St Ambrose is one among many Fathers who, in their commentaries, point out the pains Luke takes to provide an account of the Ministry of Jesus. Athanasius emphasises this by pointing out that what the Apostles received the passed on without changing anything, indeed here we see Luke taking infinite pains to collect all the evidence he could from every possible source. St Cyril of Alexandria adds that those who saw him and knew him from the beginning passed on what the Church received in his day, which is that Jesus was Man and God at the same time, the first-born and the only-begotten, the eternal Word made flesh in the Incarnation. We do not know, Ambrose says, whether Theophilus was a man or a representative of all who loved God (which is the meaning of the name).
When Luke records that Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit, it is to indicate that the power of the Spirit is manifest in the preaching of Jesus in the Synagogue (Origen). St Cyril, reminding us that this comes just after Jesus has defeated Satan in the wilderness, emphasises that in beginning his ministry, Jesus puts forth the power and the authority that is his as the Incarnate Word, and power and authority owned by God alone, to show he is God. It is for this reason that the text which he reads is Isaiah 61, which declares that the Messianic era is begun. This favour is granted, St Cyril says, first to the people of Nazareth as a reward for being the place where Jesus grew up. Although he had humbled himself to take our form, the Spirit had descended on him in the Jordan and here Jesus announces the beginning of his mission. Who, but God, can bring those things of which Isaiah had spoken?
Origen identifies the poor and the captives with the Gentiles, who had long been in bondage to Satan but now were being set free.
St Cyril asks what it means to talk about the ‘acceptable year of the Lord’? It signifies the joyful tidings of the advent of the Messiah, who is Jesus. The acceptable year is also that when he was crucified for our sins and raised again, because by that sacrifice we were made acceptable to the Father and we are received into God’s family. The time has come he is saying, to repent and turn to him and to receive the Good News – and all who do will be made new and will receive life eternal.