In our Gospel reading, it began as “just another Sabbath.” When the people saw that Jesus was present, they were anxious to hear from this “home town boy made good.” They handed Jesus the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling it to “the place” (v.17) Jesus read: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) These were familiar words; they were the promise of the long-awaited Messiah regularly read in their Synagogue. So far, it was “just another Sabbath.”
Then Jesus made a startling announcement: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) Jesus boldly proclaimed that He was the long-awaited Messiah; an extraordinary claim to be made on “just another Sabbath!”
At first, “All spoke well of Jesus and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.” (v.22) This would delight any politician or public speaker. Speeches are carefully written so as not to offend the listeners. (Isn’t that why it’s often so hard to know the true message of a politician?) And the temptation for Jesus, that day, was certainly to impress His “hometown folks” with “what they wanted to hear.” But God’s Word never changes itself to go along with our sinful, selfish nature – rather it boldly exposes sin for what it really is! God’s Word of Law always “nails” us!
When the truth began to “sink in” – that THEY were “the poor… the prisoners … the blind… the oppressed” that Jesus had come to save – the people asked in disbelief: “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (v.22) Implying, of course, that because He was so familiar to them, He couldn’t be the Messiah they were looking for! (This is the same “familiarity” often used by Satan to “block the message from God’s Word” that a local pastor speaks after he’s served a congregation for a number of years.)
Jesus, knowing that unbelief always demands proof, did what was (and continues to be) “politically incorrect” – He told them not what they wanted to hear, but what they needed to hear. Unbelief always demands proof. But Jesus never gave “proof” when it was demanded. Just as He did not come to tell people what they wanted to hear, but to speak God’s Word and to draw people away from their unbelief to His “saving words;” so Jesus spoke hard words to these skeptics: “Truly I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (v.24)
This continues to be true today. The preacher’s (and the Church’s) constant temptation continues to be – come to church, sing the hymns, have the Bible read, sit through the sermon and prayers, and go home satisfied that we have “made it through another Sunday” – No one upset, nothing changed. The worldly part of us doesn’t want to be “bothered” with “the hard truth” from God’s Word – that by nature we are all living in the darkness of sin and need to turn away from sin through the working of our Savior. We especially do not like it when a certain lifestyle caused by our sinful, selfish behavior is exposed as wrong and we are told we must no longer live in the world’s ways. We would much rather just allow a person’s personal lifestyle and “mind our own business.” But the purpose of God’s Word is to “disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”
Just as that day in Nazareth, as Jesus visited His hometown with His presence and His “gracious words”, He is also present here with us today – in the hymns, the Scriptures, the sermon and prayers, the liturgy, the Lord’s Supper, etc.; making this “more than just another Sunday.”
Notice that the skepticism and unbelief of the people that day did not stop Jesus from His blessed work of carrying out His Heavenly Father’s plan. When the “hometown folks” “drove Jesus out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill … in order to throw Him down the cliff… Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on His way. [Isn’t it IRONIC that the people wanted to see a miracle, and the miracle that was done was that they were unable to carry out their evil plan!]… (v.29-31)
There did come a time when Jesus allowed a sinful mob to take Him up a hill, called Calvary. They did not try to throw Him off the hill, but cruelly nailed Him to a cross and left Him there to die! But He did NOT STAY THERE – on the third day He rose again from the dead (as we confess in our Creed – “walking right through death and the grave!”) And as a result of this, every Sabbath / every Sunday / every day and especially every Christian funeral has been changed forever!
As we gather, it is More Than Just Another Sunday – Jesus is TRULY present in His Word to forgive and strengthen us in our relationship with Him / in, with and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. With renewed “amazement” like those who benefited from Jesus “gracious words” we too are being changed and live this week renewed – turning away from our sinful, selfish nature, strengthened and growing by His authority and will in our lives! What an extra-ordinary, SUPER Sunday God gives us whenever we gather for His Word and Sacraments!
See you in worship this weekend! Don’t miss the “amazing” gifts Jesus has to give you!