Sermon on Luke 4:14-21
Text: 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.”
It seems as though people are very interested in prophecies about the future. One of the most popular sections of the newspaper is the horoscope. When you go to the state fair, there are booths that offer, by way of psychics, palm readers and other such things, a glimpse into your future. Often, when these prophecies are made, they are put into such vague terms, that you can bend and shape them to fit any situation. We need to be very careful about putting our trust in these so-called prophecies. The devil may well use them to pull us away from trusting in God to be in charge of our future to these prophecies. There is only one place where prophecies are really fulfilled, and that is in God’s Word. Many of the prophecies dealt with the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Today, as we hear these words of Jesus, we see TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING. 1. Today Christ Still Comes To You. 2. Today The Good News Is Still Preached To You. 3. Today God’s Favor Is Still Declared To You.
Jesus returned to Galilee after spending some time in Jerusalem and Samaria. As we read, “news about him spread through the whole countryside.” Jesus’ fame spread throughout Galilee. His preaching and powerful works were well-known. “He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” Everyone praised God for sending such a powerful prophet among them.
Then, one day, we read, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Even though Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, people thought of him as a Nazarene. He had been brought up there, learning the carpenter trade from Joseph. Everyone knew him since he was a little boy.
On the Sabbath Day, Jesus went into the synagogue. The synagogue was a place where people got together to read and reflect on the Word of God. Their worship service was quite similar to ours. It included the singing of psalms, as well as the reading and the explanation of a portion of God’s Word. If there was a visiting rabbi, or teacher, he would be asked to speak to those who were assembled there. On this occasion, Jesus was asked if he would teach the congregation.
After reading a portion of the book of Isaiah, Jesus said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” What a revelation to those worshipers. We will look further at their reaction in our sermon next Sunday. However, don’t you feel at least a little envy for those people there in the synagogue? They actually got to hear Jesus preach and teach. What a privilege that would have been!
Yet, we sometimes forget that we can hear Jesus preach to us today and every day. God wanted us to learn at the feet of the Master Teacher, Jesus. For that reason, he had Matthew, Mark, Luke and John write down the history of Jesus in the Gospels. There we have his teachings written down, so that we can learn of him and from him. The entire Bible was written so that we might learn about our God.
Jesus also comes to us whenever we gather together to worship. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Jesus promises to grace our worship gatherings with his presence. As we gather together, he hears our prayers. He hears our hymns of praise. He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts so that the Word of God would cause our faith to grow. Jesus still comes to us as we worship him.
Jesus also comes to us in a special way when we receive Holy Communion. There, together with the bread and wine, we receive the very body and blood of Christ. In this sacrament, we receive the forgiveness of our sins and our faith is strengthened so that we might be able to live in a way that says “thank you” to God for all that he has done for us. Remember that Jesus does still come to us through Word and Sacrament. May we gladly meet him there.
Jesus came to the people of that day with a very special message. The Scripture that was fulfilled in their hearing was from the book of Isaiah. Jesus said that it was written about him. We read that portion from Isaiah, which said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me.” We remember that a person was anointed in the Old Testament to be a prophet, a priest or a king. He was set aside for a task.
The task that Jesus was set aside for was, “to preach good news to the poor . . . to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” All of these actions really deal with the same thing, the good news of the forgiveness of sins. Look at how we are described: poor, prisoner, blind and oppressed. Each of these point to how desperately we needed Christ to come.
We were “poor” – not without earthly wealth, but poor in God’s sight. We were beggars, unable to come to God with payment for our sins. We were “prisoners” – we were unable to do anything but sin. Without God, it is impossible to please him. All of the things that we thought were so good were, in reality, worthless. As the well-known hymn puts it, “Fast bound in Satan’s chains, I lay.” We were prisoners of sin and could not get free. We were “blind” – You and I were groping about in our spiritual blindness, trying to find our way out of this situation but, no matter how hard we tried, we failed to find the way. Because we were born spiritually blind, often we could not only see what we were doing was wrong. We blindly followed Satan, as he was leading us straight to hell.
We are also described as being “oppressed.” The word oppressed has the idea of being crushed. Our huge load of sin threatened to crush us. Hasn’t it happened when we have committed a particular sin that it lays so heavily on our conscience that it feels as though we will be crushed by it? It steals our appetites and robs us of our sleep. It feels as if there is no hope for us.
Here and every day Jesus comes to us and proclaims the good news. He says, ‘I have taken your place. I lived a perfect life in your place. I carried all of your sins, your angry words and thoughts, your gossiping words. I carried all of them and paid for all of them. You are now forgiven. God no longer has any charge against you. You are free.’ There is no better news we can hear than that! We have been set free from Satan’s bondage. We have had our spiritual sight restored, so that we can see all that God has done for us. Because of what Jesus has done, we are the richest people in the world. This is the greatest news that can ever be shared with anyone. Jesus says to us, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
Isaiah continues by saying that the Christ was anointed “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” In the Old Testament, God established what is called “The Year of Jubilee.” God told his people that, every fifty years, they were to release their slaves. All debts were cancelled. All of the land that had been sold during that time was to be returned to its original owner. This is also a picture of what Jesus Christ came to do and declares to us in his Word. Slaves are set free, as we have been set free from Satan’s bondage. Debts were cancelled, just as Jesus paid off our debt of sin to God. Just as the property was returned to its original owner, we have been returned to the one who made us, our loving, heavenly Father. The relationship that was ruined because of sin has been restored through the work of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, let us not live our lives as though we were orphans. Remember whose child you are and then live that way. May we do nothing that brings disgrace to our family name. May we also realize that we can come to God with all of our prayers and ask for the things that we need. He has promised to hear all of our prayers and answer them in whatever way is best for us.
So many people are concerned about prophecies, even those that are found in the Bible. Unfortunately, many of the ideas that are proposed have nothing to do with what the Bible says. We see that all of the Old Testament prophecies about the Christ have been fulfilled in Jesus. Because of the fulfillment of those prophecies, we look forward to the fulfillment of the prophecies regarding the end of time, for we know that we will be with the Lord forever. Yet, we don’t have to look to the end of time for our joy. Today, and every day we rejoice because, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Amen.
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