Summary: Jesus' sermon in his hometown synagogue might not have gone as you would expect. But Jesus shows us that his Word is sometimes welcomed, other times rejected, but ALWAYS powerful.
Expectations. “Do you really think that we’re going to get all that snow that they say we’re supposed to get?” “Have you heard about the frigid temperatures that are predicted?” “Do you think that they’ll cancel school?” The expectations, the anticipation and the excitement was hard to escape. And this time, the anticipation certainly did not disappoint – significant snow, followed by extreme temperatures. I think to some degree that it’s probably just human nature that loves the anticipation of what might happen, the expectations of the things that could come.
Can you imagine the excitement in Nazareth when they heard that Jesus was coming back home? This was Jesus’ home town, the place where he and his family had grown up and his mother Mary likely still called home. It had been months, maybe even close to a year, since Jesus had performed that first miracle just up the road in Cana. Jesus and his disciples had been travelling throughout the area. The news about what Jesus had been doing was spreading like wildfire. Listen to this description in Matthew 4, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria… Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him” (Matthew 4:23-25). Jesus was famous. Luke tells us, “Everyone praised him” (Luke 4:15). People couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of Jesus, to see the miracles they had heard of, to hear him preach. And now this Jesus was coming back home.
You can only imagine the conversations and stories that were exchanged. “I was Jesus’ Sabbath school teacher. He always such a good student.” “My family used to go with Jesus’ family down to Jerusalem each year to celebrate the Passover. Remember that time when they forgot him in Jerusalem?” “I bought a table and chairs from Jesus and his father Joseph. Most comfortable chairs we ever had.” “Do you think that he’ll do some of the miracles like the ones he did in other places?” “I’m sure he’ll do even greater miracles than those! After all, he did those things for people he did NOT know. He knows us!”
When Jesus did finally arrive in Nazareth, Jesus did what he normally did on Saturday. He went to the synagogue, the place where God’s people gathered for weekly worship, to learn and be trained in God’s Word. But this Sabbath was different because Jesus was going to the synagogue that he had grow up in. When he looked around at the people he likely saw many familiar faces. The people in that synagogue were no doubt eager to hear what Jesus had to say so they asked their famous guest to read a portion of Scripture and to deliver a sermon. So Jesus stood up and began to read from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has appointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18,19/Isaiah 61:1,2). He closed the scroll, sat down and began his sermon, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
With those words, Jesus undeniably claimed to be the none other than the promised Messiah. And what Isaiah foretold, Jesus was in fact doing. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, indicating that this Jesus of Nazareth was appointed by God. Last weekend we heard how Jesus performed his first miracle only to be followed by countless others. Every miracle was evidence that Jesus was God, capable of doing what none other could do. That was in essence the good news that Jesus came to be and proclaim. To sinners who are spiritually poor, incapable of providing the perfect life that God requires of them for heaven, Jesus has provided by his perfect life lived in the place of every sinner. To sinners who are oppressed, held captive by the crushing debt of sin, Jesus has brought freedom, paying for every sin with his perfect life and innocent death. That word for “freedom” and “free” which is used in these verses to describe what the Messiah does, is the word for “forgiveness.” Yes, Jesus has come to proclaim the message of forgiveness, literally, the sending away of our sin, so that when God looks upon you, he no longer sees a person deserving of his punishment. Instead, the Lord looks on you with favor. Instead of being separated from him, he welcomes you into his kingdom, and promises you his protection, peace and blessing forever. Yes, Jesus has come to proclaim the good news of forgiveness and favor with the Lord.