The Witness of Scripture

Getting Started
What do you really think of the Bible? What is it to you? Is it a mysterious holy book? A book only priests or scholars can interpret? Is it a bunch of myths? Good moral teaching? Just the words of people? The Word of God? (Note: you can have a lively discussion if people share honestly!)

In this study we are going to see Jesus’ attitude toward the Bible of his day-what we call the Old Testament. We’ll see how he took it as an authoritative witness to himself and gave his audience a radical twist on its interpretation.

1. Review the section that comes just before our passage, the story of the temptation of Jesus and how he defeated Satan by quoting from Scripture. Then have someone or a few people read the study passage, Luke 4:16-30.

2. Take some time to share all the facts you see in verses 16-17. What is the special designation given to Nazareth? What do these verses imply about Jesus’ attendance at synagogue services?

3. The tradition in the synagogues of Jesus’ day was not to have a regular minister/preacher for each synagogue, but rather to have the Scripture read and discussed. Often a distinguished visitor was asked to read the Scripture and comment on it. Why do you think Luke put such an emphasis on Jesus’ reading of this Scripture in Isaiah?

4. The Scripture Jesus read, verses 18-19, is a quote from Isaiah 61:1-2. As Jesus applies this to himself, what was he anointed by the Spirit to do? Who are the four groups of people mentioned here? What do they all have in common? Look carefully at each one and ponder what it means:

  1. What is the good news that is going to the poor?
  2. Who are the captives that will be released? What do you think this meant for the people of that time? What does it mean for us in our time?
  3. Who are the blind, then and now?
  4. Who are the oppressed, then and now? What would freedom mean for them?

5. Verse 19 is a quote from Isaiah but also alludes to Leviticus 25:10, which describes the Year of Jubilee, an every-fifty-year festival of freedom, worship and economic justice. What do you think the “year of the Lord’s favor” is that Jesus is going to proclaim?

6. Looking again at verses 18-19 as a whole, how is Jesus defining his mission? Why do you think he stresses that the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed will be the focus of his ministry? What does this say to people who feel that the purpose of Christians is to “save souls” and not worry about social needs?

7. After the reading, Jesus applies it all to himself. What is he saying in his one-sentence sermon in verse 21?

8. How do his hearers respond in verse 22? Jesus then confronts them with some very sharp words. In verses 23-24, what is Jesus saying about the people’s real response to him, in their hearts, underneath their kind words? What does this say about our response to him?

9. In verses 25-27, Jesus is referring to two Old Testament stories (1 Kings 17:1-24 and 2 Kings 5:1-14) that would be familiar to the people then but are not so familiar to us. Look closely at the two people who receive ministry: the widow at Zarephath in Sidon in verse 26, and Naaman the Syrian leper in verse 27. What do they have in common? (They were both Gentiles.) Does this give you a clue as to why Jesus’ Jewish hometown listeners were so mad? The Jewish people at the time felt that they were the special objects of God’s love. What does this say about the scope of God’s love? In verses 18-19 and 25-27, for whom does God seem to have a special preference?

10. Jesus took very seriously the authority of the Scripture of his day, and its witness to him. What did the combined witness of all of the Old Testament Scriptures mentioned in this passage say about Jesus? Who is he, and what is his mission? What in this passage was surprising or intriguing for you? Why?

In Closing
How does the emphasis on Jesus’ love for sinners, the outcast and the blind apply to you? What does it say about the priorities his people should operate by? Who are the poor, captive, blind or oppressed people on your campus or living near you? What can your group do to show Jesus’ love to them?

“Witnesses to Jesus” Bible Studies are available

Many thanks to those who gave valuable feedback in the writing and editing of these studies: the Iowa staff team led by Lindsay Olesberg, Beth Krysl, Judy Johnson, Fred Neubert, Shelley Soceka, Glen Ewart, Nancy Fox, Suzy Gaeddert, Scott Eddlemon, Ann Beyerlein, Bob Wolniak, Paula Esealuka, John Seiders and Donna Snow. Special thanks to Kathy Burrows (design) and Jeff Yourison (editor).-Bob Grahmann

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© 1995 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of the USA. All rights reserved.