Andrew K. Frey. KRT Sunday—2021-2022 Luke 4:14-21
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through
the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching 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. He stood up to read, 17 and 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 proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f] 20Then 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 He began by saying to them, “Today
this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Theme: Jesus was Anointed to give Sight to the Blind
Who is the most famous person to come from Clatonia (Cortland)? I tried doing a little research
this past week, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t find anyone worth noting–perhaps you can
enlighten me after the service! Wilber–I know that Dana Altman, The University of Oregon’s
head baseball coach, is from Wilber. That’s pretty cool. (According to Wikipedia, someone
called Orah Dee Clark, the first superintendent of Alaska schools, was born in Firth–but I found
nothing for Cortland).
When someone makes it big—especially if they are from a small town, it seems as if everyone
gets excited. There is a sort of pride and accomplishment when someone from your hometown
becomes famous. And when they return home, they receive a hero’s welcome. This is not
unlike the way the people of Nazareth looked at Jesus.
Nazareth was a backwater town, about 15 miles west of the Sea of Galilee—the entire region of
Galilee was away from the mainstream. Once, when Philip told Nathanael that Jesus of Nazareth
was the Messiah, Nathanael responded, Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Nazareth
was a nothing town with nothing to brag about, until now.
Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, was starting to make a name for himself. His ministry had
been going on for at least half a year; by this time he had performed a number of miracles in
Jerusalem and throughout Galilee. Before our text takes place, Jesus was going from town to
town in Galilee sharing God’s Word. We are told, news about him spread through the whole
countryside. And, everyone praised him.
And then Jesus returned to Nazareth—as a hometown hero. He went to the synagogue, the
Jewish house of worship, on the Sabbath as was his custom. The worship service in a Jewish
synagogue at Jesus’ time has many similarities to our worship services today including the
reading of God’s Word. The first came from the five books of Moses; the second, from one of
the books of the prophets.
Those who read the lessons had the opportunity to offer up a commentary on what they read,
similar to our sermons today. Often this privilege could have been bestowed on anyone who had
such an ability. Jesus was the hometown hero who was making a name for himself, at least in
part, by his ability to teach Scripture plainly. So, it was perfectly understandable, if not
expected, for the synagogue leaders to ask Jesus to speak.
Jesus found the prescribed reading for the day, Isaiah 61, and, as was custom, stood up and read
the text. Then, as also was custom, he sat down to speak. And he began his sermon by saying,
Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Jesus made it perfectly clear that the words
of Isaiah 61 were talking about him.
That certainly is a striking thing for Jesus to say–even more so when we examine what Isaiah
was saying in chapter 61, which starts, The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed
me to preach good news to the poor. To be anointed means to be chosen, to be set aside for a
special service to the Lord. Typically someone was marked as anointed by having oil poured on
their head. Jesus was anointed at his baptism when the Holy Spirit landed on him in the form of
a dove. In Acts chapter 10, Peter refers to this when he says, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and with power. We read at the beginning of our text that Jesus came in
the power of the Spirit.
The Jews rightly saw the words of Isaiah 61as referring to the Promised Messiah. In fact,
Messiah is the Hebrew word for the Greek word, Christ, and both Messiah and Christ mean the
So, what was Jesus’ anointed to do? To preach the good news to the poor. That is, to spread
the gospel, the good news of free and full forgiveness in himself. Jesus was chosen to spread the
word about what he would do to save us. And this message is shared with the poor—not those
who lack wealth or possessions, but the poor in spirit. By nature, we are spiritually poor. We
have no righteousness on our own. We are sinners who deserve his punishment and who cannot
rid ourselves of the guilt of our sins. And it is to us poor and miserable sinners that Christ
preaches the Good news of the forgiveness of sins.
