Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Preaching the Good News - January 27, 2013 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Luke 4:16-30
Have you noticed the way people talk today? It was not so long ago that people spoke about things they knew or things they believed. Logic and empirical data were what determined what was right and true and what was to be believed. That is not the way it is today. Today people talk about how they “feel.” These feelings are what determine what is right and true and what is to be believed. Unfortunately this way of thinking, that feelings validate what is true, does have a profound affect on our Church. Too often today people want only to believe the parts of the Bible which they “feel” are right and thus are true for them. I must confess to you this morning that I come from the “old school.” I really do not care how people “feel” about the Word of God, because I am convinced by Holy Scripture that it is the Word of God and that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the [people] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) as Paul tells young pastor Timothy in his second letter to him.
Last week, in our Gospel reading, we watched as Jesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine. This first miracle was one of many which demonstrated to the people that He was God in flesh. We might say that this miracle was one of many which gave proof of Jesus’ Divinity. This week we move to the account of Jesus preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath and we see the response of the people. Remember, it was the Sabbath, the last day of the week, the day in which God rested from all of His work of creation and the day our Lord commanded us to rest. Jesus was following His usual custom which was regular, every Sabbath, worship attendance. He was in His hometown and all His family and friends had gathered for worship and to hear Him speak.
The custom of the day was to ask the visiting rabbi to read and to make a few remarks on the appointed text for the day after he read it. Jesus is the visiting rabbi and He is asked to read. The portion of Scripture which He read is from Isaiah and the words He read are these: “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
After Jesus read these words He handed the scroll back to the attendant and He and everyone sat down for the sermon. Now remember, this was Jesus’ first sermon in His hometown. We might compare what is happening to a newly graduated Seminarian going to his home congregation and giving his first sermon to his family and friends. Jesus read the scroll and sat down. Jesus’ first words are, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Certainly some bold words from our bold Savior. Now, for a moment, our text tells us that Jesus was getting favorable reviews, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” Today we might say there were being nice, but that does not last long.
Maybe it was how He said it, or maybe it was what He said, but the crowd did not approve for very long. As they listened to Jesus speak they begin asking themselves, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” In other words, as we might hear it today, they are asking, “Who does this guy think He is?” We watched this boy grow up and now he is preaching to us. The approving crowd begins to become the disapproving crowd.
Jesus, being God, knows what they are thinking and so He moves to address the issue that is on their minds. Now realize they did not say anything out loud. Jesus is addressing what they are thinking and so He is saying out loud what they are thinking in their minds. He quotes a proverb which addressed their issue, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” Jesus had not done any miracles here in His home town and so these people have only been hearing rumors of what He has been doing. He is here now and they want proof, they want to see first hand what they have been hearing, like the changing of water into wine, otherwise they will not believe. And to this Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown.” And then He goes on to give them two illustrations of what this means.
His first illustration is that of Elijah during the drought and the helping of the widow of Zarephath. Elijah was a recognized prophet of the Lord. He is looked up to and revered by these people to whom Jesus is speaking. He was a prophet sent by God to his own people and yet he was not able to find help and comfort among his own people. His own people rejected him, the God who sent him and his message from God. So, instead of finding help among his own people he had to find help from a foreigner. That was His first slap to their face.
Jesus’ second illustration is that of Elisha and the healing of Naaman, who also was a foreigner. Elisha was another recognized prophet of the Lord. He is looked up to and revered by these people to whom Jesus is speaking. He was a prophet sent by God to his own people and yet he was not able to perform any works of healing among his own people because they too rejected him, the God who sent him and his message from God. So, instead of being able to help his own people he could only provide healing for this foreigner.
Today we might mentally understand both of these illustrations and I wished I could have come up with something to compare today, yet we have no comparison today, mainly because I do not know of anyone who can do miracles. But, in case you missed it, the point that Jesus is making is that both Elijah and Elisha, who are, at Jesus’ time, looked up to, were both despised by their own people when they were here on this earth serving the Lord. And now, right here in front of His hometown, Jesus goes so far as to put Himself in the same category as Elijah and Elisha. He, Jesus, is a prophet of the Lord and yet, He knows that He too will not be accepted by His own people. Of course, this goes over big with the crowd. Our text tells us that “all the people in the synagogue were furious.” They were all so upset that they got up as one mass in order to take Jesus out to the edge of town to throw Him off a cliff.
Now, this next statement in our text should have tipped these people off. We are told that “[Jesus] walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” Jesus is divine. He is God. He is the prophet, the one sent, the Messiah. Just like their ancestors, they cannot see nor do not want to see that Jesus is who He says He is.
And to add proof to what Jesus is saying, the next two verses after our text tell us that “[Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching because his message had authority.” These people were not His family and friends and so these people believed. Thus, Jesus was able to do miracles. And, we are told, His message had authority. Notice it was not that the people “felt” like His message had authority, it was not something from the people that gave His message authority, but because His message was the Word of God, it had authority.
What does this look like today? Today we address the same issues Jesus was addressing by asking several questions. The questions we will want to ask ourselves today are these, “Do we believe the Bible is the Word of God or do we believe the Bible only contains the Word of God?” “Do we believe that Jesus is the Messiah or that He was just a good man or that He was only God?” And finally, “Does the Word have an affect on us?”
So, “Do we believe the Bible is the Word of God or do we believe the Bible only contains the Word of God?” The difference in these two beliefs is the difference in believing that the whole Bible is the Word of God and that we live according to it, whether we like it or not. Or believing that we must some how be the judge of what is in the Bible and, like a detective, find what really is true about God and what is not true. This second way of looking at the Bible brings with it more power for us, because we become the ones who are deciding who and what God is and thus, as many have in our world today, we can create God in whatever image we want. Here I would refer you back to the first commandment and that fact that if we have other gods we stand judged and condemned before God, in other words, this means eternal spiritual death.
Now, to our second questions, “Do we believe that Jesus is the Messiah or that He was just a good man or that He was only God?” This questions reflects our answer to the previous question because it is only as we believe the Bible to be the Word of God that we can actually believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that He gave His life for ours. To believe in anything less is, again, to stand condemned before God, in other words, this means eternal spiritual death.
Finally, to answer the last question, “Does the Word have an affect on us?” Here I use the word “Word” in the multiple sense that the gospel writer John uses the word. First, does the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ Himself have an affect on us, the way we live, the way we think, what we say and do? And second, does the Word, the written Word of Holy Scripture, the written Word of God, also have an affect on us? To paraphrase our text, when Jesus comes down to Westfield, Texas, a small town on the outskirts of Houston, and when we hear His Word read and proclaimed on Sunday morning, are we amazed at His teaching because His is a message with authority? Does His Word have its way with us or do we constantly refuse and reject His Word. Truly, it is only when, with the help of the Holy Spirit working through this Word of God that we believe this Word of God and are able to stand in righteousness before our God, in other words, this means eternal life.
Our words and our actions betray us. We show forth the faith that is in our hearts by our words and our actions. How we respond to the Word which we hear and believe shows if we are like the people of Jesus’ home town or if we are like the people of Capernaum.
My prayer for each one of you this morning is that the Lord will be with you, filling you with His Holy Spirit especially as He does through His means of grace, as you remember your Baptism, as you hear His words that your sins are forgiven, as you hear His Holy Word and as you are given His body and blood to eat and drink thus participating in His life, death and resurrection, so that as you leave the safety of this building, this sanctuary, where it is okay to be a Christian, and go out into the rest of the world, to your various jobs, occupations, careers, and vocations, so that you will show forth the faith that is in your heart, faith given and strengthened through the dynamic Word of the Word of God. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.