Text: Luke 4:16-30
Date: Sunday October 15, 2023
A Intro: The video you just saw highlights our Bread of Life ministry, which is run by a number of you in this Church. And I saw that video this week I could not help but be moved in my heart by the integrity of this ministry. Caring for people physical needs, as well as spiritual needs.
B Context: Today we continue through our study of Luke, and we arrive at Jesus first sermon, a sermon which you will see nearly got him killed. Thus far Jesus has been baptized, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and he defeated the Devil’s attempt to tempt him in the wilderness. Now he enters back into his hometown and preaches his first message as an official rabbi. I want to show you three reasons why this message of Jesus’s nearly got him killed. Three reason why it was so dangerous.
Luke 4:14–30 “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 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. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 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. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the graciou…”
Meaning & Application
I JESUS’ MESSAGE WAS RADICALLY HOLISTIC
First, Jesus’ message was radically holistic. When I say holistic I mean that Jesus’ message spoke to both the eternal and temporal conditions of a person. The scene of this passage is in a local synagogue in the hometown of Jesus where he grew up. At thirty years old, Jesus is now an official rabbi, thus he is granted permission to give the sermon from the text. He opens the scroll of Isaiah to a well known Messianic passage. And he quotes part of the passage that specifically speaks to four different people gropus.
A Good News to the Poor: First, Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor. The word poor in its context is not simply a reference to economic wealth. It is speaking all those who are on the margins in some way, who have some kind of diminished honor from the crowd. How did he do this? Well there is two types of poverty, spiritual poverty and physical poverty. Jesus had much to say about both.
Spiritual Poverty: The New Testament teaches us that those who are rich in this world are often the most spiritually bankrupt, and that those who are poor in this world are often the most spiritually rich.
James 2:5 ESV Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
Over and over again this contrast is made. We think of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man had wealth in this world, while the poor had rags in this world. Yet when they both died it was the poor man who was comforted by God in heaven and the rich man who suffered in the agony of hell. Jesus taught that we must not confuse physical prosperity for spiritual prosperity. And in fact, that physical prosperity can very easily hinder spiritual prosperity.
Physical Poverty: At the same time, Jesus also cared deeply not just for the spiritual reality of poverty, but for the physical reality. Jesus condemned the rich Pharisees who exploited poor widows who lived on the outskirts of society. The New Testament teaches us the deceitfulness of riches. In the New Testament Church in the book of Acts, every person in poverty was provided for. The rich gave out of their abundance, and the poor gave what they were able in order that all might have enough.
B Liberty to the Captives: Second, Jesus proclaimed liberty to the captives.
Spiritual Captivity: Again there is first spiritual captivity. In just a chapters Jesus will heal a paralytic, but before he does that he forgives his sin. He’s emphasizing the spiritual brokenness that comes before the physical brokenness. The New Testament teaches that all are held captive by a spirit of deception that hinders them from knowing God. But in Christ, the spirit of deception is broken, the captivity of their soul is ended, and a person can live for God as they were made. This was Christ’s great work.
Physical Captivity: Yet, Christ also taught that when we visit those in prison (in captivity) and when we serve them, we are in fact serving him. The New Testament provided the groundwork that Christians built upon to end the global slave trade, first in Europe and then in America, and ultimately in places like Asia and throughout Africa and the Middle East.
C Sight to the Blind: Third, Jesus proclaimed recovery of sight to the blind.
Spiritual Blindness: Again, we we know that there is a spiritual blindness. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says,
2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Until Christ gets a hold of a person, no matter how well they think they understand the things of God, they are spiritually blind.
Physical Blindness: And yet, Jesus also healed those who suffered from physical ailments like blindness. He healed lepers. He healed an older woman who had the issue of bleeding for twelve years that no doctor could heal. He healed young and old alike. Much of Jesus’ ministry was around physical healing.
D Liberty to the Oppressed: Fourth, Jesus proclaimed liberty to the oppressed.
