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[Reading: Psalm 126:1-6]

Read Luke 4:14-30
(Isaiah 61)

One day, Jesus returned to his hometown. The local boy who had become a Rabbi came home for a visit. They’ve heard the stories about his ministry and miracles. They simply have to have him read Scripture in the synagogue. They came today for a good study and Scripture reading. Read the scroll young Jesus and make us proud.

So he reads this text from Isaiah 61. Jesus is claiming this text. He’s claiming the Spirit of the Lord. He’s here to announce freedom for captive, justice for the oppressed, healing for the sick, good news for the poor. Jesus is reading this ancient text and saying, “That’s me. That’s my agenda. That’s what I’m all about.”

The synagogue doesn’t take to this too well. They’re not buying it. They whisper, “Hey, he’s the carpenter’s boy, right? His folks live down the street you know. When did he get to be such a big deal?” They’re not listening. They’re not listening to the Scripture because they have it all figured out – so they think. They’ve heard it before, but it has no impact on them.

They’re not listening to the Scripture – but a few of them might be waiting to see a miracle. Maybe Jesus can bring some of that magic back to his hometown. They sort of deserve it after all. They made him who he is today. Don’t forget where you came from Jesus!

So Jesus says ...
“You will no doubt quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.
“Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”

Now they’re listening. They heard that. They heard that God can do as much and maybe more with outsiders than he can do with insiders. They heard that God favors those on the margin. They heard that those who think they are privileged and important really aren’t. Jesus didn’t make this up. It’s Bible. He just claimed it and applied it. And his hometown crowd doesn’t like it. They are so offended that they try to throw him off a cliff.

Why is it so difficult for that synagogue to hear Jesus read these words and apply them? Why is the announcement about God’s grace and his plan to expand the kingdom so offensive? Why is it so hard for them to accept the teaching of the bible? Their very own bible that they have heard read to them for generations?

If our answer is – “well they are just hardhearted and stiff necked,” then stop and think – are they really that different than us? How many times have heard Scriptures read, preached, proclaimed and we haven’t really listened? How often have we just made up our minds and we simply want a good reading, a nice prayer and a sermon that affirms what we already know.

The word that Jesus read requires a certain kind of humility to hear it properly. We have to be humble enough to serve and get outside of self.

We have to be humble enough to confess our sinfulness. We have to be humble enough and attentive enough to confess the ways we’ve contributed to captivity, blindness, and oppression. For if we participate in those evils, then we certainly cannot welcome the good news that comes from the Spirit of the Lord, yes?

But if we are humble enough to listen and confess then we will stand alongside those who experience the comfort of God’s good favor. We can stand with Jesus and also be anointed with the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord.

Can we accept that? What would you think if I said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News!” Would you listen or just chalk it up as biblical talk? What if I said that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, for he has anointed you to bring Good News?”

Are we claiming too much? Is this text just about Jesus? Just think – someone claimed this text before Jesus. The prophet (Isaiah) who shared this good news with the exiles in Babylon. Shouldn’t Jesus’ disciples claim this after him if they are going to follow him? Why is it good enough for Jesus, but not for us?

Just think - this proclamation is the announcement of the Year of Jubilee. Since the time of Moses, God has desired for his people to practice what the Spirit of the Lord proclaims. Why is it good enough for them, but not for us?

The synagogue in Nazareth could have witnessed miracles if they had paid attention to the Spirit of the Lord. Instead they just left worship angry.

We could see this text fulfilled among us if we take it to heart -- if we claim it like Jesus.

And let’s not think for a moment that God needs us. Let’s not think we have it all figured out and that Jesus owes us and that we’re the only ones he can rely on. If we read the bible like Jesus, we will know that if we don’t have the Spirit of the Lord and God cannot proclaim his good news and announce his good favor through the people here, then he can get people out there quite easily. He’s done it before and can do it again.

Will this text be fulfilled among us today?
Will we welcome freedom for captives, sight for the blind and justice for the oppressed? Will we welcome the anointed one?
... Or will we take the Son of God and the Spirit of the Lord and throw them off a cliff?

Let us have the courage to confess our sins. Let us know the comfort of being in Christ. If you’ve been baptized into Christ, then you’ve received the Spirit of the Lord – as a gift. Don’t quench that spirit! Rather, let us proclaim the Lord’s favor!

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 December 2008

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