Jesus Rejected at Nazareth | Luke 4:16-30
The purpose of the Epiphany season is simple:
Week after week we are supposed to see more and more who Jesus is.
That’s really the whole point of every Sunday from Christmas to Transfiguration –
That Jesus shines brighter and brighter, and our sight becomes clearer and clearer;
That we move from knowledge to wisdom, from darkness to light;
And in that light, finally know and see Jesus as He truly is.
This morning He makes that remarkably simple.
In the shortest and sweetest sermon there could ever be,
Jesus says that He is the One of whom Isaiah spoke.
Liberator, Champion, Physician, Messiah, and Savior – the Anointed One;
And that just by hearing that message, the Word of God was fulfilled.
Now, you need to bundle all that up for just a moment and consider the context.
Beyond preaching and teaching,
We’re not told exactly what Jesus was up to when He was in Galilee.
But news has clearly reached Nazareth that much more was happening there;
That miracles, healings, and exorcisms were part of Jesus ministry as well.
That’s why nobody questions Jesus’ authority to preach.
The attendant just hands Him the scroll.
And everyone is quiet, gazing at Him,
Waiting with baited breath to hear what He will say.
If you don’t feel that same sense of anticipation when I get into the pulpit,
You can imagine that your good friend Jesus has been in New Bedford all last week,
Healing the sick with a word, teaching to the masses, and being glorified by all.
Every news outlet covered it,
And now He is here among you.
When Jesus sits down to teach them,
He speaks words that they have never heard before –
Words that sound like castles and kingdoms;
Gracious words that proclaim Him to be the promised Messiah, the Anointed One.
And it really is Good News. It truly is the Gospel that they hear.
They are genuinely pleased that help has finally arrived.
That’s why they spoke well of Him and marveled at His words.
They believe in Him.
Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said that
Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
That’s what He does.
Jesus fixes their eyes by working on their ears.
In their hearing,He has given sight to the blind.
In their hearingthey have been freed and liberated.
In their hearingthey have been made rich.
In their hearing the same Holy Spirit that has anointed Jesus in His ministry,
Has created faith in them.
But here we also see how corrupted we are by sin.
Here we are reminded how it clings to us our whole life long,
And how quickly we give in to it.
The moment they are set free, they begin to abuse that freedom.
With their brand new eyes, made to see Christ, they begin to look at themselves.
It starts in verse 23 as Jesus gives voice to their thoughts.
That phrase “Physician, heal Yourself,” is really more self-serving than it seems.
It could be better translated: “Physician, heal Your own.”
Heal us. Do some miracles here. Be ourMessiah. Do what weexpect you do.
But Jesus will have none of that.
The miracles and the healings are only temporary glimpses of who He is.
That’s why Jesus doesn’t employ them here.
They think they know Him because He’s Joseph’s son;
But they must learn to know Him by God’s Word alone.
By proclaiming Himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, they are to know
That liberty has nothing to do with being under the thumb of Caesar;
That riches are not the things you hold in your hand;
That true sight is hearing and knowing Christ as He has revealed Himself.
So the big revelation today is notthat Jesus is the Messiah, come to save them.
The big revelation is that He has come to save everyone else.
And that big revelation, that epiphany, is scandalizing to them.
They don’t like being reminded that Elijah wasn’t welcomed by Israel,
But was sent only to a poor widow in Zarephath.
They don’t like being reminded that Naaman the Syrian,
That leprous enemy of Israel,
Was healed in the Jordan River for free while Israel’s lepers stayed that way.
This was all available to them in the books of Moses and the Prophets,
But they could and would not see it.
That their salvation is not a reward for their faithfulness or their genetics,
But an unmerited gift, given and received by grace alone
That’s why Jesus Himself does not only read the Scripture,
But also preaches and teaches.
And that’s why we need God’s Word not only read but also preached to us.
Because sin in the abstract is too comfortable.
The people at the synagogue didn’t have much of a problem admitting that they had been blind and imprisoned, or poor and oppressed;
Especially not when Jesus was there to give them sight and free them.
What filled them with wrath was the condemnation of their own sins;
Their own rejection of God’s Word.
Likewise, one of the risks of Confession & Absolution in the Divine Service is that it is so easily memorized and spoken, that we don’t take it to heart.
This is why the Church has always practiced Individual Confession & Absolution.
The public rite you’re familiar with is an innovation.
In either case, public or private, know and trust that it is the Word of God you hear.
That the Absolution I speak upon you is God’s own forgiveness,
Fulfilled in your hearing.
That’s how the forgiveness of sins, won by Jesus on the cross, gets to you:
Jesus speaks so that you would hear and listen.
So, hear and listen.
Christ has made Himself poor, and given you the riches of His kingdom.
Christ has been condemned in your place, and so you have been set free.
You were blind, but in the Light that shines from the empty tomb, you see.
And in that Light that is Christ, you can see everything else.
That is the Light you bear out into the world.
A Christian cannot keep Christ to himself,
Because His is not for you alone,
But for all those who sit in darkness;
For the blind, the oppressed, and the captives;
For the little, the least, the last, the lost, and the dead.