Sermon at Nazareth
Last week we talked about Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3. It’s an awesome story where Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all present. We didn’t discuss, however, what took place immediately following the baptism.
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. Over the course of 40 days he was tempted by the devil 3 different times. And every single time he drew off his knowledge of Scripture to get him through. It was time spent in the Scriptures that prepared Jesus to face the temptations. And facing off the temptations, something about Jesus has changed.
We’re told that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, but notice what our text today says about how Jesus leaves the wilderness.
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
Notice that testing, or temptation itself isn’t necessarily bad. Those moments can help us grow. We don’t want to go find those moments (Lead us not into temptation…), but when we are prepared, and those testing moments come for us, they help us develop our reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has prepared for this moment. He has been a student of the Scriptures, so much so that he can recall them by memory. And going through this experience in the wilderness strengthens him in the Spirit. Jesus is now prepared for his ministry.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Now think about what Jesus is saying to this congregation. Our Psalm reading earlier proclaimed clearly that it is the LORD who frees prisoners, restores sight, frees the oppressed. Jesus is saying this text is about himself!
This is a huge claim! Jesus is saying that he, himself is the embodiment…the presence of the LORD. When you see Jesus moving and acting and speaking, it is the LORD doing it!
This text clearly says that the one who does these things is the ANOINTED one…that is MESSIAH. The Messiah is the one to do these things through the acting and power of the Holy Spirit. This is the LORD’s plan, this is the Holy Spirit’s power, and Jesus is the Messiah to bring this plan into action!
I cannot understate the importance of this statement by Jesus. There is absolutely no misunderstanding by this crowd as to what Jesus is claiming about himself. Hey understand his message, but do they believe him? And will they accept God’s mission for him?
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ ” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.
The healing of the blind is Good News for me if I’m blind. The freeing of the prisoner is Good News for me if I’m locked up. The freeing of the oppressed is Good News for me if oppressed. But what if I’m the one doing the oppressing? What if I’m the one keeping people from being free? What if I’m the one obstructing the sight of others? I think that’s the issue in Nazareth.
The people realize Jesus is speaking well, they like what they hear at first, but then they start to doubt the validity of the message. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” And it brings about a statement by Jesus rejecting their unbelief and hardness of heart. They don’t like this message because it upsets what they have come to believe about the world.
There is conflict, and there will always be conflict, no matter what Jesus or his followers do. Heal someone? Conflict. Forgive sins? Conflict. Raise the dead? Conflict. Preach the Word of God? Conflict!
Yet Jesus doesn’t back down from the mission he’s been given.
We looked at this story a couple of months ago. Remember that Elijah had not response in Israel to his message from the LORD. Because of this, the LORD called him away from Israel to Gentile territory to a widow whom Elijah performed a miraculous multiplication of flour and oil, and raised the widow’s son from the dead!
The miracles were done for the Gentiles because they believed. The word of the LORD was proclaimed to the Gentiles because of the hardness of hearts in Israel, and the Gentiles believed!
27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Notice again, Jesus uses another example of a miracle done for a Gentile. There is a clear theme in Jesus’ message: The faith of others is important too. Gentiles are important to God too, and because of the unbelief of Israel, the message will go to them too!
Simply put: Jesus is proclaiming A Kingdom is for Everyone!
Notice their reaction!
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Did you pick up on what is happening here between the sermon and the actions of the crowd at Nazareth? In Jesus’ sermon, it’s all the “wrong people” that have faith and received the blessings and healing. The so called “right people, or religious people” are the ones to reject God.
Luke is going to play with this theme throughout volume 1 and 2 of his Gospel…it’s the good religious folk that struggle to understand the ways of Jesus, but the non-religious, sinful folks pick up on it right away. They are quick to repent, to drop everything and to follow Jesus. They are all excited and ready to be welcomed into Jesus’ Kingdom!
The problem is that the religious people were standing in the way, and violently tried to put Jesus to death because they didn’t like the people Jesus was going to include.
And Jesus’ reaction isn’t to stay around and beg and plead with them to reconsider. He simply walks away.
And he never returns to Nazareth.
We have a decision to make. Are we going to follow Christ, no matter where he leads us, or are we going to cling to ignore what he calls us to do, and cling to our ideals and simply let him walk away? Because he will walk away.
Jesus never returns to Nazareth!
So we have to ask the question, how do we stand with Jesus?
What will he do with us?