The First Sermon

Luke 4:16-30

 

So if you weren’t here last week, you didn’t hear what we’re going to be doing on Sunday mornings for the next several weeks.

I mentioned that I so enjoyed exploring the birth and first few days of Jesus during Christmas, I decided we would go ahead and take a look at the rest of His life.

Of course, by that I mean His earthly life.  We discussed how His activity on earth—prior to the Cross—consisted of a great deal of miracle working.

Last week we took a good look at His first recorded miracle—the turning of water into wine at the wedding party in Cana of Galilee.

We mentioned the significance of Jesus’ first miracle coming at a feast, and we talked about the fulfillment that awaits at the greater feast on the mountain of the Lord.

 

A second thing Jesus’ spent much time on while here on earth was preaching and teaching.  He was known to many as Teacher or Rabbi.

We are in the process of looking at many of His lessons—known as parables—during our Bible Study on Sunday evenings.

His famous sermon—The Sermon on the Mount—covers three chapters in the Gospel of Matthew.

I actually preached that sermon one Sunday morning.  I offered no words or interpretation of my own.  What I spoke were merely Jesus’ words.

And, let me tell you, that was better than any sermon I’ve written or preached.

 

So, today, we’re going to look at His first recorded sermon.  And I’m talking about one that actually happened in what we might refer to as “church”.

It’s one of the shortest sermons you’ll ever read or hear.  Incidentally, I’ll go ahead and put an end to any hopes you might have of this sermon being similarly short.

But it was also one of the most impactful sermons you’ll ever read.  You know, sermons and lessons can have an impact in any number of ways.

Of course, it would be wonderful if every sermon I preached caused those who are lost to feel led to surrender their lives to Jesus.

It would be great if every sermon I preached spurred everyone in the congregation to think on the scriptures and to evaluate their lives.

It would be wonderful if every sermon I preached pushed every person into greater commitment and greater sensitivity to the Lord’s leading.

 

And yet, these aren’t the only ways for a sermon to have an impact.  Having an impact simply means that people were moved or affected by the sermon.

It’s never seemed appealing to me to preach a sermon where people get up and walk out in the middle of it.

While that might not be the desired intent, the sermon is still having an impact.  And, in both of these sorts of ways, Jesus’ first sermon had tremendous impact.

But, before I prattle on any more about it, let’s take a look at it and the context surrounding. It’s found in the fourth chapter of Luke.

I’ll give you a moment to turn there.  I think you’ll recognize some of this passage from our Old Testament scripture earlier in the service.

For now, I’ll begin our reading with verse sixteen of Luke, chapter four.  (Read Luke 4:16-30.)

 

You could cut the tension in the air with a knife.  Or maybe I should say there was electricity in the air.

Or maybe this would simply be one of those moments that give you goose bumps.

However you want to look at it, one thing is clear.  Jesus has returned home.  It’s a little too early to call Him the famed son of Galilee.

After all, He is still a carpenter’s son, born in a stable.  And His parents—wink, wink and nudge, nudge—didn’t exactly conceive Him they way they were supposed to.

According to this passage, Jesus had already been doing some marvelous things in Capernaum.  And now He once again arrives on the scene in Galilee.

Verse fourteen says that He returned “in the power of the Spirit”.  He also was beginning to teach in the synagogues.

 

That’s where we pick up our passage today.  Jesus enters a synagogue in Nazareth, the specific town in which He was raised.

It’s a Sabbath day on this particular day, meaning the people have gathered to worship.  Let me see if I can paint a picture for you of these worship services.

Commentator Robert Stein says that a synagogue service typically consisted of these elements:  first, there was the singing of a psalm.

Then came the reading of the Shema, which is a commonly known passage in Jewish circles, taken from two different places in the book of Deuteronomy.

There was a repetition of eighteen blessings, known as the Shemoneh Esreh.  Then came a reading from the Law, done in Hebrew.

That reading would then be translated into Aramaic, since Hebrew was no longer read or understood by the average person.

Next was a reading from the Prophets in Hebrew, again followed by the Aramaic translation.  The final two elements included a sermon on the Scripture.

All that was left was a blessing from the synagogue ruler.  So, as you can see, there are many similarities between our worship services and these services.

There was music.  There was scripture reading.  There was a sermon.  And our passage today doesn’t merely say that Jesus went to the worship service.

The passage says that it was His custom.  Jesus was a regular attender, apparently.

 

Isn’t this an interesting point to ponder?  To put it into today’s terms, Jesus went to church.  Now, it’s true that His biggest opponents were these “church folks”.

But Jesus, it would seem, is very pro-church.  I know folks who have reservations about church—even have rejected church—because they see so little of Jesus.