Spiritually Oppressed: We know that Jesus addressed spiritual oppression in many ways. He had many encounters with people who were oppressed by demons who were causing all sorts of brokenness and grief in their life. He rid them of the demonic influence, set them free.
Physically Oppressed: But Jesus also cared for many who were under physical oppression in some way. The categories of widow, orphan, immigrant, leper were all forms of social classes in Jesus day. They had their place. And Jesus constantly taught and demonstrated how to care for these individuals. He instructed us to make sure they are provided for.
James 1:27 ESV Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
E Look Towards Us: We are not Jesus, yet we are empowered by the same Holy Spirit as Jesus was, and we are equipped for ministry like Jesus. The message of Christianity is radically holistic, and therefore it is very dangerous. The Church today often fails to preach a radically holistic gospel. We fail in two distinct ways.
Mistake 1: The Social Gospel: On the one hand we fail by overprioritizing the temporal aspects, the social aspects of the gospel over and above the eternal aspects of the gospel. Historically this has been called the Social Gospel. The Social Gospel says that the primary work Christians are to concern themselves with is the caring for the physical needs of the marginalized. There is an intentional shift away from speaking about spiritual poverty and spiritual captivity, and there is an emphasis solely on social concerns. Richard Niebuhr, who lived during the peak of the social gospel’s development described that movement this way,
“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”Richard Niebuhr
According to the Social Gospel, the bettering of society is salvation. And so if we build enough schools, build enough hospitals, preach about love and justice and brotherhood enough, we will build a just society and achieve what Jesus was all about. While the Social Gospel emphasized many social concerns that Christians ought to be interested in, it failed to understand the fulness of Jesus’ message. The Social Gospel is a false gospel.
Woke: In our modern day the new word for this is ‘Woke.’ To be woke is to see the world through an oppressor/oppressed lens, and to see various peoples as either more or less oppressed based on different characteristics of that group. What is salvation for the woke movement. Salvation is freeing the so called oppressed from their oprressors. But even if we could agree with woke warriors about who the oppressed are in a society, then what. This is not a gospel at all, it never has an end. It is just constant overthrowing of whatever regime has power. But if you stand up today, and you say, “Karl Marx was wrong. The entire paradigm is false and will only lead to more pain and suffering, and the reason I know that is because the Scriptures have spoken.” You’re going to get canceled. I know.
Mistake 2: Failure to Care for the Marginalized: Yet, there is an equal opposite way to make enemies. Some throughout history , especially in the Church, have been guilty of so prioritizing the spiritual realities that they fail to work in any way to address the physical realities of sickness, oppression, and poverty around them. For many, their Christianity is better emblemized by a latte, than it is by suffering person, you got it wrong. Many comfortable “Christians” don’t want to hear it. They want a lifestyle that has no personal sacrafice towards the marginalized and Jesus too.
Galatians 2:10 ESV Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Many Christians have completely forgotten the poor and the marginalized. It’s not even a category they think about when they think of the health of their own personal faith.
F Get Very Practical: Permit me to ask two few questions to see if your faith is radically holistic.
Lamenting for Souls: Do you lament as much for people’s spiritual brokenness as you do for their physical brokenness? In other words, does the condition of people’s souls around, souls that are bankrupt, souls that are in captivity, souls that do not know the Lord Jesus, and are destined for an eternity apart from God in hell, does that cause you angst? Ever? Especially as those who live in a city, we must see souls. That is one of the benefits of the city, is that there are so many souls, made in the image of God. Such opportunity. But do we see it that way?
Sacrificial Love: Second, who is getting your sacrificial love? The Scriptures command us that we are to have a special place in our heart for the poor, the weak, the imprisoned, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant. It’s one thing to say you care about these things. It’s another to show me your calendar. It’s another to tell me the names of the people you’re spending time with and helping.
