Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and I am one of the pastors here at Journey. And I’m excited to speak today about a passage from the book of Luke that is very near and dear to me.
Why is it near and dear to me? I’ll tell you exactly why. We are just about three weeks away from celebrating the 12 year anniversary of our very first church service – which occurred on January 18th 2009. We met at Thomas Elementary School. We met once in January and once in February before starting weekly services on March 1st 2009. Here’s a little throw back picture of us at Thomas – I counted at least five families in that picture who are still with us here possibly this morning. It’s so cool!
And this passage that we are reading today was the passage we read the very first time Journey Church met. Why did we read it? Because it is the record of Jesus’ announcement of his mission. This is what I’ve come to do. And the big idea then for us as a church was our mission is the same as Jesus’ mission.
Our mission as a church is the same mission as Jesus. What is that mission? Let’s jump in and read it for ourselves…
We began a series a few weeks ago we are calling the Real Jesus – because we believe that when you discover the real Jesus you will find him irresistible.
In this passage we will read about the time Jesus stood up to read a passage of scripture in front of his hometown church family – except of course it was a synagogue, not a church. And after reading a portion of scripture from the Old Testament – Jesus says something rather interesting – he says – Isaiah – was writing about me! I’m the one Isaiah was writing about!
It’s found in Luke 4:14-30
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Now last week we talked about the simple message of Christmas – which the angels announced was good news to all people – that brings great joy! A savior has been born.
Here we find Jesus declaring – rather boldly – that Isaiah was talking about him – that He is the one who brings Good News. Now he is going to get a little more specific about who the news is good for – the poor, oppressed, prisoner and the blind – but I want to point out what the good news is – to Jesus – the good news is that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
When Isaiah talks about the “Time of the Lord’s Favor” he is referencing what was known as the Year of Jubilee in ancient Israel. The idea was that once every fifty years, all debts were cancelled. All servants were set free. Prisoners were released.
Every fifty years, the year of the Lord’s favor, God pushed the cosmic reset button. The game started over. People were given a fresh start. A new beginning. A cosmic do-over.
This week we will all celebrate the calendar year turning over – Happy New year everyone – and part of the joy of a new year is the idea of resolutions – of starting over – of a fresh start.
When Jesus stood up in that synagogue he declared that he was bringing newness – a fresh start with God. He is making everything new and right between us and God. There is ahead of us – A new beginning, another chance to begin again.
This is truly good news. It’s good news to all people – as the angels said, but especially good news to the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed and the blind. The year of the Lord’s favor has come to you.
So how did the hearers respond?
22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
Now – did you notice how the people who were listening to Jesus responded to Him? At first it says that Jesus was praised by everyone. Everyone spoke well of him and were amazed by the gracious words from his lips.
If Jesus had finished the sermon with that reading – I’m sure he would have stood in the back door and people would walk past him and ay – great message today preacher. Good job! Kind of a stretch that you, the carpenters son think that you could fulfill those verses but okay – we’ll go with it.
Now the question you might ask is – why? Why were they okay with what he says up to that point? Because we will soon read that the crowd viciously turns on him shortly. What happened?
Well, here’s what happened. When Jesus said that he came to preach good news to the poor, the prisoner- the oppressed- they were hearing it as if Jesus was saying – I have come to set Israel free from the Roman authorities.
Israel was oppressed by the Romans. They were living under a government they wanted to over throw. The Jewish nation were constantly awaiting a Messiah figure who would lead Israel to overthrow their oppressors and restore Israel to a super power in the world.
And so when Jesus says – I have come to bring good news to the poor – they think – yes! We’re the poor – the Romans are taxing us to death! Keeping us impoverished!
When Jesus says he has come to release prisoners? To set the oppressed free? Preach it brother! To give sight to the blind? Well, we might not get one – but three out of four ain’t bad preacher! We’re with you!
You can hear someone whisper – isn’t this the carpenters son? Yes – but listen – if he can pull it off we’re 100% behind you. Set us free!
But Jesus is about to clarify his sermon by giving two illustrations of the kind of person for whom the news is good news, and by the time he is done clarifying his mission statement – the crowd is ready to kill him.
23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.
25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Jesus says – let me tell you the kind of person who will rejoice at the good news I am bringing – and he uses the widow in Sidon – which is in present day Lebanon – she was a Gentile woman and she was desperately poor.
So poor in fact that when Elijah (1 King 17) meets her he says – will you please make me a loaf of bread – he was hungry – and the woman said the Elijah – this is the last of it – I was about to make a loaf of bread for my son and I to eat and then we were going to wait and die of starvation.
But Elijah says – I want you to think highly enough of me to trust me – give me that bread and I promise my God will provide for you – you will have all you need.
And she shows faith in the God of Elijah – gives away her last provisions – and God miraculously provides for her.
Now anyone who reads Luke’s account of Jesus life will not be surprised to read that Jesus uses as an example of the kind of person who will receive his message as good – first a woman – because Luke talks more about Jesus’ interactions with women than any other writer.
Nor will they be surprised to hear that Jesus uses a person who is actually poor as an example of someone for whom his message is good news. Because Luke has a huge heart for the poor – and shows many examples of Jesus interacting with compassion to those who are actually poor and powerless.
Luke makes sure we understand that the good news is especially good news to the actual poor. It’s good news to the actual powerless. It’s good news to those people on the fringe – the pushed aside people – the over looked people. God’s favor rests upon you too.
But Jesus is not done yet – he has another illustration. And it’s an important one. Because Luke has such a heart for the actual poor – sometimes people make a mistake of thinking that God only loves the poor – or that somehow being poor automatically gets one “IN” to the Kingdom of God. Jesus didn’t come to preach us a salvation by poverty gospel.
