But he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:43-44)
Jesus had a clear sense of purpose in his life, a purpose given to him by the Father who sent him. He speaks about this purpose, not only in this passage, but throughout the Gospels. For instance, Jesus states that doing the Father’s will is his food: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Seeking the Father’s will rather than his own is a nourishment that sustains him like daily bread.
Furthermore, the Father’s will enables him to keep moving to the next stage of the mission, and it is his guiding principle: “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). Neither his human will nor the will of the people in Capernaum or the rest of the world possesses the breadth of vision that the Father’s will offers.
This will be the case all the way to the end of his mission, as we see in Gethsemane: “Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?’” (John 18:11). Even his suffering and death fit within the Father’s will, not because the Father enjoys Jesus’ suffering, but because he can bring about his eternal glory even through ignominy, suffering, and death.
And what is the goal of the Father’s will for Jesus? Here is how he expresses it:
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40)
Ultimately, the goal of the Father’s will is the redemption of every human being. God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). This will require faith in the Son, who has the power to raise up believers from the dead (John 6:40). For people to receive this faith, they will need to “see” Jesus and hear the gospel that Jesus offers them:
But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And who are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15)
Being “sent” applies first of all to Jesus, who must follow the Father’s will and go throughout Galilee preaching the good news of the coming of the kingdom of God, with its need for repentance and faith (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15). As his mission progresses, he will send the disciples out to preach this same message during his public ministry (Matthew 10:7-8; Luke 9:2; 10:9-11) and after his resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:7-8).
We can reflect on how this passage is already teaching us some of the basic elements of the Lord’s Prayer. Yet before teaching us to pray that the Father’s will be done here on earth as in heaven, Jesus demonstrates his own determination to do the Father’s will rather than his own or the will of the people around him. Before teaching us to ask the Father for our daily bread, he teaches us that doing the will of the Father is his food.
How well are we following the will of the Father? Is it our daily nourishment? Do we seek to follow God’s will even when others misunderstand us or think we should be doing something different? Ask Jesus for a clear sense of purpose in your life so that you might be able to do God’s will. Then, in light of Luke 4:43-44, pray the Our Father.
This is a selection from Praying the Gospels with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ: Jesus Launches His Ministry. Available at wau.org/books