The Mission: Bringing It Home
4:14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.
4:15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
4:16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,
4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
4:20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
4:23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.‘”
4:24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.
4:25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;
4:26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.
4:27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
4:28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
4:29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.
4:30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
(The notes below include some things that are not included in the spoken message. This often happens when I write notes after preaching, instead of before … to make sure you get everything, please review the video …. rcb)
The Mission: The beginning of ministry
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
Following his baptism and a time of solitude (the temptation in the wilderness), he began his public ministry as an itinerant preacher. During this time he went to various places, starting with Capernaum, and his reputation grew. At some point, his travels brought him to the town where he had grown up.
The Mission: Home is the hardest place!
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read…
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
So far so good. Following his normal practice, and as a guest preacher in the synagogue, he was given an opportunity to speak to the home congregation. Of course they had heard of his reputation in the surrounding countryside. No doubt there was a bit of pride in the idea of a local boy making good. But then he got to his message.
The Mission: The purpose of anointing
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He carefully selected a passage from the prophet (Isaiah 61:1-2a) and read it, as was the custom. It is one of many in Isaiah that foreshadows the coming of God’s kingdom, which was understood to involve a restoration of Israel. The poor were the Israelites themselves; the captives were those who had been carried into exile by the Assyrians and the Babylonians; the mention of the blind may recall king Zedekiah, whose eyes were put out on the order of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:7); the oppressed were the people themselves, oppressed by Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Greeks and Romans for something approaching 500 years by now. The year of the Lord’s favor would have been understood as the time when all of these wrongs done to them as a people would be set right.
The Mission: The time is now
Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
By this declaration Jesus proclaimed himself the Messiah, God’s anointed king, whose mission is to right every wrong and restore God’s people to peace and prosperity. No doubt his hearers understood this in a way much like that just described; the coming of a leader for their people. But Jesus had a larger mission in mind, as is evident from everything that happened afterwards, including the other events of that same day. He is introducing a gospel message that goes beyond the political message on the surface. This mention of “today” as the time of God’s action is echoed throughout the New Testament, as for example,
“See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2)
The Mission: It’s Not Just for Us
yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.
In Luke 4:23-27, Jesus introduced something about the gospel that conflicts with the comforting idea that it was all about overthrowing Israel’s enemies and restoring the nation to prominence above all others. Using two examples from biblical history, he shows that God’s merciful actions may include reaching beyond the borders of the nation. It is not just the favored chosen who are to be blessed; the blessing extends to those who are excluded. The widow of Zarapheth lived in Sidon, in a territory we now know as Lebanon, outside the borders of the promised land. He mentions Naaman the Syrian, cleansed of leprosy through the ministry of Elisha. Everyone familiar with the story (and the history) would have known instantly that on that occasion (as at many other times) Syria and Israel were actively enemies, at war with one another. Here he shows that God has been illustrating through sacred history the teachings that he himself would emphasize (see Luke 6:27-36).
The reaction of the congregation was rage, when the message did not fit their expectations. Jesus, however, having explained that the message of good news is for all the poor, the oppressed, the captive, the blind…. went his way to continue doing what he was talking about.
Baptism: A Public Declaration
(This message was delivered on a day when three individuals in the congregation came forward to be baptized. The baptism portion of this Sunday’s service is at the end of the video.)
When we decide to follow Jesus, we agree to learn from him throughout our lives, and to make his mission our mission, his priorities our priorities. Just as Jesus began his ministry by being baptized, for us baptism marks a dividing point between the old life and the new. In it we declare publicly that, like the apostles, we are ready to let him take us to places that we would not have gone; just as Abraham, when called, went out, not knowing where he was going, but allowing God to bring him to a place of promise.