“The Sermon They Didn’t Want Jesus To Preach”
Text – ISAIAH 61:1—3 and LUKE 4:16-21
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Who is this Jesus Christ God reveals so powerfully to us in this Epiphany Season of revealing and showing forth?
The synagogue in Nazareth was crowded that Saturday 21 centuries ago. They all wanted to hear the visiting rabbi. You see there was a new teacher in town. Well, maybe not completely new. As a teacher, He certainly was new to them -- but, as a person, they knew Him well -- or at least thought they did. After-all, He had grown up just a stone's throw from the synagogue.
From toddler to age 30, Jesus had been the nice kid down the street -- the carpenter's son learning Joseph's trade and being rather good at it … the devout boy turned devout teenager turned devout man who brought a pride-filled gleam to the local rabbi's eye. Everybody loved Jesus. They hated to see Him go when the 30 year old Jesus moved to Capernaum.
He had been gone a year now and there had been a steady stream of news. They heard He turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana … healed the deathly ill son of an official at Capernaum … healed a leper somewhere else … and cured a demon-possessed man in still another place.
They had also heard of people coming from miles around to question Him and to hear Him discuss The Word of God -- and now, He was back in His Old hometown on a Sabbath Day. Surely He would come to the synagogue.
At the beginning of the service, the elder got the scroll which contained the main Scripture reading for the day. It was always taken from one of the first 5 books of THE HOLY BIBLE – The Torah – The Books of The Law. As the elder brought the scroll forward, one of the men would volunteer to read the selected passage and then would lecture on it or lead a discussion about it.
Imagine their disappointment when Jesus neither read nor entered into the discussion. This was the most important part of the service and Jesus wasn't even participating.
Jesus remained silent until the service was almost over -- until the time of the second reading … the reading that was always taken from one of the prophetic books of THE HOLY BIBLE. This reading was considered less important than the first one -- but involved the same time for reading and discussion as the first.
The elder picked up the scroll containing THE BOOK OF ISAIAH and Jesus volunteered to read from it. The text was ISAIAH, Chapter 61,verses 1 and 2 -- "The Spirit of The Lord is upon me, because He has chosen Me to preach The Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed, and announce the year when The Lord will save His people."
The passage was familiar to everyone. They knew it contained the description of The Christ God Himself had given to ISAIAH - God's description of The One God promised to send to save the people.
The Nazareth congregation had heard about Jesus' great ability to interpret God's Word and they anxiously anticipated His insights into Messianic Prophecy -- especially His interpretation of one of the best known of all Messianic Prophecy texts.
As Jesus laid down the scroll, walked over to the preaching-teaching chair, and sat down, everyone wondered what He would say.
No one was prepared for what Jesus did say. There was one unanimous gulp -- a whole room of worshipers sucking air in shock.
Had they heard Him right? Had Jesus really said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing"? Was Jesus really claiming to be the long-promised Messiah?
Jesus was taking the Words of Prophecy God spoke through ISAIAH describing The Messiah-Christ as a description of Himself. Jesus was taking those well-known Words of Prophecy as the text of His "State of the Kingdom" address … as His Own Words of Promise … as His modus operundi … as a description of His Messianic Mission and Ministry.
The sacred text says “He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives”.
It is a text that separates Jesus and His Holy Christian Church from all of the world’s false religions. Only through His true Holy Christian Church, Jesus offers true temporal and eternal liberty to the captives.- something only the true Messiah can offer.
Here in America – and throughout the world – we are living in an age when Christ’s teachings and followers are under constant attack and morality has been officially replaced by hedonism and selfish egotism and when The Truth has been replaced by political correctness – an age when successful movements have created a society in which no one is made to take responsibility for their actions and those attempting to live by Jesus’ Teachings are labeled prejudiced.
God only deals in Truth – All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God and the wages of sin is death. That means the entire human race is captive to the tempter, to temptation, sin, guilt, death, and all the human frailties with which death rules. And, as part of creating us in The Image of God, God gave us insight into our God and consciences to keep us aware of the merit or evil in all we do.
In Christ, we have the words of our text – the words of promise spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah - He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives.
What makes those words so powerful is the fact that only God could offer that Promise and fulfill it. No false god created by human beings can honestly make such a promise or fulfill it. The wages of sin is death, but The Gift of God – and only God - is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord Who came to proclaim liberty to the captives. God Himself came as a vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – came as the Ultimate High Priest to offer His Perfect Human Life as The Perfect Human Sacrifice to give liberty to the captives – to conquer the tempter, temptation, sin, guilt, death, and all the other human frailties with which death rules.
For the members of an increasingly politically correct- but morally and theologically false - society, there is opportunity in Christ for repentance, forgiveness and God’s Own Gift of eternal life and liberty. And yes, it is in Jesus Christ – and only in Jesus Christ – that there is truly Liberty for the captives, Jesus confessed that He and He alone is the Messiah-Christ God promised through Isaiah to send among us “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed, and announce the year when The Lord will save His people."Having read Isaiah’s prophetic words, Jesus left no doubt as He proclaimed "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing".
And they were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things. They all knew Who Jesus was claiming to be – what Promises He had come to fulfill.
An Epiphany in Jesus’ own words! And they rose up, and cast Him forth out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might throw Him headlong. 20th and 21st Century terrorists and atheistic hedonists were not the first to attack The Body of Christ and His True Church. Hedonistic and selfish human beings did not just invent their false claims in the 20th and 21st Centuries.
But Jesus, passing through the midst of them, went His Way - His Way to the cross to earn temporal and eternal liberty for all the captives held in bondage to the tempter, to temptation, sin, guilt, death, and all the human frailties with which death rules - His Way to the empty tomb where He proclaimed and offers that liberty to the captives and all those other gifts only God can give.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
AND HIS PROCLAMATION OF LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES.
Fourth Sunday of the Epiphany Season (actually texts for 3rd Sunday of Epiphany Season)
February 3, 2019
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island Port Clinton, Ohio