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Note on sermon preached 20 June 2010 on Luke 4 v.14-30
When we started this series in Luke in September last year we called the first sermon “We want to see Jesus”. And that is what we want to do as we proceed through the gospel. Now , at last, we reach the stage where we can take a close look at the Jesus of the Gospel of Luke. And we will find , like many before us , that the Jesus we see is not always the one we are expecting. It’s time to take another look.
- 1. Setting the Scene
Luke sets the scene by telling us that Jesus moves from his temptation into the wilderness into the start of his public ministry in Galilee. No detail is given (though it appears in other gospels) just a general overview of the initial preaching tour that Jesus embarked upon in Galilee.
- 2. Returning Home
We know from the comments that Jesus made that by the time he arrived in Nazareth he was already a popular preacher who was creating a sensation wherever he went. We can only imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to re-enter his home town as a celebrity. And what must it have been like for his friends to have received him?
- 3. Preaching the Word
As a visiting Rabbi , Jesus would have been invited to read the scriptures, and to comment on them. Whether the passage from Isaiah 61 was the prescribed passage for the day, or whether he chose it, we don’t know, but all eyes were on him as the townsfolk waited for Jesus to speak. And he does what every preacher of the word does. He read the word and then he opened it up, commenting on it to help his hearers understand it. The passage in question is hugely pertinent to his own standing, as he points out that these scriptures – which all understood to refer to the Messiah – were fulfilled as Jesus spoke.
Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah – unbelievable: no wonder it elicited a response from the Nazarenes!
We also need to realise that the Isaiah passage refers not only to the ministry of the Messiah, but also to the ministry of His church as we continue the work of Jesus to bring the gospel to the needy around us
- 4. Telling it how it is
We will consider the response of the Nazarenes to Jesus below. But let’s consider how Jesus continues to apply the Scriptures to the situation. Having pointed out clearly that he was the Messiah, Jesus knew that their response would be to demand that he prove it. As always when he was called upon the carry out a miracle out of unbelief, Jesus declines and tells them that their unwillingness to receive his word puts them in the same category as those who were rejected by Elijah in favour of a Gentile woman. What a thing to say to professing Jews!
Before we continue we need to note the willingness of Jesus to confront unbelief wherever he met it. We may say ”if only he had quit whilst he was ahead! Why did he have to antagonise people who could have been his greatest supporters”! Jesus loves us far too much to let us continue in unbelief and will challenge us every time no matter what the risk.
- 5. Receiving Feedback
On the surface of it, the response of the Nazarenes to Jesus is initially favourable. They “spoke well of him” and were “amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips”. However, Jesus always looks beneath the surface and he knows that their approval is only skin deep and is reflected glory at the “local boy” who has put Nazareth on the map. Jesus knows when our response is superficial.
The clue is in the comment “isn’t this Joseph’s son?”, They are quite happy to respond to Jesus as Joseph’s son – but God’s Son is a totally different matter. What is their objection?
- The Son of God comes with authority – the son of Joseph just comes with gracious words
- The Son of God speaks of the sovereignty of God and challenges their prejudices. The son of Joseph is “just a good chap”
- The Son of God declares the unthinkable – that the Gentiles will be beneficiaries of God’s mercy – at the expense of the Jews. The son of Joseph was one of them, and would never have sai d that!
Fawning sycophancy to murderous hatred in a few minutes . Hell hath no fury like religious orthodoxy challenged!
- 6. Experiencing protection
Every one who tries to serve God has experienced rejection and even danger as those who don’t like the message turn on him. Nowhere is this fiercer than in those who claim to followers of Jesus. We have to depend on the protection of our Father as we experience danger. And Jesus, in mortal danger, is able to walk away unscathed.
Having said that – Jesus still has to experience the pain of rejection from those who should be his supporters. . Is it the fear of such pain that causes us to hold back? We will avoid upsetting people like the plague because we know they may reject us. The fact is that they may. But Jesus loves us enough to take the risk.
7. Delivering the verdict
The final verdict is damning. “Jesus went on his way” Is the worst fate that can befall a Christian? For God to bypass us because, although orthodox in doctrine, we don’t want him interfering in our cozy brand of Christianity is the worst fate that will befall a Christian or a church. It is similar to the fate of the Laodacean church recorded in Revelation 3, when Jesus says he will spit them out of his mouth.
The Jesus that Luke speaks of is the Son of God that requires our unconditional surrender and will challenge us to the very core of our being, bypassing us if we don’t respond to him. He is not the son of Joseph, saying and doing nothing but nice things, but the Son of God, with fire in His eyes demanding our unconditional surrender.
Maybe it’s time to take another look.