And, in a lot of cases, that’s true.  Many churches throughout the world have become more about the machine than about the Man who leads them.

But Jesus did not reject the church folks.  I have a friend—an ordained minister—who says, “The church is a whore, but she’s also my mother.”

We church folks need Jesus.  We’re all prone to wander, fickle in our faith.  We all fail, and we all sin.

Jesus, it would seem, is not ready to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Yes, the tax collectors, prostitutes, and disreputable types need Jesus.

But so do the religious types.  So do the church folks.  Nicodemus knew He needed Jesus, though it took Him a while to get there.

The same is true with Joseph of Arimathea.  So, yes, Jesus went to church.  And, on this particular day, He stands up to read.

It has already been mentioned that He taught in synagogues.  Surely, word about Him was beginning to spread.

The folks didn’t necessarily know everything about Him.  They knew some basics—where He was from, who His folks were, et cetera.

But they had also heard many rumors about great teachings and, perhaps, greater supernatural acts.  So Jesus is certainly the topic of the community’s whispers.

And now, it is this Jesus, who is handed the scroll.  Now they will hear from Him.

 

Here’s one of the nuances I enjoy about this passage.  The scroll on which Isaiah’s prophecy was contained is handed to Jesus.

He unrolls it, and He finds a specific passage.  So this was not some required reading based on some liturgical handbook.

Jesus chooses this passage.  He makes the specific decision to read these specific verses.  And, as you may well know, He always has a reason behind His actions.

He read from the passage we read earlier, from the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah.

Let’s hear what He read, once again.  (Read Luke 4:18-19.)

 

He reads this, rolls up the scroll, hands it back to the attendant, and sits down.

Our passage says that the eyes of everyone in the synagogue are fixed upon Him.

I didn’t know that was possible during a sermon.  Surely someone was sleeping or fiddling around on their phone, right?

This is high drama.  The people have gathered to hear from Jesus.  In a sense, they know who He is.  In another sense, there’s something very curious about Him.

Perhaps there is more than meets the eye.  Perhaps they will learn a little more about Him as He prepares to expound on this passage.

 

Ah, yes, and what do we make of this passage that Jesus chose?  The passage, which is prophecy, refers to one on whom the Spirit of God rests.

This is an anointed one.  Should we flip back to the third chapter of Luke, we would learn that the Spirit of God did anoint Jesus at His baptism.

And this person Isaiah wrote about, what was he anointed to do?  He was called to proclaim good news to the poor, the down and out, and the downtrodden.

He was sent to proclaim freedom for prisoners.  This doesn’t so much refer to those in earthly jail cells.  This refers to those imprisoned by the dark powers of this earth.

This refers to those in bondage, seemingly forever stuck in the clutches of sin.

This anointed one was also sent to proclaim recovery of sight for the blind.  This could refer to those who are physically blind or spiritually blind.

In a word, the anointed one would come to set the oppressed free.  He would come to announce—in word and deed—that God’s kingdom had come.

Even if we hadn’t already read our passage this morning, you might be prone to assume that Jesus is speaking of Himself in quoting this passage from Isaiah.

But, for the folks in this assembly, all they know for now is that Jesus read this passage.  Then He lets them know it was no mere happenstance reading.

 

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Even if those were the only words Jesus spoke that day, they were enough.

He is the One who fulfills this job description.  He’s the one anointed by the Holy Spirit.  He’s the one that brings the gospel to the hurting and hopeless.

In truth, He is the gospel.  He proclaims freedom to prisoners.  He does this by forgiving sins, by accepting the unacceptable, and loving the unlovable.

He brought sight to the blind.  There is more than one instance of Him healing blind folks throughout the gospels.

But Jesus also brings vibrant, open minds and hearts to those that have been dulled by sin, the world, and even by religion.

Yes, Jesus came to set free the oppressed.  He omits one portion of this passage from Isaiah, one dealing with the day of the Lord’s vengeance.

This isn’t because that vengeance is an illusion.  It’s very real, and it is coming.  But Jesus omits it because, in that time and place, His mission was deliverance.

It wasn’t a time for vengeance.  The Son of God didn’t come into the world to condemn it, but rather to save it.

Yes, in the person of Jesus, God’s Kingdom had finally come to His people.

 

The people, as you might expect, are all abuzz following this statement.  Scripture says that all spoke well of Him, though it might be better put a different way.

All spoke a great deal about Him.  He was THE topic of conversation, whether for good or bad.  They marveled at and discussed His words.

They asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  To be sure, some said that in amazement.  “I thought we knew Him!  Can you believe the carpenter’s boy speaks like this?”

Others were likely skeptical.  “How can He say such things?  We know who He is and where He is raised.  He ain’t that big of a deal!”

