Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10/ Psalm 19/ Luke 4:14-21
Revelation of God’s Word
Growing Up With Jesus
My father is a biblical scholar. Since he is a gospel scholar, I grew up listening to the stories of Jesus and even scholarly debates about him. That is why I grew up feeling as if Jesus were my best friend. I developed an intimate emotion toward Jesus and the gospel stories.
Then I studied biblical studies at graduate school. Learning about the theology of the period between the Old and the New Testaments called Second Temple Judaism gave me new understanding about why we believe in what we believe in as the Christian Church. I learned to see the big picture through the new knowledge and critical thinking skills to not blindly accept the Church’s teachings. I don’t believe in the Bible literally and understand that considering the historical background is crucial to understanding its many messages. Even so, I still have a special affection for the Bible.
Love for God’s Teachings
Today’s scriptures are all about God’s Word. Psalm 19 talks of the longing and strong affection for God’s Word. Remember the extremely intimate and emotional analogies with which the psalmist praises God’s teachings. God’s Word has the power to transform us as we heard the psalmist confess his desire to repent and change.
What we read in the Book of Nehemiah is similar in how strongly God’s people feel about the holy scriptures.
Nehemiah and the New Hope of Israel
Nehemiah and Ezra were two leaders of Israel after God’s people returned home from the exile. The story we read happened after the exile when God’s people faced the task of rebuilding God’s nation. This is the period in history when the identity of the Jewish people as we know it today developed.
After the oppressive experience in a foreign land, listening to God’s Word must have felt “sweeter than honey” and more to be desired than find gold as the psalmist sang. After the national trauma, they found new hope in the reading of the scriptures, which explains the strong reactions that they exhibited.
Jesus at the Beginning of His Ministry
Today’s gospel story is also about the scriptures. Jesus reads from the holy scripture at the beginning of his public ministry. The text he reads at the beginning of his ministry is Isaiah’s words about proclaiming God’s justice. This is to be understood as Jesus proclaiming the purpose of his ministry.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is what God’s reign looks like according to Jesus; this is his vision of God’s justice. This is how he understood his purpose as the agent of God’s justice, the leader of God’s reign.
Epiphany Through Scriptures
We are still in the Season of Epiphany and one of the ways in which God’s light can be revealed to us is through the holy scriptures. Through God’s revealing light, we can discern God’s will in the diverse passages of the Bible.
With God’s light of Epiphany, we learn that God’s will is in working toward a just community where no people of God suffers due to systemic injustice, although we cannot eliminate human suffering altogether since there are illnesses and death.
Let us receive God’s light and revelation through the holy scriptures. Let us understand that God wants justice for all people and offer our services. If Jesus thought working for justice was his purpose, it should be our purpose too.
Through our ministry and services, both as a church community and as individuals, we should promote the justice of God’s kingdom and reduce human suffering. Let us follow Jesus and participate in his ministry of God’s reign in our communities one step at a time.