Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
"Good News to the Poor"
14 ¶ And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country.
15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read;
17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18* "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
21 And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."RSV
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
Jesus read a passage of scripture in the synagogue on the Sabbath. It read in part, "he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."
This was not such a strange passage of scripture, the people knew it came from Isaiah. This passage from Isaiah, chapter 61, verse 2, was a passage of hope, a passage of deliverance, a passage that reminded the Jews that God was indeed still with them, still caring for them. This was a great passage to read, because it was one of the favorite passages from their ancient traditions.
And it was not even strange that Jesus read a passage of scripture in the synagogue. The synagogue was a place for teaching and reading. The temple in Jerusalem was the place for the priests to offer sacrifice to God, but in the synagogue, men came to learn. Another difference between the synagogue and the temple was in the temple the priests were in charge, but in the synagogue there were no priest, no preacher. Each man had an opportunity to participate in the time of reading and learning. A man would volunteer to read a passage from the scrolls of the Old Testament, and then afterwards, he would sit down and explain what those passages he read meant to him.
But what was strange, unique and different was when Jesus sat down he said, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Jesus said that the scripture about deliverance, about salvation, about God being with the nation of Israel was fulfilled in him. Jesus was salvation. A strange and unique concept.
Jesus is dropping a bomb shell on this congregation. He is shaking them up. He is telling them that he is God’s salvation in the world. Through him God’s deliverance, God’s promise of hope, God’s promise of freedom has come to his people. Jesus is revealing something about himself, he is making clear his mission, his calling, his task as he goes about his ministry on this earth. Jesus is setting the scope, the limits, the horizons of his ministry.
Jesus is telling them that he is the Word of God incarnate in the world. Jesus is telling them that as God’s word in the world, Jesus is the bringer hope and salvation to all people.
Jesus is like the king in the following story;
"Long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. He wanted to know about their hardships. Often he dressed in the clothes of a working man or a beggar, and went to the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited thought that he was their ruler. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left.
Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, "I am your king!" The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn’t.
Instead he said, "You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the course food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!" 1
To me you have given yourself! This is what Jesus is saying to those in the synagogue that day. Today, I am giving myself for the salvation of the world. Today, God’s grace has come through me. Today, the captive have been set free. Today, I am preaching good news to the poor. Today, salvation has come.