We have a clear example of how to read scripture in the first and third readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 14, 2016). In the lectionary the first (Old Testament) and third (gospel) readings are always connected. In looking for this connection, it helps to remember that Jesus knew his scripture. Richard Rohr suggests that we read through Jesus’ eyes. As we do, we can recognize that Jesus reinterpreted and reframed much of Hebrew scripture.
As we listen to the first reading (from Nehemiah 8) we should listen to it knowing that Jesus had heard the same scripture when he was in the assembly. In Nehemiah we hear that Ezra began to read from the law:
“Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.”
In the gospel (Lk1:1-4; 4:14-21) we hear that Jesus came to Nazareth, went into the synagogue and began to read to the assembly:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.m
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,…
In applying to himself this passage from Isaiah 61, Jesus was, in a sense, giving an inaugural address for his ministry. Strong, almost violent disagreement followed. If we read further in Luke 4, we will see that some people spoke highly of him. Others challenged him to do in his home town of Nazareth as he had done elsewhere. He returned the challenge, giving examples from Hebrew scripture and saying:
“no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
They threw him out of town.
This conflict of interpretations will be repeated in our Sunday readings throughout the year.