Luke 4:14-21
It’s Good News
January 31 2016
Our passage from Luke 4 for today tells the story of Jesus’ visit to His hometown synagogue in Nazareth at the beginning of His ministry. Luke places this story at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry as a way of telling us, at the outset, what Jesus was all about! He starts with a story that, in two or three paragraphs, summarizes everything that Jesus will do in His lifetime. This story of Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth introduces both Jesus’ ministry and introduces what our ministry as His followers is to be.
What is there about this story of Jesus in His hometown synagogue that is so important? It tells us how Jesus started and defined His ministry, and defines our ministry with His strength and in His name.
As Luke tells the story, Jesus has just been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. He has just survived a prolonged temptation in the wilderness. Now He comes back to visit His hometown. On the Sabbath, Jesus goes, as was his custom, to the Synagogue. This is where Mary and Joseph had brought him every Sabbath as a boy. This is where he grew up among the other children and youth of His community. This is where He went to Sabbath school. This is where He went to youth activities. This is where He was taught. This was a place of familiar faces and familiar names, a place of familiar sights and smells. Jesus knows every nook and cranny of the Synagogue. He knows where each person will sit. He knows where to look for His friends. He knows the people there.
And they know Him! He’s Joseph’s boy! Good kid! All grown up now! Starting to make a name for Himself! He’s been gone for a while, but He is home again. They have invited Him to speak, and are interested to hear what He has to say. They are interested to learn why some are making such a big deal about Him. They are interested to see if this hometown boy might actually turn out to be someone special!
When the time came, Jesus stood up to read. Someone handed him a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus began unrolling the scroll and searching through it until He found the place that He wanted. Then he began to read. He read:
“The Spirit the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives,
recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”
Then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. In that time and place, teachers sat down to teach. Everyone waited to hear what He would say next. As Luke puts it, “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.” You could have heard a pin drop. Then Jesus said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”
What? The people must have thought — what did that mean? What kind of sermon was that? It was certainly a short sermon! Luke says that the people spoke well of Him. Luke says that they were amazed at His gracious words. I like to think that they liked what Jesus had said. After all, Jesus had read about good news for the poor. They were poor. They would be happy to hear some good news. Jesus talked about release of the captives and letting the oppressed go free. Roman soldiers were on their soil. Roman tax collectors kept them poor. Perhaps Jesus was signaling that He was about to take charge and chase the Romans back to Rome where they belonged. It was crazy to think that He might do that, but it had been crazy to believe that David could defeat Goliath, too!
Jesus said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Did you hear that? “Today!” They had been waiting long enough. Jesus said, and the people spoke well of Him. They were amazed. They were excited. They couldn’t wait to see what would come next.
Now, if you read further in the passage you see the people’s opinioj changed when Jesus began to say that His ministry of love, release, and freedom was not just for them, but for all people. But the reaction is not what we need to focus on today. Today I want us to on Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah, because this tells us who Jesus is. It tells us who the church is. It tells us we we are. This scripture was Jesus’ mission statement, His marching orders for Himself and His followers. It would become the church’s mission statement. It is our mission statement. Listen once again:
“The Spirit the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives,
recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”
Then Jesus said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus is saying that He has come to bring good news to the poor. That is His job. He has come to release the captives, to give sight to the blind, to free the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And that is what He does! Throughout the Gospels, that’s what Jesus does. He doesn’t cater to the wealthy or the powerful. He eats dinner with lowlifes. He mixes with tax collectors and prostitutes. The poor people love Him, because they sense that He doesn’t care about money or power, He just cares about them. He heals blind beggars! He touches lepers! He feeds the hungry! All the way through the Gospels we find Jesus taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves. Then, in the book of Acts, we find the early church doing the same thing. The church in the book of Acts focuses on three things: (1) Proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ (2) breaking down barriers that keep Gentiles out of the church and (3) taking care of needy folk.
Jesus said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” That is still true! We, as Jesus’ followers, are still bringing good news to the poor! We are still proclaiming release to the captives! We are still bringing sight to the blind! We are still setting the oppressed free! We are still proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. Churches do this in a thousand ways.
It is no accident that many hospitals bear Christian names. Methodist Hospital. Baptist Hospital. Presbyterian Hospital. St. Luke’s Hospital. St. Joseph’s Hospital. There was a time when there was no money to be made running hospitals, a time before health insurance and Medicare, Not many people were interested in building hospitals in those days, because there was no money in it. But Christians saw the need and started hospitals.
Churches used to run a lot of orphanages in this country. Churches still run lots of orphanages in countries where there is a need for orphanages, in places where a lot of children have nowhere else to go and are living on the streets.
Every day, some young man or woman, and some not so young, leaves his or her home to go to a mission field. Some go to stay for a week, and some go to stay for a lifetime. Some go to preach and some go to dig wells. Some go to teach the Bible, and some go to perform eye surgery. Some go to build a church, and some go to build a school. But they all go to serve the needs of desperately needy people in the particular way that Christ has called them to help.
We here at Edgewood do so many things to be a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to others, particularly those in need.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we sew dresses and send them to them to children in need throughout the world.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we hand out bags filled with food and other items to the poor in Sanford through th Bags of Love ministry.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we volunteer, give money to, give food to, and do other things to support the ministry of CUOC as they reach out those in need in Lee County.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we collect money for blankets that Church World Service will send throughout the world in times of crisis.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we support denominational offerings such as the One Great Hour of Caring, the Women’s Birthday Offering, the Thank Offering and the Joy Gift Offering.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we help those in need through the Emergency Relief Fund.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we reach out to our sick, our homebound and our shut ins through visits, prayer, and thoughtful reminders that they are loved.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we pray for each other in the Prayer Chain and Prayer List and other ways.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we welcome each other and welcome visitors every Sunday.
We are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as we worship, learn, and fellowship together.
Yes, these and so many other ways are ways that we here at Edgewood are a part of Christ’s mission and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
Friends, the Spirit of the Lord is upon us. The Spirit of the Lord has anointed us to preach good news to the poor. The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to proclaim release to the captives. The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to help the blind recover their sight. The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to set the oppressed free. The Spirit of the Lord has sent us to proclaim the year of the Lord.
When we reach out to each other and others with the love of God, we are taking part in Christ’s mission, and sharing Christ’s good news. Amen