Sunday, January 27, 2019

Luke.4.21-30; Third Sunday after Epiphany; January 27, 2019

Luke.4.21-30; Third Sunday after Epiphany; January 27, 2019
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN
"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 gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. " (Lk 4:21-30, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
People like Jesus. In fact, I did a Google search on “Jesus” and it returned an approximate 1,260,000,000 hits. That’s millions of web pages about Jesus. And even I narrowed it to “Jesus Christ” Google returned a mere 584,000,000 hits. It took me a while to get to every single one of them… And I think you could say by my unscientific Google poll He’s well known. Others:

Adolf Hitler                  86.5m

Gandhi                         207m
Pope John Paul             2,330m
Donald Trump              1,210m
Barack Obama             228m
Bill Clinton                   239m
My Name                      1,200,000
I’m sure that each one of the web pages about Jesus has a different idea about who He is / was, and what He’s all about.
Lots of people like to talk about Jesus. Jesus the great teacher / preacher. Jesus the healer. Jesus breaking down class barriers. Jesus feeding the hungry and the poor. People like Jesus that way: speaking to them and giving advise on how to live a better life; telling them that they need to care more for other people; telling them to care for the sick and the hungry. That’s a Jesus that’s useful to most people… a Jesus that is worth listening to by human standards.
We like Jesus that way, too. “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” “Ask what ever you want in my name and I will give it to you.” “I came to give you life and give it to the full.” It’s a Jesus we like to hear about. It’s a Jesus we gladly follow. Listen to any one of hundreds of Christian authors out there and you hear everything from “Name it and claim it.” Jesus wants you healthy wealthy and wise. All you have to do is such and such for him. Or Jesus has won your salvation, it’s up to you to get the “good stuff” after that.” That’s the Jesus lots of Christians want to follow. That’s the Jesus we want to follow, too.
The fact is we want Jesus to do stuff for us and we want him to do it our way. Jesus I’ll give money to the church “if you let me win the lottery.” Jesus, heal me in a miraculous way and I’ll tell everyone about what you’ve done. Really, in all these things, we want Jesus to do things our way, the way we think is best. You’ve probably heard the story about the man who lived near a damn that was leaking and the flood warning went out. A neighbor came with his car and said, “The flood is coming come with me and we’ll escape.” “No,” the man said, “Jesus will take care of me.” After the water rose to the second floor of his house another man came with a boat. “Get in I’ll take you to safety. “No,” the man said, “Jesus will take care of me.” The water rose some more, and the man was forced to his roof. A rescue team came in a helicopter and waved him to grab the rope and be pulled to safety. “No,” the man shouted over the beating of the rotor, “Jesus will take care of me.” Finally, the water rose over the roof and the man was drowned. He stood before Jesus and asked, “Jesus, why didn’t you save me?” “What do you mean? I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter. What more do you want?” That’s Jesus on our terms. Jesus don’t let me suffer. Jesus I’ll follow you but let me keep my friends. Jesus I’m yours but just do it my way.
One thing this account of Jesus in Nazareth shows us is that people are the same everywhere and that even those people weren’t much different from us. They saw Jesus in a certain way. After all, He grew up there. He was a small-town boy who had become well known. They saw him play in the streets, work for his father, attend the synagogue school, and even go to weddings and funerals for his relatives. He was the local boy made good. They even liked what he had to say (at first). “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him… And who wouldn’t? They liked what they heard him say. This was a Jesus they could deal with. The scripture that he said was fulfilled was this:
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.” (Lk 4:18-19, ESV)
It was good to hear it from the hometown boy… freeing captives, healing the blind, and giving a helping hand to the downtrodden. It’s good when kids turn out the way you raise them, isn’t it? It is Jesus the way they wanted: healing, feeding, and loving the poor and the hungry. In fact, they expected much more from the “carpenter’s son.” They were ready for him to do exactly what he said he’d do for them. “Isn’t this the Joseph’s son? He’s one of us. Let’s see him do what he has promised for us, so that life can be better for us.”
