Jesus Inaugural Sermon Scripture: Luke 4:14-30

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1 1 Jesus Inaugural Sermon Scripture: Luke 4:14-30 By Pastor John H. Noordhof Williamsburg Christian Reformed Church February 3, 2013 Morning Service People of God: When you are on vacation, as I was for two weeks, you lose track of world news. One of the events that I missed was the inauguration of President Obama into his second term of office. While not as historic as his first inauguration, it was still a significant event. In particular, the inaugural address lays out the vision and the direction the President wants to take the country in. He lays out the agenda and program for the next four years of his term of office. Usually the inaugural address states these goals and aims in fairly general terms, appealing to the broad consensus of the ideals of the American nation. And so, Obama quoted from the Constitution about the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How could any American, whether Democrat or Republican, disagree with those notions? Yet, when it comes to specifics and working out the details of those founding principles, well, that s where disagreement and criticism will arise. Indeed, Republicans questioned the focus on gay rights, the role of government, and how one deals with the mounting debt. Democrats affirmed what Obama said, but wondered how in the world he would accomplish his lofty goals, given the opposition he faces in Congress. In a way, the sermon delivered by Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth was like an inauguration address. In this message, Jesus sets forth his vision for his ministry. That s why Luke places this event very early on in his gospel, even though it actually took place after some time into the ministry of Jesus. That s why the gospels of Matthew and Mark place this event latter on in their accounts, in a more chronological order. Not Luke. He knows other events have already happened. That s indicated in verses 14 and 15 that mention Jesus teachings elsewhere, and verse 23 assumes Jesus had done miracles in Capernaum.

2 But Luke mentions Jesus sermon in Nazareth first, because it functions for Luke as a summary of the ministry of Jesus. This is what Jesus came to do. Jesus, not only announces the good news that the favor of the Lord has arrived, he makes the daring claim that he is the one through whom this favor is achieved: Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. This is Jesus inaugural address. And like Obama s inaugural address, the reaction, while at first positive, soon comes under criticism and the end result is a very hostile reaction. Who in the world does Jesus think he is, making this bold and daring claim: the favor of the Lord comes through him? In one way, it was a typical Sabbath. The custom was for the people to go to the synagogue to worship the Lord, just like our custom of worshipping each Sunday. Like our own service, it had its usual elements in their liturgy: songs, prayers, readings from the Books of Moses, as well as from the prophets. On one of these passages, someone would be invited to speak, just like a sermon. A closing benediction would end the service. In another way, it was a very unusual Sabbath. Jesus was in town. Jesus would attend the service. What would he say? What would he do? Reports of his teachings and his miracles had come back to Nazareth. Expectations were high. The hometown boy who was becoming quite famous, drawing large crowds wherever he went, was back home. The attendance that Sabbath morning was larger than usual. The electricity was in the air. Something exciting was happening. In the service, Jesus was invited by the elders to speak. The scroll from the prophet Isaiah was handed to him and he read his text: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord s favor. This text comes Isaiah 61. It fits perfectly with the reason why Jesus came into our broken, sin-infested, evil plagued world. These words of Isaiah come in a section describing the Messianic Age, a time when God s servant would appear to restore the fortunes of God s people. A time when those who are oppressed will be liberated from their bondage. A time when those who are hurting will be healed. A time when the Lord s favor would be upon his people again. A time when God s people would experience shalom. It is interesting that Jesus omits reading one line. One line that the people would have noticed being omitted. And if we had looked up Isaiah 61 2