And to drive this point home – Jesus uses Namaan the Leper as his second example of the kind of person will receive Jesus message as good news.
27 And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”
Namaan the leper was not poor – in fact he was very wealthy and powerful. He also happened to be a commander of an army that fought against Israel – he was rich and powerful.
But Namaan is confronted with the limits of his abilities when he contracts leprosy. And is schooled by a young Hebrew slave girl who sends him off to visit Elisha the prophet in order to be healed. (2 Kings 5)
After Namaan the powerful humbles himself – and is eventually convinced to think highly enough of Elisha’s message to obey it – is Namaan healed. And his life changes. And he worships the God of Israel as a result.
What did Namaan and the widow of Zarapheth have in common? It wasn’t a similar bank account. One was rich the other por. It wasn’t the power the yielded. One was powerful the other powerless.
What did they have in common that Jesus sees as being the kind of people who would respond to the good news he is bringing?
Both of them knew that they were spiritually poor. Spiritually powerless. as well as Actually powerless to change their fate unless God intervened.
Though both of the knew very little about God – when introduced to the Real God – they found him irresistible.
It’s true that the good news that Jesus preaches is especially good news to the actual poor. However it is only good news to those humble enough to see that they are spiritually poor.
It appears – based on the life Jesus lives, that the actual poor are often in a more ready position to come to terms with their spiritual poverty as well. Throughout Jesus ministry we will see the actual powerless ones ready to believe and receive the good news.
Those who are insulated by wealth, power, or religion – are often hesitant to recognize that those things are powerless to save them.
For example – how did the audience respond to this radical proposal of Jesus? How did this crowd – insulated by their religiosity, respond?
28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.
What is going on here? Why this sudden turn – a moment ago they were ready to crown him – now come this close to killing him. And although somehow Jesus escapes this time, it’s just a matter of time before people like them succeed. What happened?
Ultimately they are deeply insulted. How dare you, Jesus! We aren’t the blind ones. We don’t need a savior, thank you we need a warrior! We need a fighter, we need a leader who will lead us in our revolution so we might become the nation we deserve to be!
It’ll be good news to us if you give us what we want! Power! Prestige!
Jesus offers nothing but a cross. Die to yourself.
The same people who were moments before praising him – form a mob and come this close to killing him.
Later in Luke chapter 15 there is one of the greatest short stories ever written – we call it the parable of the prodigal son. It’s about a man with two sons. One runs off in wild living and utter rebellion against the father. The other son seems like a good boy. Behaves. But at the end of the story one son is partying with the father while the other son is steaming with anger – furious with rage against the father. And it’s not the son you expect. the rebel child comes to his senses and recognizes his poverty and his blindness to the love of his father. The good boy rages – he deserves to be treated better.
The audience to whom Jesus preaches – is filled with older sons. Who think they are insiders. Who think God owes them for their goodness – for their religious piety.
Oddly enough – the one thing that the audience dismissed was that Jesus came to give sight to the blind – they thought – we’re oppressed and God owes it to us to deliver us! We’re imprisoned and impoverished by this foreign government and we deserve better! They applied every character trait to themselves except the one they were most afflicted with – blindness.
And that’s why the crowd turns on him. See – their response is the same as ours today – you will either crown him or kill him.
Jesus leaves no room for people to walk by him and say – good job Jesus – that sermon was nifty. He stands up and says – I’ve come to help the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned and the blind. Do you understand that it’s YOU I’m talking about?
Poverty is not required – but Spiritual poverty is. The good news is good especially for the actual poor, but it’s only good news for those who are spiritually poor.
It is especially good news for the powerless – the pushed asides, the passed over – but it is only good for those who see they are spiritually powerless to save themselves.
Now I mentioned that this passage was the first passage we ever preached from at Journey. And I want to end my sermon today by using words I used when I began that sermon then.
I don’t know about you but I can be easily distracted. How many – show of hands – have recently walked into a room and stopped and asked – I know I intentionally walked here for some reason, I just don’t remember what it was for? You stand there like an idiot staring into space?
How may of us need to create word images to help us to remember the four things we are going to buy at the grocery store. Cereal. Soap. Lettuce and bread. Okay – Captain crunch is in the shower and he is eating a lettuce sandwich. What’s wrong with me? Why am I picturing Captain Crunch in the shower? Oh – I remember – I’m easily distracted.
I remember one time I was officiating a marriage ceremony and I made it to the end and said – now turn and face your friends and ladies and gentle men it is a pleasure to introduce to you – and the groom said – Aren’t we supposed to exchange wedding rings? I was like, Yes we are! Easily distracted.
One thing that we will learn about Jesus, is that he never allowed himself to be distracted from his mission. He never lived purposely. And he relentlessly pursued the mission that God gave him.
And the reason we are reading this passage today is because our mission as a church is the same mission as Jesus. To announce good news to the poor. It’s especially Good news to the actual poor but only good news to the spiritually poor.
We are proclaiming the year of the Lord favor – a fresh start – a forgiveness of sins – a new day where we can walk with God – all available through faith in Jesus.
And we must never allow ourselves as a church to become distracted and lose sight of our mission.
And I’m excited to look around and see that after twelve years we are still that church – still a church for people who are coming to terms with their spiritual poverty. Who are coming around to thinking highly enough of Jesus to trust Him with their life.
We are still, and Lord help us to always be, the kind of church where it is easy to discover the Real Jesus. For truly, we believe that when you discover the Real Jesus you will find him beautiful and good and irresistible.