Monday, January 25, 2016

Fulfilled in Your Hearing

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers [1] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. (Luke 4:16-30 (ESV)
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Here Luke summarizes the sermon Jesus gave in his hometown of Nazareth, in the Synagogue where he had learned to read the scriptures in a language that had been dead for centuries. His sermon was not well received. The gospel caused offense. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The scripture he was referring to was a messianic text, the text from Isaiah. Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit was upon him. He was sent to proclaim good news to the poor. Liberty to the captives, liberty to the poor. To give sight to the blind. And at first, the people in the synagogue seem to be impressed. They speak well of him and marvel at his gracious words. Jesus they think is a good preacher and teacher. The sense of the thing is that they are constantly interrupting Jesus with shouts of acclamations. Sermons in Jesus days were much more interactive affairs than they have become today. Often times they more resembled what we have as children’s sermons, questions back and forth, further explanations where those are called for. Maybe even a bit more the type of thing we call a Bible Study. The teacher would sit, the congregation would be standing.
The congregation had to be filled with excitement when Jesus read this scroll of Isaiah. This was about the end times and what was to come. In Jesus day, the whole countryside, especially Galilee was full of Messianic fervor. People in the audience could remember in their own lifetime failed messianic movements that tried to usher in the Kingdom of God by open rebellion with the Romans. And so to claim to be the Messiah, was quite a claim.
It’s one of those things. Sometimes you try to say something nuanced, but people already have their own notions of what you mean, so they don’t hear you. When it finally sunk in that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the crowd turned on him. It was too great a thing for the son of Joseph to be claiming. And it was too much for them to believe that this man could be the messiah. He may be an eloquent preacher, but it was too much to believe that he could actually set them free and be the messiah.
Of course the gospel is like that even today, Jesus is like that even today, when as is his custom he comes here to proclaim liberty to the captives, to you and I who would otherwise be held captive to sin, death and the devil. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. It is as true today as it was in that synagogue in Nazareth. In fact, it is truer today. Because Jesus is here, and all that he came to do has been done already. And even today people have a hard time believing it. Have a hard time accepting it, and think it is blasphemous to forgive sins in his name.
 Yet, it is even truer today. When he was in Nazareth his ministry was just starting. He had been sent to do these things. He had been anointed by the Holy Spirit that fell on him as a dove when he took up our cause, identified with us sinners in the waters of the Jordan. At this time, Jesus preached good news to the poor, and liberty to the captives. Yet he still had to be handed over to the gentiles, spit upon and beaten, and finally crucified, lifted up as Moses lifted the bronze serpent in the desert, so that all who would have their sight restored could look to him on the cross, believe in the Messiah and be saved from the serpent’s bite. It is for this reason that he comes here today, to proclaim liberty to the captives.

He is the one who speaks through his servants saying “your sins are forgiven,” he is the one who lays claim to you in the waters of baptism, when you could not lay claim to him. He is the one who invites you to his table to eat of his bread and drink of his wine saying “this is my body given for you, this is cup is the New Testament in my blood given and shed for you.” It is Jesus who is here, who is there wherever two or three are gathered together in his name. He is there fulfilling this scripture in their hearing. Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

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