This sermon looks at the story of Jesus when he preached in his hometown synagogue. It started out as good news. He is the Messiah. Then things went bad and the people tried to kill him. What changed their minds?
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I invite you to take out the White Insert from your bulletin called What’s the Big Idea. It has some discussion questions to take home, a daily reading schedule, and a place to take notes.
When someone comes up to you and says, “I have some good news and some bad news,” which do you like to hear first?
Turn to your neighbor and tell them which it is and why.
I heard a story about a group of soldiers who were in battle.
They had been pinned down for days. They were hot and dirty and it was miserable. One day the seargant stood up and said,
“Soldiers, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that today we get a change of underwear.”
The soldiers cheered.
“The bad news is: Ralph, you change with Phil. Peter, you change with Raoul.”
In our text for today we come across some good news and some bad news. What is really interesting about good news and bad news is that what makes it good or bad really depends upon your perspective.
One question we need to ask as we look at this text is this: What’s so good about The Good News?
Our story is found in Luke 4:16-30. That’s found in your pew Bible on page 936.
In case you haven’t noticed, we are preaching through the Gospel of Luke. We follow the Narrative Lectionary. It walks us through the big story of the Bible, beginning in Genesis back in September, and then, each year we look at a one of the four Gospels.
This year we look at Luke. We started at Christmas. Luke’s version of the story has Jesus born among the poor people of Bethlehem amongst the animals and the shepherds.
Last week we saw the preaching of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. That was the official beginning point of his ministry.
Since last week, Jesus has been teaching and performing miracles and has already built up a reputation.
This week, our text can be divided into two sections. Good News, and Bad News.
verses 16 – 22 tell a story of good news.
Jesus visits his home town. He’s a good Jewish boy, so he goes to the synagogue. He already has a reputation of being a teacher and miracle worker, so they ask him to teach.
He chooses a passage from Isaiah 61. The people are very familiar with this. They have been waiting for the Messiah to come for centuries.
Jesus makes a bold claim. Today this is fulfilled.
What does he mean?
First, notice, in verse 18, that someone is talking and three people are mentioned. Think back to Luke 3:21-22.
Jesus is the one talking (me). The Spirit is on me (Holy Spirit). Who’s spirit? The Lord’s spirit. This is Yahweh, the God of Israel, the voice that spoke from the heavens. Jesus is the anointed one, the Messiah. BIG CLAIM!
Of course, what do I see? The Trinity. It’s hard to deny it.
So, if Jesus is the Messiah, what is the Messiah supposed to do?
Four types of people are mentioned: the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed.
Each of these types of people are imprisoned in some sort of darkness:
physical limitations (disease)
political (prisoners of war)
The Messiah will shed light and set them each free.
The phrase “bring good news” translates the word euangelizo: literally “to evangelize.”
What would be good news for poor people?
The words release and free are the same Greek word: aphesis. It is also translated forgive.
It means to let it go (maybe Frozen had it right).
Prisoners of war (captives) and the oppressed are let go, forgiven.
This phrase is not in Isaiah 61:1. Yet, Isaiah speaks often of the blind receiving sight. Is this literal or figurative? Yes.
Jesus sheds the light of truth into every situation, as painful as it may be.
“The Year of the Lord’s Favor” is the Year of Jubilee. Every fifty years all property returns to its original owners and all debts are cancelled. This law was created to make sure that kings did not eventually gobble up all the land. It is the great equalizer.
God’s RESET button.
This economic system would not work well in our society.
The people love Jesus. He’s Joe’s boy. Hometown boy does good.
Then something strange happens.
Jesus picks a fight with the people. He puts words in their mouths and says that they don’t accept him as a prophet.
This is where it suddenly becomes BAD NEWS.
Why does he say this?
Then he goes on to remind them that the most famous prophet, Elijah, walked past many widows of Israel and went to a foreigner.
His protege, Elisha, walked past many lepers in Israel and healed a foreigner.
We don’t know exactly why Jesus goaded the people like this. Here’s a guess. The people thought that they would get special privileges when Jesus set up his kingdom, simply because they were from his town.
Further, they believed that God’s Promise was exclusively for the people of Israel. After all, they are the chosen ones, right?
Jesus shines the light of truth into their exclusivistic perspective. It’s not that God won’t bless Israel. It’s that God’s promise is not ONLY for Israel. Jesus is expanding the tent to remind us that all people are loved and welcomed by God.
The people got the message and they didn’t like it. They tried to kill him.
Jesus would experience this kind of fickle reversal from the crowd throughout his ministry.
The question for us, today, is this…
Is there anyone with whom we DO NOT want to share the Promise, because they are…
The person, or type of person that we fill in that blank is dependent upon our perspective. Our human tendency is to label each other, create categories of good and bad, valuable and worthless, and then try to align ourselves with the good and valuable and remove ourselves from that other guy.
A central message of Jesus’ teaching as Luke presents it is that God’s Promise is for everyone. That doesn’t mean that everyone is automatically good and righteous and everything is fine. It means that Everyone is welcome and God doesn’t keep anyone from coming to God’s table.