The rest of this quote from Isaiah essentially says the same thing. He has sent me to proclaim
freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are
oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. We are held captive by sin because;
we are ruled and controlled by sin. But Christ sets us free from sin—both from sin itself and
from the effects of sin. We are also free from the wages of sin: eternal death. Because Christ
suffered and died on the cross to save us from our sins and then three days later rose from the
dead, he has set us from our sins and their condemnation; and he proclaims that freedom to us.
And, as we’ve been focusing on today, Christ gives sight to the blind. We are spiritually blind,
walking around in the darkness of unbelief and sin. Because we are completely corrupt we are in
complete darkness, unable by ourselves to see how sinful and wicked we truly are. We are
unable then to see Jesus as our Savior from sin, let alone believe in him. The picture portrayed
Isaiah is that of someone who is released from a dungeon and sees daylight for the first time in
months or years. Just think of the pure joy that hits you as you see and feel the sunlight hit your
face! That is what Jesus does for our soul–in Christ, we see the light of salvation after living in
darkness! Because of the Holy Spirit through the gospel, we now see him as our Savior from
sin; and our salvation.
Next, Jesus is sent to set free those who are oppressed. We face troubles and hardships in this
life. In one way or another, we are persecuted for our faith. Christ will set us free from such
oppression when he takes us to his heavenly home—a place free from sin and free from sinners.
The final picture is Jesus proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. This is a reference to the
Year of Jubilee, which took place every 50 years. All slaves were to be set free, all debts were to
be canceled, and land and property which had been sold was returned to the original owner. And
so, there was joy throughout the land. With the coming of Christ, we have that same joy because
Christ has come and has ushered in a new era—the era of forgiveness through faith in Jesus
Christ, who has shined the light of the gospel into a world darkened by sin and unbelief!
As we look at this prophecy from Isaiah 61 we marvel at what Jesus says about himself–he
claimed to be the Promised Messiah. And this fact wasn’t lost on the people of Nazareth. But
instead of rejoicing that the long-awaited Savior had finally come–and he was from their
hometown, nonetheless; they became upset. As you remember, they tried to throw him off a
Jesus said, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I understand what Jesus is saying. Not
that I’m Jesus, or anything close to him; but coming back to Nebraska Lutheran after 20 years,
there are some who remember me. And some look at me as I was 20-30 years ago, as a little
spark plug getting into mischief.
Notice how the people of Nazareth reacted, Isn’t this Joseph’s Son? They knew who Jesus
was–they saw him grow up, they used to run around with him, he built a chair for their
family. How can he claim to be the Promised Messiah–he may have been a really good kid
growing up; but Jesus, the Son of Joseph, has gone too far! So they rejected Jesus.
We tend to look down and frown upon the people of Nazareth–and for good reason. But, we’d
do the same thing by nature. We are born into the darkness of sin and unbelief; we spiritual
blind by nature, who hate God, want nothing to do with him or his Word. His gospel is
foolishness to us; and so by nature we would do the same thing as the people of Nazareth.
And so we praise the Lord that we have not rejected him. And that’s only the case because the
Holy Spirit has worked faith into our hearts! Through the gospel, he has led us out of the
darkness of unbelief so that we see Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life–and that no one
comes to the Father except through him. Again, we don’t see this on our own, we only see
Christ as the light of salvation through faith, worked in us by a gracious gift of the Holy Spirit!
And this light, this gospel, the light of salvation, is a message that is shared here at Zion (St.
John), and at NELHS. How important is that in today’s world which is getting more and more
bold in it’s blatant rejection of God’s Word; to share the light of the gospel, so that the blind
would receive light, the poor would hear the good news, the captives and those oppressed would
be freed, and all believers would have the Lord’s eternal favor.
The people of Nazareth saw Jesus as a hometown hero, but not nothing more. But Jesus is far
more than a hometown hero. He is the long-promised Messiah, the world’s one and only Savior,
who was anointed to proclaim the gospel, giving sight to us blind sinners. We have seen the
light of salvation, and we long for his coming when we will live in his glory forever. Amen.
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