Grace, Mercy, and Peace be yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 4:16 “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, 19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ 23 And He said to them, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ 24 And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.’ 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.” (NASB)
Three weeks of Epiphany are now behind us. With the exception of Herod’s response to the birth of the Christ Child, it’s been a good three weeks. The magi came from the East, found the Christ-Child, bowed down and worshiped Him. Jesus appeared on the banks of the River Jordan and was baptized into His saving offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus and John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus in the form of a dove and heard the voice of God the Father say, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Finally, Jesus and some of His disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana and Jesus revealed Himself as the the Bridegroom of Israel who came into the world to save His Bride, the Church.
This morning the Gospel lesson teaches us this morning that not everyone welcomed the coming of the Promised Messiah.
Between Jesus’s baptism and temptation in the wilderness and His trip back to His hometown Jesus spent the time preaching and teaching in the synagogues in Galilee. Verse 16 tells us it was His custom to enter the synagogue to read and preach on the appointed scroll for the day. St. Luke tells us in 2:47 that “All who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” After the episode recorded here in this morning’s Gospel lesson we are told in Luke 4:31-32 that “He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they [the people in Capernaum] were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.” Jesus was becoming well known. People wanted to hear how He interpreted the texts of the Old Testament.
When Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth, the people expected Him to teach in their synagogue as well. They wanted to hear and see for themselves what the hometown boy was doing to put their town on the map.
The visit stated off well. They invited Jesus to read and preach on the appointed lesson for the day. It was the celebration of the Year of Jubilee. 17 “The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, 19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’”
The Year of Jubilee was instituted by God to be celebrated and acted on every 50 years. It was intended to be a financial and property reset. It was common over a fifty year people for the original owners of property and descendants to lose control of their own property and become servants and slaves themself. God provided a means to make such people whole again. (Leviticus 25:10) “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.” This reset was freedom from the slavery and servitude that fallen upon individual clans for whatever reason; their own sins, mismanagement, or hard times that often fall on faithful people. Every fifty years the land reverted to its original owners and all the Hebrew slaves were set free. The Year of Jubilee was putting things back they way they use to be, the way they began. It was God making the people whole again.
Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord God was promising that the “Year of the Lord” would be like that. It would be like the Year of Jubilee and more. The Lord would set His people free from sin, the curse, and eternal death.
Through the prophet Isaiah God had spent chapter after chapter recounting the sins of Israel, the judgments of the Lord God, and calling the people to repentance. By chapter 60, the people had not repented and the Babylonians had invaded and crushed Jerusalem and taken most of the Israelites captive as enslaves.
Now listen again to the words of the prophet Isaiah, seven centuries before the birth of the Christ. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
In Isaiah chapter 60 the captives and the prisoners are not just the captives and prisoners of the Babylonians. They were also the captives and prisoners of sin and unrighteousness. This was the assigned reading on that Saturday morning when Jesus walked into the synagogue in Nazareth. 20 “He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”
Right here in the synagogue of His hometown, in the synagogue where He grew up and was taught and studied the scrolls of the Old Testament, Jesus claims for Himself the title of” Messiah.” He tells His own family and friends that He is the fulfillment of the Year of the Lord and the prophecy of the forgiveness of sins. He claims that He is the “bringer” of good news, the binder of the broken heart, liberator of the captive, the One Who resets and makes everything whole.
Jesus’s commentary was unexpected. It was either true or one of the greatest acts of blaspheme one could commit; claiming to be the Son of God, the Promised Messiah. He had apparently said more than just this statement because the initially reaction of the hometown crowd was positive. At first 22 “ all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips.” They were impressed with what the Joseph’s Son had said, but as His claim about being the promised Messiah set in confusion and resistence started to build.
They began to understand what He meant, what He was claiming to be, and that they could not get past the humanity of God’s Son “and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’”
Jesus has a bit of a choice to make. He can leave things as they stand and let it settle down, or tell them the truth, preach the Law knowing that they aren’t going to like it one bit. “He said to them, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ 24 And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.’”
He gave them the examples of Elijah and Elisha, which brings in one of the two major Epiphany themes. Both Elijah and Elisha were rejected by he Israelites. In response to the Israelites’ response of rejection, God sent Elijah and Elisah to Gentile lands where they each preformed miracles. This was Jesus’s way of acknowledging that He was going to be rejected, both in His hometown and by the nation as whole. “Nno prophet is welcome in his hometown.’”
Jesus would remind everyone of the same thing in Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
The people of Nazareth act as their forefathers had. 28 “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.”
Surrounded by an angry mob at the edge of a cliff, Jesus passes through them untouched. The Greek does a better job conveying what happened. Jesus did not just walk through the crowd in a normal sense. The Greek conveys the idea is that Jesus defied the laws of physics and passed through right them robbing the people of the ability to do anything to stop Him.
Also note the irony of what took place. They demanded Jesus do a miracle to prove that He was the Messiah. “Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” He does a miracle. He passes right threw the midst of them. It was a miracle. It just wasn’t the kind they had in mind.
30 “But passing through their midst, He went His way.” He went His way. It wasn’t His hour to die yet. He has places to go and things to do. He had to send His Word, His doctrine out to the people. He would die only one way–His way on the Cross of Good Friday in order to buy the freedom of captives of sin, the curse, and death. He has to make the payment so He could reset and make His people whole again.
From the earliest pages of Scripture through the Book of Revelation, humanity has a consistent history of rejecting the grace of God and promised salvation given in Christ Jesus. Sinful human nature never wants to hear the truth about itself. When it does it responds in anger and it wants nothing more than to silence the message, which means silencing the messenger.
Every week we see new and multiple examples of messengers being legally attacked or bullied into silence about their religious and moral convictions. Christian business men are being forced to act against their Christian conscience. Now Christians schools are being targeted. The secular progressives demand that they change their teachings on marriage, homosexuality, and gender issues to bring them to heal to progressive morality or lack thereof.
It is only the true Christian who is able to hear the Law and the Gospel and take comfort. The Lutheran Confessions say it this way, “For the Gospel does not preach forgiveness of sin to indifferent and secure hearts, but to the oppressed or penitent (Luke 4:18). And in order that contrition or the terrors of the law may not end in despair, the proclamation of the Gospel must be added so that it becomes a contrition that leads to salvation.” (559)
The Word of God not only confronts those who live in open sin and those who think they know they mind and will of God, but His Word comes to us to convict us of our sin and call us to repentance. The Word of Law is to be followed by the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. Together they bring salvation to the distressed.
Jesus has come to us this morning. He went His way and came to us “to preach the Gospel to the poor in spirit, to tell us that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him and that God the Father has anointed and sent Him to announce freedom to the prisoners, to restore sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed and to proclaim this the year of the Lord.”
Though the peoples of this world rage against God’s Word of Law and Gospel, including many in the visible church, the Word of God stills comes to us forgiving us and making us whole and holy. He comes to us and enlightens us in His doctrine, in holy Baptism, and in His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all your sins.
In this new synagogue, the New Testament Church, Jesus stays with us. He does not pass through our midst to move on. He has made this place and all others like it, faithful congregations and people who trust in Christ Jesus as the Scripture reveals Him His home. The true Church is His Bride and His home here on earth
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, Because He anointed Jesus to preach the gospel to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. Your sins are forgiven.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.