Sunday’s Gospel in Context

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time of Year C of the Lectionary. For today’s post, let us consider context. One thing that is evident when you look at this Gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30) is that the narrative really begins at v.14. As mentioned last week, it is as though the story was cut in half (last week vv.14-21) and we never got to know the reaction of the people in the synagogue. Fortunately, the story continues as Luke 4:21-30 is the Gospel reading for this Sunday. Many Lucan scholars hold that the two halves together are key and make clear the four major points in Luke’s account (Stoffregen):

  • the announcement of Jesus ministry as the fulfillment of God’s salvation-time,
  • a statement about the content of Jesus’ ministry based on the quotation from Isaiah,
  • the foreshadowing of Jesus’ final suffering and rejection,
  • the foreshadowing of the movement of the gospel from Jew to Gentile.

Let us quickly review last week’s gospel text:

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. 15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. 16 He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read 17 and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” 20 Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. 21 He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

4th Sunday Gospel (note that v.21 is repeated in order to give context!)

 21 He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  22 And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn‘t this the son of Joseph?” 23 He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. 25 Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. 26 It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. 29 They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

Remember that Luke uses geographical notices and reports of comings and goings to open and close sections of the narrative. Last week we witnessed the movement from the desert and the general surrounds of Galilee to his arrival in Nazareth and the events of that gospel. Very quickly from this week’s gospel, Luke moves the scene to Capernaum (4:31-41) and we will see a pattern for Jesus’ ministry:

  • Jesus teaches (more often than preaches),
  • In the synagogues (indicating that his first ministry is to the Jewish people)
  • Reports about him spread because of his teaching, and
  • He is glorified by all (and in later parts of Luke, also because of his miracles) – the only appropriate human response to God’s disclosure of Jesus as the Savior

What Jesus does in Nazareth (4:16–30) and Capernaum (4:31–41) is typical of his work. “The rest of Luke 4 is carefully structured. Between the summary of Jesus’ return to Galilee in 4:14–15 and the summary of his departure to Judea in 4:44, Luke summarizes Jesus’ work in two villages: Nazareth (4:16–30) and Capernaum (4:31–41). In Nazareth, Jesus teaches in the synagogue; in Capernaum, while he is teaching, he casts out an unclean spirit and then heals Peter’s mother-in-law and various others. Together, these scenes portray the power of the Spirit in both word and deed, in Jesus’ teaching and in his healing. What he proclaimed in Nazareth, he began to do immediately thereafter in Capernaum.” [Culepper, 103]



  • Culpepper, R. Alan. “The Gospel of Luke.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Vol. 9. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 102–109
  • Brian Stoffregen, “Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes” at

Scripture quotes taken from New American Bible

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