3 we also would have noticed it. Jesus did not read the whole of verse 2. The whole verse is as follows: To proclaim the year of the Lord s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God. That last line was not read. That s significant because the dawning of the Messianic age was placed together with God s final judgment of the nations. But Jesus does not mention judgment. Why not? Because the final judgment of the Lord would have to wait. Wait until the seconding coming of the Lord. Judgment is delayed. And perhaps Jesus omits that reference because the judgment of the Lord upon sin and evil would be taken care of in a very different way than what was expected. In a way, judgment came at the cross, as Jesus himself would bear the curse of humanity. In any case, Jesus in his inaugural address focuses on the positive message of Isaiah of the restoration of God s people. It was a message that was rooted in the year of Jubilee. According to Leviticus 25, every 50 years would be a special year. All financial debts would be canceled. Land would be restored to their original owners. That meant those who were poor were given a fresh start in life. The slate was wiped clean. It would be a time reestablishing the social and political order, according to the principles of peace and justice for all. It was a message that offered hope to the people living in the days of Jesus. After all, they were being oppressed by the Romans. They were being taxed into poverty. Religious freedom was attacked. Paganism was making its inroads into the lives of God s people, despite their resistance. No wonder they were longing for the fulfillment of these words. Jesus stood to read from the scroll. Then he sat down to comment on it. That too was in keeping with the custom of that time. The eyes of everyone were on Jesus. There was silence in the room, as they waited for Jesus to speak. What would he say? Would he speak about how the Lord had fulfilled these words in the past, when the people returned from their exile? Or would he speak about the future, about how we should still be longing for this day? But Jesus spoke neither about the past nor the future. Instead, he focused on the present: Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Obviously, Jesus said more than just this one line. But that was the heart of his message. It is what amazed the people. It is what shocked the people. Jesus had made a daring and provocative claim: Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. 3

4 It was a bold claim because Jesus was declaring that the Messianic age had arrived. It s not a future promise. It is a present realty. The Messianic age, the kingdom of God, the year of the Lord s favor it has come. God s plan for restoring the creation and fixing the social order has arrived. That s a bold claim. But even bolder is that assumption that Jesus is the one through whom the Messianic age is coming. He is the one who has been anointed by God, endowed with the Spirit, to implement the Lord s favor. His teachings, like the Sermon on the Mount, showed how God s people were to live in the new order of things. His miracles, like the blind seeing, the crippled walking, the leapers cleansed, and even the dead being raised to life all this indicated that the Messianic age had begun in Jesus Christ. Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. This declaration hits the congregation like a bombshell. At first, the reaction is one of amazement and approval. What good news! But wait a minute! How can Jesus say this passage is fulfilled in him? After all, isn t he just Joseph s son? Jesus would not offer proof for the doubt of the people. He knows they don t believe. As a result, he says, no prophet is accepted in his hometown and offers two examples from history to back up his point. But this response of Jesus leads the people to become furious. The synagogue erupts with an uproar. They chase Jesus out and force him to the edge of the cliff. They try to throw him over for such heresy. But just walks right through them. It was not yet time for his death. Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Jesus announced good news. This was his mission on earth. To restore the brokenness of life. His teachings and miracles were evidence of that. And through his death and resurrection he defeated the forces of sin and evil, of death and destruction. He ushered in the kingdom of God, with its principles of justice, forgiveness, wholeness, and peace. Did this mission stop when Jesus ascended into heaven? No, it continues through the church. The Day of Judgment is still held off. Now is the time of salvation. Now is the time is which we can make things right with God and with each other. The time of restoration has begun. Today. Oh yes, I know the full restoration of creation will to wait until Christ returns, when his judgment will purify and cleanse the earth from all sin and evil. Until that time, sin, evil, and death are still a reality in our broken world. Yet, we need to hear the word today. We need to experience some of the wholeness that Jesus came to bring. 4

5 Today, you can experience the forgiveness of your sins they are nailed to the cross and you bear it no more. Today, you can experience a new start in life, putting aside the sinful nature and putting on the new nature through the power of the Spirit. Today, you throw off the chains that bind us to sin and find freedom in Christ. But I need to be careful not to spiritualize too much. Jesus speaks about good news for the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed. These are social, political, economic categories. Jesus offers wholeness to the entirety of life. As a result, the church seeks to overcome the causes of poverty, speaks out when human rights are abused, sets up hospitals and offers medical aid, where governments fail to serve their own citizens. Today, the church not only proclaims this good news of Jesus who brings wholeness to the brokenness of life, the church lives it out. We ll call people to repentance so that they can find forgiveness in Jesus. And we ll walk with them as they overcome sinful addictions. We ll do developmental work so that communities can transform themselves into places of shalom. We ll go across the continent, cycling to end poverty. Today, there is only one Messiah, who can and will heal our world. His name is Jesus. From the impoverished and oppressed town of Nazareth, Jesus inaugurated God s restoration of creation. That was his inauguration speech: Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. It is one that God s people having living out each day since. Amen. 5

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