Summary: Jesus' inaugural address is a bold proclamation that TODAY the Lord will move mightily in our lives and in our world.
Luke 4:14-30 “Good News—Rejected”
On January 21, President Obama will deliver his inaugural address. He will give that address before and expected crowd of 700,000 people gathered around the capitol and millions of viewers watching the television broadcast. In his speech, President Obama will cast his vision for the future, give shape to his second term of office, and set goals that he wants to reach in the next four years.
This Sunday, we read Jesus’ inaugural address. He spoke after having read passages from the prophet Isaiah at a Sabbath worship service in his home town of Nazareth. Jesus spoke probably to a crowd of fifty to one hundred people. His words cast his vision of what he understood his ministry to be, and the goals he proposed to achieve.
Today I will play the role of a commentator—not like the commentators who will nitpick and analyze the President’s speech ad nauseum. Instead, I want to highlight a few of Jesus’ words.
Jesus read two passages from the Prophet Isaiah. The passage portrays a significantly different picture of the Messiah from what was commonly held at the time of Jesus. It is an alternate understanding of the Messiah that Jesus sees himself fulfilling, and Jesus sees himself fulfilling this vision “today.”
Today is an important word for Luke. It occurs 12 times in Luke and only 9 times in the other three gospels combined. It occurs in such familiar passages as: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you." "Today you will be with me in paradise." And twice in the Zacchaeus story: "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay in your house today." And, "Today, salvation has come to this house." And in our text: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
For Luke today is a moment of radical change.
Yesterday can look glorious. Tomorrow can look so glamorous. But today is so ordinary. So many of us get into a routine, a rut. Today is just another day. Was Jesus just another home-town boy? Were his words just another teacher's words? The great, saving event of God comes in common, ordinary ways. Sometimes we may even miss them. Today is an extraordinary day -- God is with us today.
Those are idealistic and impossible dreams," you can say. I would agree with you. But that is why that word today becomes so frightening. Jesus is saying that the impossible is happening today. The good news is: You can start now. You can be part of those miracles today. The bad news is: You'll never finish. If you answer the call to start -- it is a lifetime commitment. There will be great, wonderful moments along the way, but there will always be more that needs to be done.
As foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus declared that he would preach the good news. The good news, though, is only good news when it meets the needs of the people.
God's story is always related to human need. For example, if a woman is dying of cancer, the gospel is God's strong word of resurrection. If a person is permeated with guilt, the gospel is God's assurance of forgiveness. If people experience extreme suffering, the gospel is the prayer: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble." For the starving, the gospel may be bread. For a homeless refugee, the gospel may be freedom in a new homeland. For others, the gospel may be freedom from political tyranny. The gospel is always related to human need. It is never truth in a vacuum, a theologically true statement which may or may not relate to one's life. The gospel is God's truth, God's message, God's action, God's word to a particular person, to a particular need, to a particular historical situation.
As we gather together today, we each bring our own needs. We sing songs not to forget our needs, but rather to praise a God who can meet our needs. We hear God’s Word and we listen to a sermon not to hear great theological concepts, but rather to discover how God will meet our needs and to be assured that God will move in our lives. We pray not to sound holy and to do holy things, but to lay our needs and requests out before the Lord. We anticipate that God will act and that things will change.
This first part deals with messianic deliverance and the alteration of the status quo. God never leaves people where he finds them. A change in condition always accompanies an encounter with the divine. Radical change is what Jesus proclaims and will perform. Jesus does not merely affirm the condition of his children. He is about the reversal of fortunes that results not just in change in one's environmental state, but in the person itself.