more on Jesus and the poor

Another passage that speaks of Jesus' concern for the poor (and afflicted) is Luke 4.16-21:

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

This is often used to verify Jesus' connection and commitment to poor people in general. And the setting seems to reinforce this. Nazareth, I believe, was pretty poor then. But the verses that follow show that most of these people didn't exactly receive his words as good news. They got so upset they tried to kill him.

Looking closer at the passage Jesus read gives further insight. It's Isaiah 61.1-2. The Hebrew word translated "the poor," is anawim. I've written about the anawim before. It does mean people who are actually poor, oppressed, afflicted, lowly. But in the prophets, especially the Psalms and Isaiah, this word was used to indicate God's faithful suffering people. Such as in Psalm 149.4: "The LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the anawim with victory." And the context of Isaiah 61 is a promise that God will save his people Zion. Specifically repentant Zion (Is 59.20). The reference to "the poor" in Isaiah 61.1 is not general but specific. It means God's poor, suffering faithful ones, those who look to him for deliverance from their (very real) oppressors and for provision for their (very real) need.

These are the ones who will receive Jesus' message as good news. These are the ones who will experience Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise made by Isaiah. Not the poor in general, but the anawim.

I need to look into this further, but I feel like I'm getting closer. I think my learning about personal surrender (from the 12 step spirituality) may also play into this, regarding the real meaning of "poverty of spirit." And I also am getting more eager to seek out and find the anawim as Jesus did, and be ready to join them (as Jesus also did) and love them. It makes me think of the image of the shepherds in my Christmas haiku:

The angel found them
outside the gates, forgotten,
their eyes filled with light.