"Luke records what amounts to an inaugural address opening Jesus' public life. Like presidential speeches in our own time, this one laid out Jesus' priorities—where he could be expected to concentrate his efforts in the days ahead. Reaching back into that honored prophetic tradition of commitment to social justice, Jesus spoke to his hometown neighbors, reading in the Nazareth synagogue from the writings of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Is 61:1-2).
Jesus' commitment to the disenfranchised was foretold at his birth by the visit of the shepherds. These are not the majestic magi of Matthew's Gospel. Neither are they the well-groomed figures of many Christmas cards. To the contrary, they represented one of the lowest rungs on the social ladder. In making them the first to acknowledge Jesus, Luke is indirectly highlighting those who will benefit most from the coming of God incarnate. There would be others.
Years later, when John the Baptizer sent his disciples to establish Jesus' true identity, Jesus replied, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them" (Lk 7:22b).
Matthew's Sermon on the Mount becomes the Sermon on the Plain in Luke as Luke would be disinclined to place Jesus above the people. It is the norm in Luke's Gospel for Jesus to be shoulder to shoulder with persons from all walks of life. And while Matthew has Jesus begin his beatitudes by addressing the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3), Luke's Jesus looks directly into the eyes of his humble audience and says to them, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk 6:20b). In a culture that often saw poverty and illness as penalties for sin, such a statement would set off reactions ranging from bewilderment to shock. As he so often did, Jesus here turned the long-accepted value system on its head."