Luke 4:17-19

and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“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 4:17-19, NIV

The first recorded sermon from Jesus was at the synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus stood to read in the synagogue from Isaiah 61:1-2. He read from the Septuagint version, which was commonly read in the synagogues, and applied this passage to Himself. His ministry was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Luke 4:16-21 records the scene for us.

Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me.” In a similar statement, Peter while preaching at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:38) said: “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” NASU


At this point, let us review the role of the Spirit in connection with the early life of Jesus. According to Matthew 1:20, Jesus was conceived in Mary of the Holy Spirit. Although Luke does not use the word “conceived,” he does say to Mary (Luke 1:35.): “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Luke does not say, as he did concerning John, that Jesus was filled with the Spirit while in His mother’s womb, but we can assume that He was. After all, being conceived of the Spirit is an even higher relationship with the Spirit than being filled.

Early Life

Although Luke does not name the Spirit in connection with the boyhood of Jesus, he does describe His growth and development. After Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the Temple, they returned home to Nazareth. Luke writes (2:40): “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” NASU

When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary took Him to the Temple. At the Temple, He interacted with the teachers. Then, the family returned to their home. Then, as Luke 2:52 tells us, “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” In Luke’s writings the Spirit is normally connected with prophecy and empowerment. This may explain why he does not specifically mention the Spirit. This doe not preclude, however, the role of the Spirit in the growth and development of Jesus.

Early Ministry

At Jordan, Luke is specific concerning the Spirit coming upon Jesus. Clearly, the Spirit came upon Jesus to empower Him and to approve Him for His ministry. Then, the Spirit (Luke 4:1) led Jesus in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Sometime after being tempted, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14) to Galilee. This brings us to our text where Jesus quotes Isaiah.

The Anointing

When did the Spirit come upon Jesus? When was He anointed? The language itself does not say. Jesus said, “the Spirit is upon me.” The verb is supplied.

The verb “anointed” in Greek is in the aorist tense. The aorist tense does not specify the time when Christ was anointed. Anointed could refer to one specific time, but it could refer also to all the activity of the Spirit in the life of Jesus. Thus, we can point back to Jordan as a special moment of anointing. The anointing was continuous in His life, but also was punctuated by intensified moments.

Christ’s Mission

Broadly speaking, Jesus preached the Kingdom of God. When Jesus quotes Isaiah, He deals with Kingdom matters. He makes His mission clear. He would preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, proclaim recovery of sight to the blind, set free those who are oppressed, and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. The Holy Spirit would empower Him to do these things.

The full goals of the kingdom will not be realized until Jesus returns. Although Jesus would proclaim the “acceptable year of the Lord, He did not quote the last part of Isaiah 61:2 concerning “the day of vengeance of our God.” The fulfillment of this is still future. As Horton says (p. 63), “Isaiah like Joel does not see the time gap between the first and second coming of Christ.”


Beasley-Murray, G. R. Baptism in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962.
Carson, D. A. Exegetical Fallacies. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984.
Carter, Charles. The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974.
Erdman, Charles R. The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 19.
Gordon, A. J. The Ministry of the Spirit. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1964.
Horton, Stanley M. What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1976.
Lenski, R. C. H. St. Luke’s Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Morgan, G. Campbell. The Spirit of God. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953.
Swete, Henry Barclay. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament. London: Macmillan and Company, 1910.

Copyright 2000 © George M. Flattery

Next Lesson