Sermon for Jan 22

By on January 22, 2017


Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 22 January 2017

Luke 4:14-30

NIV Luke 4:14 ¶ Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 ¶ He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'” 24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed– only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.


Introduce / Establish Need


There is something about the place we call home and a certain excitement to return to it.  I admit to being a homebody and so it doesn’t take long on a vacation or trip for me to begin yearning to return to the sanctity of my home.  On the other hand, I also look forward to returning to my childhood home, not only to visit my parents, but to stoke those pleasant childhood memories.


I think that is one reason why we have homecomings and reunions, because we want to rekindle those memories and relationships.  We like to be drawn back to our roots and reembrace the people and events that helped to shape us.


Our Scripture story today is Jesus’ homecoming to Nazareth.  What happens when a prophet comes home?  Especially when he shakes up our understanding? In our quest to understand Jesus, his homecoming is a great place to start!


Into the Biblical World


Luke sets up the drama of the hometown rabbi coming home.  The headlines in the Nazareth Times might have said, Miracle Man Preaching Today with a subheading of Jesus Comes Home.  Word had spread quickly about Jesus’ ministry in the surrounding villages of the region around the Sea of Galilee, particularly in Capernaum.  Luke makes it clear that Jesus had the power of the Spirit and his teaching message was well received.


The hometown reception started off just as expected.  Luke picks up the scene at the local synagogue where Jesus is in attendance, as was his custom, a side note that should remind us that is our custom, too.


The local synagogue service was not unlike our church services today.  They would gather and recite their core beliefs from the scriptures, pray, hear scripture from the Law and the Prophets, a sermon, and then a priestly blessing.  Add in a little music and our order of worship is very similar.  The sermon was usually done by the village rabbi or visiting rabbi or an elder within the congregation.  Since Jesus was in town, the honor went to him.


Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah chapter 61:1-2.  We understand this to be a messianic passage.  And so did Jesus.  And so, in verse 21, Jesus sits down as he begins to preach and opens by saying that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  I’m sure that Jesus had more to say because the crowd is amazed at his gracious words, but Luke just gives us the punch line.


There is a subtle, but seismic shift in verse 22.  The verse starts with “all spoke well of him” and ends with “isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  This little question captures their response to Jesus and his ministry.  The following verses inform us that this is a question of disbelief and therefore would be read with sarcasm or incredulousness.   What happened in the pause of that verse?


Jesus picks up on this and presses the point.  Are they giving him lip service or do they understand what he has said.  Did they come to see a miracle or to have their lives transformed?  Do they accept his gracious words or discard them?  And so he pricks them with the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  He tells them two OT stories in which God’s prophets, Elijah and Elisha, performed miracles that benefitted Gentiles instead of Israelites, even though the need was just as great for the Israelite people.  His point was that his ministry was not for their exclusive benefit or as they would define it.  In doing so, his comparison of those Gentiles receiving grace rather than Israelites and just like the Israelites, they weren’t worthy of a miracle either, infuriates them to the point of riot.  They force him to the edge of the town cliff in order to get rid of him, but Jesus simply walks away.


Into Our Experience


There is a very practical application for us in this text.  The words and actions of Jesus offended his hometown and we can see their negative reaction.  Yet, we have a homecoming of sorts with Jesus every time we hear his teaching and encounter his ministry.  We have a choice to embrace him or reject him.  As his followers, of course, we are to embrace his teaching and minister in our context.


I think that Jesus wants us to see him for what he truly is … the redeemer who was sent by God to rescue the poor, the broken, the prisoners, and the oppressed.  These are words of salvation in both the spiritual and existential realms. That is the simple and straightforward understanding of his proclamation. Jesus wants us to remove our hometown bias, maybe even our familiar view of him, and know what it means to call him Lord and Savior.  Not just as a confession, but as a way of life.  As a way of ministry that continues to fulfill his mission of loving God and loving people.


In the spirit of this text, we proclaim good news!  Jesus is here in the reading and proclamation of this text.  May he inspire us to know him as Christ and to embrace the mission of proclaiming the kingdom of God!


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