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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Luke 4:16–30

James T. Batchelor

Epiphany 3, series C
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jan 24, 2016 

So far, it has been a happy Epiphany season.  The magi worshiped the Christ-child.  John the Baptist and his followers witnessed an epiphany of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at Jesus baptism with the Son in the water, the Spirit descended as a dove, and the Father proclaimed Jesus as His Beloved Son.  Jesus revealed Himself as He transformed water into wine.  So far, Epiphany has been about worshippers, followers, and believers.

Today is different.  Today, we hear that Jesus Epiphany angered the people of Nazareth so much that they tried to throw Him over a cliff to His death.  We learn that while some people rejoice in Gods epiphany, others react in anger and extreme prejudice.

Jesus began teaching in the synagogues of Galilee and the quality of His teaching caused the report of His teaching to spread.  Naturally, when He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, the people expected Him to teach in their synagogue as well.

The message began well enough.  As Jesus rose to read, the attendant handed Him the roll of Isaiah.  It was open to the reading for the day.  This reading was a Gospel message based on the Year of the Lord which was also known as the Year of Jubilee.

The Year of Jubilee was a financial reset that God commanded every fifty years.  10 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.  13 In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.  39 If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. (Leviticus 25:10, 13, 39-41) This was a big deal.  All the land reverted to its original owners and all the Hebrew slaves went free.

Isaiah stated that God was preparing a Year of the Lord that would be like the Year of Jubilee.  In this case, the Lord would free people from sin.

If you examine the context of these words in Isaiah, you will notice that even though Isaiah ministered over 700 years before Jesus was even born, He still followed Jesus instructions to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  Isaiah gave an account of the many sins of Israel, and he called them to repent.  Then, in chapter 60, Isaiah began a proclamation of forgiveness.  The captives and the prisoners in this prophecy are not just the captives and prisoners of the political enemies of Israel, but they are also the captives and prisoners of sin.  So the words that Jesus read that day were from the middle of that great proclamation of the forgiveness of sin that Isaiah proclaimed to all of Israel.

[Jesus] 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. And he began to say to them, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4:2021, ESV) Basically, Jesus pointed to Himself as the fulfillment of this prophecy of forgiveness.  Jesus is the bearer of good news.  Jesus is the binder of the broken heart.  Jesus is the liberator of the captive.  Jesus is the opener of the prison.  Jesus is the bringer of the Year of Jubilee.  Jesus identified Himself as the forgiveness that Isaiah, by the power of the Holy Spirit, spoke of in his message to Israel.  Jesus identified Himself as the Kingdom of God come down to earth to save people from sin.

Those who heard these words responded in amazed confusion.  All spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. (Luke 4:22, ESV) All their lives they had heard rabbis speak of the one who would come and set the captives free.  Now, this Jesus guy walks in and says, I am the fulfillment of this prophecy.  I am here to set you free. The crowd is in shock.  At first, Jesus teaching style impressed them, but then they became suspicious.

And they said, Is not this Josephs son? (Luke 4:22, ESV) Cant you just imagine someone saying, My wife used to babysit him. OR I remember when he and his father Joseph used to build houses together. Hes just a local kid.  Who does he think he is saying that he is the fulfillment of prophecy?

Jesus knew what they were thinking and He called them on it.  He said, Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. (Luke 4:24, ESV) He then gave them the examples of Elijah and Elisha.  Elijah stayed with a Gentile widow during a great famine.  Elisha healed a general of the Gentile Syrians who were the sworn enemies of Israel.  In both cases Israel rejected the prophets of God, and in both cases God sent His prophets to bless Gentiles.

The men of Nazareth very quickly followed the examples of their ancestors.  Instead of recognizing their own hardness of heart and repenting, they acted to kill Jesus.  That is when they tried to throw Him from the cliff.

While Jesus came into this world to die, He came to die at a specific time and a specific place.  Nazareth was not the place, nor was this the time.  But passing through their midst, he went away. (Luke 4:30, ESV)

Those last three words, he went away, are very sad.  Jesus had given an epiphany to the people of Nazareth and they rejected it.  He offered salvation and freedom from sin to them and they tried to throw Him over a cliff.

Humanity has a sad, sad history of rebellion against Gods grace.  The Old Testament is full of rebellion some of which was utterly obscene.

One of the saddest passages of the Old Testament involves the prophet Ezekiel.  The Lord allowed the Babylonians to carry him into exile, but then the Holy Spirit gave him a vision of the temple.  In this vision, God Himself gave Ezekiel a tour of the abominations that Israel practiced within the very temple courts worship of animals, the sun, the return of spring, and so forth for chapter after chapter.

Eventually, God stood on the threshold to the temple.  Then God left the temple and ascended to the mountains surrounding Jerusalem.  Then the Lord left Jerusalem altogether.  The people had rejected Gods care for them.  Therefore, God left.  Jerusalem was without protection.  It would not be long until Babylon would return once again to destroy Jerusalem and the temple.

In more modern times, we have Martin Luthers warning to the councilmen of the cities of Germany.  You should know that Gods word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when its gone its gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when its gone its gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when its gone its gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year.

The most destructive theme in history is the theme of the rejection of Gods salvation.  For after a time of rejection, God will leave.  Will you reject His gifts until He leaves you?  May this never be!

The Year of Jubilee is an object lesson in the history of the nation of Israel.  The prophet Isaiah used it to point to Jesus.  Just as Israel was to free the slaves during the Jubilee, so also Jesus came to free the slaves.  In His case, He came to free those who were slaves to sin.  He did this by letting Roman soldiers nail Him to a cross.  As He hung on that cross, He earned the freedom of the Jubilee Year for the sins of all mankind.

Jesus wants to give us the gifts that He purchased for us with His holy life, His suffering, and His death.  He wants to give the gifts that He authenticated with His resurrection from the dead.  He wants to tell us how His death on the cross has freed us from our captivity, opened our eyes to His salvation, and liberated us from sins oppression.

Jesus truly is the fulfillment of Gods promises.  He is the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah.  He has preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  He has shown us the light of His salvation.  With His life, suffering, and death on the cross, He has freed those oppressed by sin.  With His resurrection, He offers the Lords favor to us.  He gives these things to us through the Holy Spirits gift of faith.  God has promised all these things to us and today they are fulfilled in your hearing.  Amen



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