I remember the first time I ever preached at my home church. It was a daunting experience, believe it or not. Most people think preaching in front of everyone you know is easy…cause you know them. However, let me tell you it is not as easy as you may think. I remember being an anxious wreck that week before, and I was shaking Sunday morning. At one point in time during my sermon my notes even flew off of the pulpit I was preaching from, but anxiousness and nervousness do seem to phase Jesus. Jesus comes home to preach in his home synagogue, and he seems pretty confident in what he has to say, at least that is what it looks like.
We don’t know when exactly this event occurs in the the timeline of Jesus’ ministry as a whole, but it plays a pivotal role, especially in the Gospel of Luke, in our understanding of the work that Jesus will come to do throughout the rest of the Gospel. We can see that this is not Jesus’ first time teaching in the synagogue, but it is his first time teaching in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. We understand from the scene setting verses at the beginning that by the time he comes back to Nazareth he has become fairly well known and gained quite a bit of popularity. (Luke 4:14-16)
The story as a whole, which actually goes all the way to verse 30 and we will look at over the next two weeks, portrays a Jesus who seems so relatable. Most of us I am sure have had an opportunity, maybe not in front of the whole church, to share our story for people whom we grew up with. We see Jesus has an opportunity to share a message with those in attendance his home synagogue, people whom he played with growing up, adults who influenced him as a child, generally people who watched him grow up. Jesus takes this situation and, as most ascribing pastors probably will do with this sort of platform, shares a somewhat jarring message that we will see, next week, does not sit well with those in attendance that Sabbath.
This week we look at these first eight verses and examine the call of Christ and how that builds upon what we discussed last week in our own call to action. As we can see each week our sermons build upon each other and reach us to a new step and new insight into our ministry. We have been examining these milestones and firsts of Jesus and relating them to the life and ministry we have.
When we began two weeks ago we identified that first step we take in beginning our ministry and our life in Christ. We saw that our first step is an acknowledgement of a God who loves us and a willingness to be a part of the Kingdom of God. From that we took our lesson from Jesus’ first miracle and we notice that we must be active in our faith, helping those who are in need. Well today we unpack that a little bit more as we learn the true nature as to why Jesus was sent onto this earth, directly from his mouth. Last week we learned that we are called to action, and this week we gain insight into what that specific action is and where this action originates for us.
Luke is all about action. You will notice that when our scripture comes from Luke it often deals with aspects of social justice. Luke is often termed as the social gospel because of the focus on “the other.” In Luke’s Gospel Jesus takes a special interest in those who seem to have no voice. Jesus seeks out those who are disenfranchised by society and gives them a seat in the Kingdom of God. It is not that the more well off are unwelcome, but they need to do some serious soul searching to discover what the true meaning behind the Gospel is.
This passage becomes a pretext for the work Jesus is going to do, and really sets the stage for the rest of the Gospel of Luke. One of the commentaries I read proclaimed,
“Those who are at the bottom of society are the Spirit’s chosen recipients of the good news. As the Gospel unfolds the poor will be identified as worthy hearers of the good news, as recipients of God’s kingdom (6:20), as a sign of Jesus’ ministry (7:22), and as invitees to the kingdom feast (14:13). The good news that Jesus proclaims, and thus the good news that Christians proclaim, must be good news to the poor, to the economically disadvantaged, and to the marginalized of our society.” (http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2741)
These Lukan themes are begun with Jesus in this passage. Jesus takes the opportunity to share this message with the people in his hometown that this was the work he was coming to do. He reads from the scroll of Isaiah,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus has this vision, through the lens of Scripture, as to what social justice looks like. Jesus’ use of this passage gives us understanding of the work Jesus was sent here to accomplish and the work we are called to accomplish through him.
At the end of what we read today Jesus sits down and says, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it,” (Luke 4:21) because Jesus is the one who brings good news to the poor, release to captive, recovering of sight to the blind, liberation to the oppressed, and proclaims the Lord’s favor. Without Jesus we have no message. Without Jesus we have no good news. We must latch on to that good news and proclaim it. If we don’t proclaim it the message gets lost.
Our world needs Jesus. The words that Jesus speaks here from Isaiah are problems that we still have today. We still have rampant poverty, people still flood into prisons, and people are oppressed by systems in which they can’t get out of. This stuff still happens and shows our deep need for Jesus as a world. In his time Jesus shared this message and he reached out and helped those who were poor and oppressed. Today it is up to us to carry on this Gospel of Jesus and share it through our work with those who are oppressed.
Jesus looks to us to carry this message on with his help. Jesus still fulfills all that is said in the scripture he says, but he does it through those who follow him. We take what we have learned about Jesus and we do his work. We not only do it in those unexpected moments, as we learned last week, but we actively seek it out.
Jesus is preaching GREAT NEWS here of his role and it is our ministry to share that great news that Jesus fulfills.
I am not saying that you need to get up here and preach a sermon. I know how daunting it an be to do something like that, but I do know there are a lot of other ways, and a lot of people outside this church, who need to hear this message. We need to get out there and share it, because it is a liberating and freeing message.
Go out and live and proclaim this great news. This is how the message becomes liberating and freeing. For those who hear it and listen can be freed from all that weighs them down and take on a new life. It is not that our problems end, but we experience a different freedom in being claimed by Christ.