Summary: How do you respond to Jesus’ offer of salvation?
Last week we saw Jesus give us his mission. He stood up in his home synagogue, read from Isaiah of being anointed to preach good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight for the blind, release for the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Then Jesus told his hometown folks that Isaiah was writing about him.
So last week, we talked about Jesus’ mission – what he is here for, and, by association, what the church is here for. To the original readers of this passage, last week was about who Jesus says he is and what he’s going to do. People from that time and place would know what Jesus was saying. He said, “I am the savior of Israel, and messiah of the people.”
So, last week was about Jesus. He stands before the people he grew up with and he offers them salvation through him. This week is about their response, …and it’s about our response.
This is their response. First off, they spoke well of him. “Didn’t he do a fine job!,” they said. “Joseph’s son is a good speaker.” He spoke words that were written hundreds of years ago. They are words of hope and salvation. They are good words, nice words. The people who have gone to synagogue have known these words all their lives. And this young man did a good job delivering them. He had an unusual sense of authority in reading this passage.
It’s as if it didn’t quite sink in, that Jesus had told them that they were fulfilled in this time, …in him.
If you see what has just happened, you can understand Jesus’ next response. This is what has just happened. Jesus has just offered his hometown their salvation. The messiah has come, and he’s willing to start with them. But their reaction is something like, “Oh, isn’t that nice.”
It is so far removed from their expectations, that they can’t even hear what it is that Jesus is offering them. He is the messiah, and he is offering them their salvation. It’s as clear as day to us. We know the good news. We know the rest of the story. We know the miracles and the dying on the cross and the resurrection to new life. When he gives the good news to the poor, we know that is us, and that is our good news, our freedom and sight. We have an idea who this man is. Or we should, from our perspective of looking back.
But the people in Nazareth, they know him a whole different way. They know him personally. It seems like they like him. But when he says that he is there to be their messiah, they don’t even hear it, they don’t even understand what he’s saying. It doesn’t fit in their parameters. He offers them salvation, and they don’t get it.
There are many responses to Jesus, to when he’s preached and offered as messiah and Lord. I would say that people just don’t get it is the most common response. It is so far out of the realm of the way they see the world, they just don’t get it. I think people are looking for a savior. But they don’t recognize the kind of savior Jesus is. People are usually looking one of two places.
First, people look inside themselves. We are a culture of people who are taught to save ourselves. “Oh, if I can just believe in myself, I’ll make that goal.” I think it was Veronica who told me of listening to the radio the other day when somebody called in, supposedly quoting scripture, saying that “God helps those who help themselves.” First of all, that is not in scripture. Secondly, it is completely antithetical, completely the opposite of the gospel. God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who trust in him to help them. We are not our own saviors.
That thinking of our culture is insidious. It creeps its way into our church, our theology, and mostly into our hearts. We think that everything is about us, about what we do, about what we can accomplish, about what we can make ourselves to be. Ultimately, when we think that way, we are thinking of ourselves as our own saviors.
There is a book going around, and it is a great book. I recommend it to everyone, and I know a number of you have read it already. And I’ve had some good conversations about it with some of you. But there is one thing in it that I think can get easily misconstrued in a way the author didn’t intend. It comes from the very title, “The God Chasers.” It can be too much about us. We can think that if we’re chasing God, then we’ll be saved. The truth is a little more along these lines. God is the one doing the chasing and the catching. All we need to do is see him, look at all that work he’s done chasing us down, see His love and faithfulness, and surrender to it.