II JESUS PREACHED THE CENTRALITY OF THE CHRIST
Secondly, Jesus preached the centrality of Christ. Jesus opened up the scroll to Isaiah 61, a clearly Messianic text, and he said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He was speaking about Himself. This was not a message of uplifting the groups spirit. This was not a Ted Talk on how to be a better you. This was not a group therapy session. It was a message on the arrival of the Messiah.
A The Next Verse: It is interesting how Jesus quoted this verse from Isaiah 61. He stopped his quotation midway through a verse. The full verse 2 reads,
Isaiah 61:2 ESV to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
The day of vengeance? Jesus did not quote that phrase because that was not what he came to do when he came 2,000 years ago. Nevertheless, if Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah 61, then he is the one that will ultimately bring the fulfillment of all of Isaiah 61. He will bring the day of the vengeance of our God. The synagogue knew exactly what Jesus was saying.
B No Prophet is Accepted In His Hometown: At first the synagogue is impressed with his message, but as they mull it over, they increasingly become disturbed. Jesus responds to them by saying, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” The idea here is that the Jews of Nazareth had seen Jesus as a young boy. Seen him as a teenager. They’d seen him grow up and be a part of their community, and everything that happens in a small town. Their familiarity with Jesus was blinding them from seeing the truth of his centrality to their life. They were so familiar with Jesus that they could not receive the full depth of what he had to say.
D The True Message: The true message of the Gospel is all about Christ. It demands allegiance to Jesus and to know other God or king.
Acts 4:12 ESV And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is not just one god among many who people may choose to follow.
John 14:6 ESV Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Disruption: The message of Jesus is one of disruption. To preach truly is to plead with people that they would take this one life they have, and put it in the right direction, towards Christ. Because if they do not receive Jesus they are lost forever. Their sin will separate them from God forever!
Our Culture: Today in our culture, this is a dangerous message as well. Our culture celebrates the “authentic individual.” This movement goes back hundreds of years to the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He said,
“Man is born free, but everywhere is in chains.”Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The idea is that the true you is that innocent little child that was born. But since society has weighed down on with its preconceived notions of what you ought to be. Your country has weighed on you. The Church has weighed on you. Your goal is to rip off those institutions and find the truest version of you. And so today, who is celebrated as the “woman of the year,” Dylan Mulvaney a man. Why? That man is an example of the authentic self, ripping off the boundaries of society. In reality that man is mentally unstable, and doing unbelievable harm to himself and all who play with his make believe game.
Along Comes the Gospel with the exact opposite message. The Gospel says, “Man is born enslaved to sin, but is offered freedom only in Christ.” The Gospel does not affirm people as they are. It does not say, “Come just as you are. You are accepted.” No, the Gospel says that we must die to the way we are, that the road we are on leads to death. And we must turn from our sin in order to find life. We must trust in Jesus, the author of life, if we are to gain life.
E Look Inward: But before we move on from this point, I want to look inwards. Jesus was condemning they had permitted what sould have been a glorious day of hte revealing of the Messiah in their presence, to be clouded by an overfamiliarity with Jesus. JC Ryle commented on this with these words,
“We are apt to think lightly of the privilege of an open Bible, a preached Gospel, and the liberty of meeting together for public worship. We grow up in the midst of these things, and are accustomed to have them without trouble. And the consequence is that we often hold them very cheap, and underrate the extent of our mercies.”JC Ryle
From Ambivalence to Apostacy: Whenever we sense a growing ambivalence to the things of God in our hearts, a commonness, we need to immediately take action. Because the first step towards raging against Jesus, is permitting Jesus to just be common. I’ve seen that play out too many times. The path towards apostacy, walking away from God, begins with a callous common heart towards Christ. Repent of this. Run to Christ. Be overwhelmed by the glory of His majesty, and the wonder of the Gospel. Christ died for you on the cross!!! May it never grow common or old. May it never grow stale! Plead with the Lord to revive your abounding joy in Christ.
III JESUS PREACHED A RADICAL HOLISTIC LOVE OF OUR ENEMIES
Third, jesus preached a radically holistic love of our enemies.