Jesus wants them to think about something else. He wants them to understand that he wasn’t just sent for their little town, or even just for the Jews, but for all people. He reminds them of two times in Jewish history where God sent prophets not to his people but to people who weren’t Jews. “You want me to take care of just you, but God’s plan for me is bigger that just this town. Open your eyes and see the world around you. That’s whom I’ve come to save. ‘Physician heal thyself,’ you’ll say to me. Don’t worry about all those people out there. Stay here and take care of us and we’ll believe in you.’ But I’ve come for more than just you. I’ve come for the whole world. Even people whom you don’t even want to hear about.”
And that’s when they became angry. They wanted their hometown boy to take care of them. They wanted people to come to him right there in their little town, to put them on them map. But Jesus told them he had other things in mind. They wanted Jesus on their terms, and if they couldn’t have him that way, they didn’t want him at all. So, they took him to the top of a hill outside of town, to threaten him with death. ‘Jesus heal us here and we’ll believe. Jesus, make us rich and we’ll believe. This is our chance to change our lives. Don’t waste this chance on other people.’ But Jesus pushed his way through the crowd and left, it wasn’t yet time for him to die. 
And that just goes to show us how people are the same everywhere and all the time. Look at how they want ‘their Jesus’ to just worry about and take care of them. You know in a lot of ways I think we are guilty of the very same thing. We have our comfortable church here, we’re used to the people who come and sing with us. We gather to receive all the wonderful gifts that God has for us. And that’s important, and he does offer them to us, for us. But, if we don’t bring Jesus to this community, we’re no better than the folks from Jesus hometown, wanting Jesus for ourselves but forgetting that His life, death and resurrection is for everyone. The people of Nazareth didn’t want Jesus to be for the people outside of their town. Lots of the time we don’t want Jesus to be for our neighbors. We don’t want Jesus to be for bikers, or people of different colors, or people who just don’t seem fit in here in “our church.”
Oh, but Pastor, I know that Jesus is for other people, but all the people I know are already Christians. They are too far left to become Christians. Well, that’s a lie right from the lips of Satan, and it’s an easy one to believe because we are so comfortable just the way we are. Jesus on our terms, Jesus for us, Jesus right here and nowhere else. “I want Jesus but just right here in this comfortable place not out there where he upsets my life and makes me uncomfortable with other people that don’t fit in.”
That’s where you and I are guilty. That’s where the sin of the Galileans shows up in our hearts, too. But there is Good News here for us. Jesus could have been thrown off the cliff to his death that day. But he wasn’t. In fact, he walked right through that crowd and right down the road that lead to the cross. He didn’t just come for those people who wanted him for themselves. Jesus came for you and me. He came to take care of the guilt that we feel when we fail to share him with others. Or even when we want ‘those people’ to just go to a different church.
He told the people in that synagogue. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He was talking about Good News. Remember… 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. That’s what He did. That’s why He came. When the guilt of our own sin holds us captive, the Good News of Jesus sets us free. Today, right now in our hearing, here in God’s Word, in God’s Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, crucified dead and buried, risen and ascended, present here with us right now. That the Good News fulfilled in your hearing. Jesus died on the cross to forgive you of your sins, all of them, even the sin of keeping Jesus to yourself. Even the sin of believing that there’s no one you know who needs Jesus. It’s all forgiven. It’s all forgotten. It’s all done. When your guilt makes you captive, here you have, in your hearing, the Good News that Jesus has removed your guilt. And that’s Jesus on his terms. That’s Jesus, as He wants to work in your life. That’s what friendship with Jesus means for you.
And that’s the Good News that you have for everyone you know. The forgiveness that He has given you he offers to others. That’s Jesus on His terms. He forgives you for your sins. He wants you to tell other people about that. He wants you to tell other people about the forgiveness that He has for them. How do you do it? Well, that’s the part you leave up to Jesus. But that’s exactly why we are “Building Friendships.” You keep your focus on Jesus and what He has done for you. Remember your baptism, where the promises of God are made true for you. Listen to His Word and receive the Lord’s Supper. Receive all these gifts for the forgiveness of your sins. God will open doors for you to share the Good News of Jesus with your friends. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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