 

But in the midst of their whisperings and curiosities and marveling, Jesus continues to speak.  He contends that He knows what they’re thinking.

Surely they’ve heard of His miracles in Capernaum.  Surely they want to see some proof of His claim to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Were we to read the gospels in their entirety, we would see that the people regularly demanded signs and increasing evidence from Jesus.

So it stands to reason that Jesus was correct in this assumption.  And Jesus continues, telling them that they never will accept Him.

It doesn’t matter what He does—how many lepers He heals, how much water He turns to wine, or how many thousands He feeds from next to nothing.

Jesus’ hometown folks—and really, God’s people of Israel—have gotten so far off track, so self-absorbed, and so consumed by religion that they’ll never come around.

That’s when Jesus’ sermon takes an interesting turn.  He starts referencing another scripture, this time a story involving another of their famous prophets—Elijah.

In Elijah’s time, there was a great famine.  But of all the widow’s Elijah could have been sent to, it wasn’t an Israelite to whom he ministered.

It was a foreigner, a Sidonian, a Gentile.  And in Elijah’s time, there were many suffering from leprosy.

But the only one cleansed was the enemy general, Namaan, a Syrian, a Gentile.

 

So Jesus came to proclaim good news, to release those in bondage, and to give sight to the blind.  But these good things weren’t merely reserved for Israel.

They were for the whole world—even for foreigners to Israel, even to Gentiles.

This is the mission of the New Testament.  In fact, in many instances we see that the Gentiles were much more receptive to His message and missionaries than the Jews.

As you might expect, these words were not received kindly by a people who were very proud of their heritage, even snobbish about their ethnic standing.

The scripture says they were furious.  How quickly we go from speaking well of someone to being furious at that same person.

So it goes with ministry and leadership, I suppose.  But their anger toward Jesus goes beyond mere words.

 

They rose from their seats, but not to leave.  They advanced on Him.  They drove Him out of the synagogue.  They drove Him out of the town.

They drove Him to the brow of a cliff, desiring to cast Him down.  Miraculously, He passed through their midst and left town.  It wasn’t His time.

But we see something very interesting here.  Obviously, Jesus would never preach a sermon that was untruthful, unscriptural, or even uncaptivating.

So apparently a good sermon can get you killed—or at least almost killed.  I don’t think I would enjoy a sermon that led people to homicide—directed at me!

But some folks simply don’t like to hear the truth.  They don’t like to hear about their own failings.

They don’t like to hear that things won’t be the way they thought they ought to be.

They wanted a different sort of Messiah and for God to do things a different way.

 

What do we take from this passage today?  Well, first of all, Jesus is the Messiah—and He knows it.  He fulfills that Scripture.

Are you downtrodden today?  He has good news for you.  Do you feel imprisoned, trapped by sin?  He can bring you release.

Are you narrow-minded, unable to see life outside your own little world?  Are you blind to what God is doing all around you?  He can help you see as you ought to.

Are you in need of salvation?  Jesus tells you that God has come, and that through Him you can find favor with and righteousness before God.

 

While all this is very good news, we have to balance it with something else our passage reveals to us.  There’s very little “warm and fuzzy” about Jesus.

He divides.  In one breath, the people are praising Him, and in the next breath they are threatening to kill Him, vehement with rage.

If you want to tell me that you are “undecided” about Jesus, then I want to tell you that this Jesus you are considering is not the Jesus of the Bible.

There is no in-between or fence-riding.  To be indifferent toward Jesus is to reject Him.  His most outspoken opponents were part of the reason He was on the cross.

But the same is true of those who remained apathetic and noncommittal.  Bad people did some bad things.  Good people did nothing.

But none of it mattered because the scripture had to be fulfilled.  Jesus had to die for all people, everywhere.

He could deliver us from the oppression of sin and the impending treachery of eternal death only by going to that Cross.

Only by paying mankind’s punishment could He spare mankind from God’s wrath.

 

Let it be known today that this was the only way.  Let it be known today that the God of the Bible is real, and that He has spoken to us.

And let it be known today that only by entrusting your life to Jesus and receiving His gift of grace can you find any hope, joy, or peace in this world.

Are you facing uncertainty?  I have a certainty of a “one day in heaven” through Jesus Christ.

Are you feeling out of control, stressed out and burdened down?  I have the peace of surrendering to God’s way—and He is in complete control of everything.

Jesus asks us to let everything go from our hands and entrust it all into His hands.

Are you blinded today, groping around in the dark for answers?  Jesus invites you today to come see things, if only for a moment, through His eyes.

Come see the abundant and eternal life available only through Him.  Come, and experience Jesus today!  Would you pray with me?