A Two Prophets from the Lowest Spiritual Point: Jesus reinforces his point with two stories that urked them so deeply that they try to kill him afterwards. Both stories took place during incredible lows of spirituality among Israel, and Jesus’ listener’s would have picked up on this. The first story is of Elijah (25-26), and the point of this story is that the people of God, the Israelites largely had gone away from God at this point, and God then brought his love to a non-Israelite, a Gentile widow from Zarephath. Gentiles were considered untouchable in that day. The second story is from the prophet Elisha, who was Elijah’s successor. Again, Elisha did not heal the Israelite leper’s but healed a Syrian named Namaan. Jesus is saying, “Just like back then, you Israelites aren’t believing that I am who I say I am. And so just like back then, the message of the Gospel will go out, to the Gentile nations…”
B There Were People That They Believed They Were Privileged Over: The Israelites of Jesus’ day believed they were privileged over and above the surrounding Gentile nations. When Jesus said that even though they were rejecting him, he would go to the Gentile nations, in their mind what they heard was that Jesus was going to those unworthy people over there. We must not forget that the Israelites played a massively important part of history. Remember what the Apostle says,
Romans 3:1–2 ESV Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
But the point of the blessings of the Israelites was always to bless the nations. They had lost sight of this. They had let their physical enemies, those they went to war with, become throw away souls. They were no longer concerned with Abraham commissioning to be a blessing to the nations. Instead, they were concerned with protecting their own people from the enemies out there.
C We Would Never Be So Ethnocentric: Again, we might say to each other, I would never be so ethnocentric. I understand that the Gospel is for all people, for all nations. But consider our own hearts.
Illustration Israel & Hamas: Last week, a Muslim terrorist organization named Hammas launched a surprise jihad against Jews living in Israel. They killed well over 1,000 people. In the process they did horrendous acts of evil, often times video’ing their actions and sending those videos through their victim’s cell phones to their family members. They raped women. Burned people alive. They killed babies. And have threatened to kill hostages on live TV if Israel retaliates. They intentionally shield their warrriors with innocent civilians both young and old, because their own words, “They don’t care about life.” This is sick. There is, under no circumstance, any justification for this, and any organization or group that is defending these actions is either ignorant or wicked themselves.
Compared to Us: The disdain we have Hamas, is something akin to the disdain the average Israelite of Jesus’ day would have had for the Gentiles. Wars had been fought between the two of them. And here Jesus looks the Israelites in the eyes and says, “You’re taking me for granted because I grew up around you, but Hamas won’t. I’m going to them”
What I’m Not Doing: I am not commenting on the working of governments and their responsibility to bear the sword. This is not commentary on government’s responsibility to defend their nations security and sovereignty. It is commentary on our hearts. I’m trying to show you how they would have received Jesus’ message. And I’m asking us, whether we are any better. Are we desparate for the Gospel to go even to our enemies. And what are we willing to do about it. Will we pray for them. Remember Jesus’ words,
Matthew 5:43–44 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
D Ask Us: I need to ask us a hard question. When was the last time you loved your enemy? When was the last time you prayed fervently and pleadingly for your enemy. Think of a person who has harmed you, who has wronged you. It is so easy to write them off. Jesus taught us to do the supernatural work of loving, serving, feeding, caring for, and extending forgiveness to our enemies. And that message nearly got him killed.
But is not the centrality of the Gospel. That Jesus loved his enemies.
Romans 5:8 ESV but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Church, Christ never asks us to do, what he has not done first. Where are you out of line with the Gospel today. Who in your heart are you harboring bitterness towards, rather than releasing that bitterness to the Lord, and praying for them. Jesus preached a radically holistic love of our enemies.
I will close by looking at the final verse, verse 30. In the midst of their anger and hostility, Jesus passed through their midst. The Kingdom of God will not be spoiled by the wicked plans of men. As we see evil rise in our day, we need not fear that God’s plans are somehow being thwarted. We need to fear that God is somehow out of control. Jesus accomplished his purpose by simpling passing through their midst.