As we stood for the Scripture reading this past Sunday, my eyes were drawn to this verse (Luke 4:22):
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Gracious words. That sounded like one of those high biblical ideals we all want to latch onto. Then I sat down and proceeded to hear exactly what those gracious words were all about.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:14-19
Jesus’ words were hardly trite platitudes meant to make people feel better. They weren’t compliments about people’s grandkids or small talk about the weather. These gracious words of Jesus were weighty with promise. Promise of good news for people experiencing deep poverty. Promise of freedom from oppression, from the heavy burdens they were carrying. Promise of sight recovered.
After reading, Jesus handed the scroll back to the attendant and sat down. I can just imagine every eye in the place on him, eager to hear him expound on the Scriptures they’d just heard, wondering what he would say next – this man they all knew as Joseph’s son, one of their own, and yet the stories they’d heard about him already caused them to marvel.
His most gracious words of all came next:
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today. What a grace, that God does not just fill the room with beautiful promises. The grace – the gift – is the fulfillment of those promises.
I too want to speak gracious words. But I must remember that truly gracious words carry promise. As we go throughout our days, are we aware of opportunities to share words of promise with the people we meet? And how are we willing to engage in the fulfillment of those promises – today?