, had sent His Only Son for this purpose. Jesus sees His path before Him as God’s mandate of love! He even now sets His way forward that all would know His grace and kindness. This is why He has come, that He would go even to the top of a cross for you and me.
Now this purpose that is fulfilled in Him calls to you and me. With love divine, His purpose in our lives is part of His own Epiphany. We, too, are called to follow and shine like the stars for all to see His love in our world today. We are part of His Epiphany light, His love for all. His Epiphany purpose shines through your life and mine as we are set free in Him.