Luke 4:16-30 (Third Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)
“Fulfilling the Scripture”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
January 27, 2019
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 4:
16And [Jesus] came into Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day as was his custom, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him and, unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it stands written, 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and to the blind recovery of sight, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And rolling up the scroll he gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And the eyes of all those in the synagogue were looking intently at him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today, this Scripture stands fulfilled in your hearing.” 22And everyone spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words coming out of his mouth and they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23And he said to them, “Doubtless you will speak to me this parable, ‘Physician, heal yourself; as many things as have happened in Capernaum do here also in your hometown.’” 24And he said, “Amen, I say to you that no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25In truth I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut for three years and six months, and there was a great famine over all the land, 26and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath in Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28And everyone in the synagogue were filled with wrath when they heard these things. 29And they rose up and threw him out of the town and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so that they might throw him down the cliff. 30But passing through the midst of them, he went on his way.
Following the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2016, some of his non-supporters began using the slogan “#notmypresident.” The trend has caught on, it would seem, so that whenever someone is against something or they do not like or support a person, a movement, or idea, it’s #notmygovernor or #notmydonut or #notmy fill-in-the-blank. As we look at Jesus preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth this morning, the text ends on a note that we might put into the context of “#notmymessiah.”
Oh, things started out well enough. The home-town boy was back to preach in the morning worship service. Jesus chose His sermon text from Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and to the blind recovery of sight, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus begins, “Today, this Scripture stands fulfilled in your hearing.” The congregation is kind to Him. They spoke well of Him. The marveled and wondered about His gracious words about Scripture’s fulfillment being TODAY.
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
“Yeah, the carpenter’s boy.
“Oh, isn’t that nice,” that might have said. “It’s His first sermon, give Him a little leeway.””
The congregation at Nazareth had not yet wrapped their heads around what Jesus was actually proclaiming to them. In choosing this text, Jesus was telling the people that Isaiah’s words refer to Him and His baptism in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit had descended upon Him, anointing Him. God the Father’s voice announced that Jesus is the “Anointed One,” the Messiah or Christ, who would accomplish the Holy Trinity’s plan of salvation.
This plan of salvation is one of “release.” Jesus proclaims the Jubilee! What’s that? In Leviticus 25, God commanded the Israelites, “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.” (Lev. 25:10-13 ESV). Every fifty years would be a year of Jubilee. God acted as the Redeemer of the land by proclaiming its remission, the release of the land. This meant that the landholders and their families could return to their ancestral holdings once again. Like the land, the Israelites themselves belonged to God. So, He made provision for those Israelites who had lost their freedom for a period of time. He established the right of redemption for the Israelites who had been indentured for service to foreign creditors. God provided for their release from servitude on the Jubilee so that they could return to their relatives and ancestral land. Through the gift of the Jubilee, God called on the Israelites to redeem their kinsfolk, just as He had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt.
Jesus, as the Servant of the Lord, the anointed Messiah, declares that He was sent by God to proclaim an extraordinary Jubilee. God Himself would free His people from their debt to Him. Jesus would free His people from oppression, enslavement, and imprisonment to sin, sickness, death, and Satan by earning the forgiveness of sins. “Today,” Jesus said, “this Scripture stands fulfilled in your hearing.” The Anointed One, the Messiah, is here who has come to proclaim release, forgiveness in the fullest sense, even encompassing the resurrection of the body. In Jesus, all things are released from bondage to sin, death, and the devil. A new era of salvation is now present in Him, the God-Man, the Messiah.
And the people responded positively, although they didn’t quite know what to do with His “gracious words.” But then Jesus crossed the line. It’s one thing to proclaim the Jubilee and the release of God’s covenant people Israel from the oppression of sin, but it is a whole other issue to extend that Jubilee to “them.” In speaking of Elijah and Elisha as examples, Jesus, they believed, went too far. Elijah wasn’t sent to the many widows in Israel during the famine, but to a non-Israelite widow in Zarephath in Sidon. Elisha wasn’t sent to help an Israelite leper, but to the foreigner, Naaman who was a Syrian! Jesus was saying that the Jubilee, the release from sin, sickness, death, and Satan, was to be extended even to the Gentiles, non-Israelites! And the congregation at Nazareth clearly understood that and they didn’t like it one bit. They went from confusion to outright anger. #notmymessiah!
Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth anticipated the New Testament mission to the Gentile. And that mission involved Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth. “And they rose up and threw him out of the town and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so that they might throw him down the cliff. But passing through the midst of them, he went on his way.” This encounter was but a small-scale version of what was to come in Jerusalem. Jesus, the prophet once welcomed with hosannas and palms, would be rejected as Israel’s Messiah. He would be nailed to a cross where He would bear the sins of the world, Jew and Gentile equally. He would even be rejected by God the Father as Jesus hung in the cosmic darkness of Good Friday, suffering hell and damnation for all sins, bleeding and dying so that there might be release, the forgiveness of sins, for ALL people.
For the life of the whole world, so that the time of the Lord’s favor would be gifted to everyone, Jesus suffered and died on the cross. As St. John writes in the prologue of his Gospel, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (Jn. 1:10-11 ESV). “He was despised and rejected by men” (Is. 53:3). With Jesus’ shed blood, with His innocent suffering death, Jesus purchased and won release from sin, Satan, and death. And on the third day, that release was verified by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. We read in Philippians 2, “Therefore God has highly exalted [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11 ESV).
Salvation by faith in Jesus who is the Messiah, our Savior, is for everyone. At times, like the congregation at Nazareth, we fail to understand this. For us it isn’t #notmymessiah but rather #nottheirmessiah. We fail to see that Jesus is the Savior for all people and not simply people like us. The forgiveness of sins is God’s gift to everyone: foreigners, widows, outcasts, the unclean. How tragic it is when Christians think that God’s gifts in Jesus are only for people who look, act, and live like they do. With that line of thinking, Christians end up being no different from the Jews in the Nazareth synagogue, for we don’t want a Messiah and Savior that would include outsiders and foreigners and people different from us!
Yet, forgiveness of sins was won by Jesus with His perfect life, death, and resurrection for every person. Jesus’ earthly ministry, beginning at His baptism, was a continuous expression of this ultimate release and Jubilee found in the Gospel pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins because the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation for all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). And that “all” includes you as Gentile believers in Jesus. If salvation were just for Israel, we wouldn’t be here hearing the proclamation, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But salvation is for everyone: foreigners, widows, outcasts, the unclean, Gentiles, those of the lowest status, and people who aren’t like us.
The release that Jesus won for you with His life, death, and resurrection bestows on you the forgiveness of sins and rescue from death and the devil through the Gospel. Christ proclaims the time of the Lord’s favor to you through His preached Word. And the Good News delivers the gifts of God in Christ in the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting. Now what will you do with it?
God wills that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth in Jesus Christ through the Gospel Word. The Gospel has the power of God behind it, working through it. And this Gospel is not the exclusive property of any one group. It’s for everybody. The fulfillment of the Scripture in Jesus as the Messiah-Savior authorizes you as His disciples to take His Good News of release to “all the nations.” The forgiveness of sins is God’s gift to all people: foreigners, widows, and outcasts. Who are these people in our society and culture? Who are they in your life? Are they Black, White, Asian, Hispanic? Are they rich, poor, or middle class? Do they engage in immoral behavior—any kind of sexual activity outside of the marriage bond of one man and one woman? Do they not have a home, a warm, safe place to live or do they live in luxury? Do they curse and swear constantly? Are they abusive, degrading? Are they popular and professional, upstanding citizens? Are they at the top of their field of expertise? Maybe they are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist? Are they a feminist, a bigot, a racist, a political instigator? They are all of these and more than these.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the release from sin, death, and Satan that He won with His perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection from the dead proclaims the time of God’s favor upon ALL these people. There is forgiveness of sins and eternal life available to everyone no matter what. The Church cannot keep the Gospel message contained behind the walls of our congregations. It cannot be #mymessiahonly even as it cannot be #notmymessiah or #nottheirmessiah. With the help of God the Holy Spirit, we must stop looking at people as “foreigners” and “outcasts” and “Gentiles,” but each as a person who is a sinner and needs the saving release of the forgiveness of sins won for them by Jesus.
The Messiah proclaimed “Today, this Scripture stands fulfilled in your hearing.” St. Paul writes, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2 ESV). Since this is the case, in the name of Jesus Christ, preach the Good News to the poor and proclaim the Gospel-release of forgiveness to those captive to sin, death, and the devil. This is the time of the Lord’s favor for everyone, for Jesus is their Messiah and Savior too. Amen.
 John Kleinig, Leviticus, Concordia Commentary, (St. Louis: Concordia, 2003), 552-553.