Epiphany 0319 – “God Fulfills His Word in Us!” Luke 4:16-30
Epiphany 0319 – “God Fulfills His Word in Us!” Luke 4:16-30
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Luke, the 4th Chapter.
“16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.””
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
How would Evansville welcome the Benes brothers, Bob Griese, Don Mattingly, Calbert Cheaney, Casey Stegall, Ruth Siems or other hometown celebrities? We are familiar with sports figures like the three Benes brothers, Don Mattingly, Bob Griese and Calbert Cheaney. We might have listened to Casey Stegall reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. We might have eaten the Stove Top Stuffing® invented by Ruth Siems. Knowing these things we would probably provide a pleasing welcome should they come to visit. There would be an element of pride because these people are all from Evansville, Indiana.
How would we receive Jesus if he were to be the guest preacher at today’s worship service? Would we eagerly listen to him enumerate our falling into sin? Would we take offense when he gored our sacred cow? Do we take for granted we do all things right without comparing what we do to the Word of God?
Luke recounts the reception of Jesus by the people in Nazareth. We know that this is Jesus’ “home town.” This is at least in the sense that Jesus spent most of his life in Nazareth. After his family fled Bethlehem for Egypt when Jesus was around two years of age, they returned to live in Nazareth a few years later. The people were very familiar with Jesus’ family and thought they knew Jesus.
But did the people of Nazareth truly know Jesus? They knew Jesus’ customary practice of being in the synagogue on the Sabbath. This Sabbath was beginning not unlike many others. They gather to hear the Word of God read. They gather to hear the one who is the teacher for the Sabbath gathering expound upon that Word of God. They all come in obedience to the Word of God that tells God’s people too honor the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
We learn from this custom of Jesus that even God does not choose to worship in His own way, but according to the Word He gives. Today the Church struggles with its worship of God. The wheres and wherefores fall under much discussion and debate. People have in their own minds what worship of God is, and where and when worship of God takes place.
Consider these attitudes toward honoring the Sabbath Day. I can worship God on the golf course, or in my tree stand, or on the beach. I don’t need to be in a building on Sunday morning, Saturday evening or Wednesday night. I can worship God in my own way. I watch the TV preachers and get my dose of religion for the week. I have my Bible on the table in my living room and can pick it up when I think I need it. I feel God is with me all the time. I don’t need to go to a building to make sure He’s here.
What does Dr. Luther teach regarding the meaning of “Honor the Sabbath Day and keep it holy”? We should fear and love God the we do not despise preaching and His word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. We despise the preaching of God’s word when we do not gather in His house to hear the called preacher of the congregation.
We despise the preaching of God’s Word when we fail to heed the instruction of God’s Word given by the called teacher of the congregation. We despise preaching of God’s Word when we think and believe salvation is taught by the beauty of nature or the comradery of the playing field. We despise the preaching of God’s when we think worship in the House of God is unnecessary. We despise the gifts of God when we see no need to receive the means of grace so richly and fully established by God for sinners.
But, I am preaching to the choir so to speak. You are gathered here today to honor the command of God to feed your faith on the means of God’s grace. You are here today in faithful obedience to hold as sacred the Sabbath Day of your Savior. To hold the Sabbath sacred means that God’s people set the day of worship apart from the other days of the week. As God set you apart for His holy purpose, so you also choose to be together in accord with His Sabbath command and tradition.
The people of Nazareth gathered in such a manner as well. They come to the synagogue on the Sabbath to honor the day of rest set apart by God. Yet, in the hearts of some there is a “disconnect” from the means of grace. They are enamored of the gracious words of Jesus who brings divine teaching to their ears, hearts and minds. Jesus speaks of fulfillment of the prophets Isaiah’s words. Jesus tells the people He is the embodiment of the long ago foretold prophet anointed by God to bring healing and deliverance for those who are prisoners of their enemy.
The enemy of which Jesus speaks is unbelief. Its source is in the sin-broken heart of man who lives in the darkness of rebellion against the God who gives life and redemption. It is difficult to rid ourselves of this sin-broken heart and darkness of rebellion. Jesus reveals this when he takes the congregation to task for their rejection of His word and teaching.
The people upon hearing Jesus teaching and mulling over His words soon realize the implication of his words. “Wait a minute, this is Joseph’s son. We only know Jesus as a carpenter’s son. Where does He get off saying he is God’s Prophet foretold by Isaiah?” Jesus discerns their thoughts and shows them the next step of their unbelief and rebellion. “Next you are going to ask for proof regarding the claim I make. You have heard of my miracles in other towns. You will demand a miracle from me as proof.”
Perhaps, Jesus even foretells their murderous intent when he speaks of the proverb the people will quote to him. “Physician, heal yourself.” Jesus knows they will try to throw him over a cliff in the very near future. No doubt they plan to look upon their handiwork and plan to jeer at his lifeless body demanding a resurrection from the dead.
Jesus, furthermore, speaks about those who truly keep the Sabbath by mentioning the widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon, and Naaman the Syrian. Both were honoring the Lord by saving faith in the words of the prophets of God. The widow of Zarephath fed Elijah with the last of her oil and flour trusting that the Lord would feed her family. Naaman the Syrian honored the Lord by bathing in the Jordan River seven times in accord with the word of Elisha the prophet of God. Salvation came to these foreigners and they believed and were rescued. Salvation came to God’s people but it was rejected.
This is the way of our sinful flesh. It matters little what time or people we may be. There will always be the struggle between unbelief and the truth of God’s word. Our Lord came to His people to bring the good news of salvation and deliverance. Jesus also came to inaugurate and establish the New Covenant long promised by God. the people in the synagogue were unable to overcome Jesus because the time of his atoning death had not yet come.
In due time, Jesus would indeed be led up another hill upon which the city of Jerusalem is built. At that time Jesus would not turn and walk through the crowd. Rather, Jesus would resolutely set on foot in front of the other and walk to his crucifixion and death. Jesus would let his captors lay hands on him and nail his hands and feet to the cross. He would do this to bring to full effect the true liberty for those who are held captive to sin and rebellion against God.
The people would continue to mock Jesus and call for the physician to heal himself. At that time their demand for a sign would be fulfilled. The Great Physician, Jesus, would lay lifeless in the grave for three days. On that third day Jesus would indeed heal himself. By the power of God, Jesus would raise himself from the bonds of death and visibly proclaim salvation from sin accomplished, release from the oppression and fear of death, recovery of sight for those released from the blindness of unbelief, and eternal life for those delivered from the bonds death.
Jesus healed you. Through the water of washing and regeneration by means of the Holy Spirit of God you are now alive in Jesus Christ. The great light of God’s salvation is poured out upon you and to remain upon you that you are given entrance into God’s eternal kingdom. This house of worship is but an imperfect image of God’s eternal house built by the hands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We gather here in this house of worship faithfully each Sabbath Day to hear the voice of our savior who speaks to us through faithful preaching and teaching of His word and touches us through His rightly administered sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Thought these means of grace, Jesus continues to heal our sin and help our unbelief that we remain a people prepared for His glorious return. God keep you for that Day in true faith.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen