The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
- To proclaim good news
- To reveal himself as Savior
SERMON TEXT: Luke 4:14-21 (EHV)
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. He was teaching in their synagogues and being honored by everyone. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 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. He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Sermon Audio & Transcript
Jesus comes home!
Grace mercy and peace to all of you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
My dear friends,
Dr. David Jeselsohn collects antiques from the Middle East. Nineteen years ago he met an antique dealer from Jordan. The man was selling, among other things, a 3 foot high piece of stone that had 87 lines of ancient Hebrew writing on it. The man was intrigued. Dr. Jeselsohn thought it was pretty cool, so he plunked down a good piece of change and he bought this for his collection. He held onto it for about seven years and finally, wondering what it said, he took it to an expert in ancient Hebrew who began translating the 87 lines. Finding on line 80, he found that it was written about a man who had been killed by the Romans, but rose again from the dead on the third day. The experts dated the writing at approximately 2000 years. Does that ring any bell? Does it sound like somebody you? The Jeselsohn stone as it has come to be known was a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in Milwaukee some years ago. When the Jeselsohn stone was found, it was hoped by many Christians that this would finally be the exclamation point on Christian history. That would convince all nonbelievers that Jesus is real. That He truly did rise from the dead. Historic proof… for the resurrection of Jesus however is not new and we did not need the Jeselsohn stone in order to tell us that Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, you may or may not know this, but even if we did not have the New Testament, there are 40 different historic sources that tell us about Jesus. There are 100 different facts outside of Scripture not to mention the fact that the New Testament is one of the most accurately transcribed and one of the most ancient of all writings that we have intact today. In fact, the New Testament is preserved much better than any of the old manuscripts of William Shakespeare, or Julius Caesar. In fact, there is better proof that Jesus existed then we even can find for William Shakespeare. Is it surprising to you that people don’t really notice this?
Is it surprising to you that there are so many people doubting it, that when such proof as a 2000-year-old stone that speaks about a man who only could fit the description of Jesus Christ? Does it surprise you that it is ignored by the world? It shouldn’t. In fact, Jesus even when he was walking the earth in human flesh, visible to all, wasn’t noticed by very many people. Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. John the Baptist had been proclaiming him as the Lamb of God for many years. He was raised by his parents Zachariah and Elizabeth to know that Jesus, his second cousin, was the promised Messiah. He was proclaiming the works of Jesus, and then he saw the miracles of Jesus, and heard his teaching, and yet the last recorded words that we hear from John the Baptist are these words. He sent his disciples to go and ask Jesus, “are you really the one who was to call him or should we be looking for somebody else?” Very shortly after Jesus was baptized by John, He went out to the desert for 40 days where he was tempted by the devil, and He withstood that temptation for 40 days, and at the end of it. He was very tired. But nobody noticed when Jesus then went home to Nazareth his hometown. He did what was customary went to the synagogue, and being one of one of the natives of that town of Nazareth, and being educated to read the ancient Hebrew, Jesus stood up to read. Not too many people noticed as as he put the shroud over his head (as is pictured on your bulletin cover), a sign of respect for the word of God. He unrolled the scroll and he started to read these words he found in the book of Isaiah where it says the spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. Yes, send me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind. To release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. When the people in the Nazareth synagogue heard Jesus reading these words they would have immediately thought about the year of Jubilee. You know what that is? Every 50 years, after seven cycles of seven Sabbath years, then they would have the 50th year, the year of Jubilee. Listen what would make you happy about this year? All of your credit card debt would be wiped out. Just totally forgiven on the year of Jubilee. If you had sold family property, the family property would’ve been returned to you. If you were a slave, an Israelite slave who was working off the debt in the year of Jubilee, you would be set free. The year of Jubilee was really something to look forward to. And this was God’s command, that everything, every 50 years, should all be set right.
The section of Scripture that Jesus read from was about 700 years old when Jesus read it. Isaiah wrote about a man who would come proclaiming the good news to the poor. Freedom for the prisoners, release for the oppressed. As long as they followed God’s law they had a very real guarantee that at least once every 50 years, God was going to make good on his promise. Now, our society, our culture doesn’t work like that, does it? There is there is injustice in the world. There’s hurting. There are things that never ever get made right. And even though God is with us, sometimes it just doesn’t seem like it. Seems like people don’t notice our hurting. When people ask us how we’re doing and we kind of slump our shoulders and say I’m doing okay. Seems like, just like people didn’t notice Jesus, people often don’t notice if we are hurting, or if we’re tired, or if we are depressed, or if we’re troubled by debt, or we’re troubled by injustice in the world, or are troubled by what we see in the news, or what we experience in our families. Have you noticed that when we do deal with these kinds of things, not only does it feel like other people don’t notice, but very quickly our thoughts go to thinking God too has abandoned me? How often we allow that little seed of doubt that Satan plants within us to grow so that our discouragement becomes despair. And so that we lose our temper at things that we should have control about. We wish that things were different and then we convince ourselves that we’re helpless, and things can never be right. One of the members of our church just found out that her dad is suffering from dementia. Another one of the members of our congregation has a sister who fell and broke her hip. Another member of our congregation has a nephew who was born with a lung defect. Thankfully it’s been repaired surgically, but the little newborn almost a month old now will still have some future surgeries. When we have problems in life and we start to think God has abandoned us. When it starts to feel as if God is distant, but it’s not that God has moved away, very often it’s we who have moved away. This last week on Monday at the Wisconsin Lutheran College where my daughter attends, and where my son graduated, a 19 year old freshman girl was found having passed away in the dormitory. She died of complications of diabetes 19 years young. At the memorial service which I watched part of online, the president of the college said that the entire faculty and student body are grieving. He acknowledged that this hurts, but he also expressed that hope and that confidence that Aliya Hesseltine is at home in heaven where everything is right. Where there is no more disease. Where there is no more sadness.
The Isaiah text that talks about freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind. That talks about a release for the oppressed. That talks about the year of the Lord’s Jubilee, his favor. That message is one that should bring such joy to our hearts even in the midst of sadness. If you feel like you’re one of the oppressed, where Satan just keeps needling you. Where the temptations of the world keep getting the better of you. If you feel like you’re one of those people it’s constantly losing the battle against the sin whatever sin that is is your weakness. When you feel like you’re just too blind really to see what God’s plan is, then take a good hard look at your Savior Jesus. When we see Jesus we know that our poverty is nothing. We will be rich forever. When we see Jesus, we know that his suffering, we know that his death has paid the debt that we deserved to pay because of all of our sins. When we see Jesus, when we listen to his words, we know that the one who loves us better than any other human being ever could. The one who loves us with perfect giving, unconditional, gracious love is waiting for us in heaven. Jesus went about his business doing good, healing the sick, preaching the good news to the poor, and yet for most of the time it was not noticed. He was taken for granted. People thought he was crazy for a time. People thought that he was demon possessed and accused him of that. People thought that he was just making up a bunch of stuff, yet Jesus went about his business. He kept on teaching. He kept on obeying until that day that they led him to the cross and under the authority of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, they led him out to Golgotha, nailed his hands and feet to that terrible cross, and there he suffered the worst thing possible. He said my God, my God why have you forsaken me. As his own Father, the holy heavenly Father could not look at his son because of the sin that was placed upon him. Imagined that this is the sins of the entire world. I know the burden of my sins are a burden it’s too heavy for me to bear, and now he has the burden of the entire world. Yet they didn’t really appreciate his suffering, instead they mocked him. After God The Father had turned his back on the son, finally the suffering of Jesus was finished and He said, “it is finished.” He said, it’s paid in full. The price of redemption is paid and Jesus said, I commend my soul to you Father into your hands.
On that last day when you and I go to meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it will be a joyful day because when we open our eyes, we who had been blind on earth, will see him perfectly. We who have been oppressed by our sins, will be completely freed from the influence of our sins and others sins, and will bask in the glory of the perfect love of our God, and our Savior. Maybe life gives you a lot of reason to think that this freedom isn’t real. You don’t feel forgiven, or you don’t know that God really loves you. Then it’s time to take your scroll. We don’t usually use a scroll right, but we we open the pages of our Bible. Then it’s time to open to that place where Jesus speaks about the fulfillment of these words, Luke 4:14-21. I hope you can remember that reference, because your Savior Jesus leaves no doubt in our poor imprisoned blind, and oppressed eyes, in our child of God selves, why he came he came to redeem us. He once spoke to his disciples and he said, why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your minds?
Listen to Jesus again, as he says today these words are fulfilled in your hearing.
There is good news.
FIRST LESSON: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 (EHV)
All the people gathered together at the public square that is in front of the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, both men and women and all who were able to understand what they heard. From dawn until midday in front of the public square in front of the Water Gate, he read from the scroll, while facing the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. All the people could see Ezra as he opened the scroll, because he was elevated above all the people. As he opened the scroll, all the people stood. Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen! Amen!” while they lifted up their hands and then knelt and bowed down with their faces to the ground.
So they read from the Book of the Law of God clearly and interpreted it, and the people understood what was read.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who helped the people understand, said to all the people, “Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or cry!” because all the people were crying as they heard the words of the Law. Nehemiah said to them, “Go, eat rich food and drink sweet drinks and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, because today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
SECOND LESSON: Acts 4:23-31 (EHV)
After Peter and John were released, they went to their own friends and reported everything the high priests and the elders had said. When they heard this, with one mind they raised their voices to God and said, “Master, you are the God who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. By the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David, your servant, you said: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers are gathered together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “For certainly, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and people of Israel, were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did whatever your hand and your plan had decided beforehand should happen. “Now Lord, look at their threats and give to your servants the ability to keep on speaking your word with all boldness as you stretch out your hand to heal and as signs and wonders take place through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. Also, everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
VERSE OF THE DAY: Matthew 4:23 (NIV)
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease.
GOSPEL: Luke 4:14-21
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