Summary: This is a subtle sermon to motivate and thank the congregation, based on why Jesus chose his own readings in the temple; and how the church can gain from that announcement?
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 24th January 2016; St Oswalds is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
“Please be seated, and join me in a short prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord; my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalms. 19:14).
It never fails to amaze me just how coincidental the sermon I get to write, and my thoughts well before hand, and how much they tie in, … today is no exception. Well over a month ago, for some reason, I was thinking about this very reading, and the Synagogue or temple where it took place. I was thinking for example, that the temple in question could not have been bigger than this very church, if anything it may have been smaller, yet it was very well attended; it was at the heart of the town.
The service that we read about today was probably early in the morning; in the cool of the day, and I suppose most of the congregation must have had a seat of some kind, possibly some kind of wooden benches arranged like our pews, or maybe they sat on the floor on mats or both. The congregation would have consisted of bearded men with long robes, with the wives and maybe children on the edges. The place would have been lit by low-hanging lamps, and their must have been some kind of platform for the speaker. … and I am also sure the congregation all had their place, according to the pecking order of the day.
The service would have begun as we do, to a normal established protocol, and then one of the men, (when it was his time to speak), rose from his seat as we do, and walk down the front. The man whose turn it was on this day was a local man called Yeshua ben Yusef, translated as, … Jesus son of Joseph, a carpenter who had taken his name from his step father.
The young carpenter then proceeded with the liturgy of the day, just as we do, by reciting a series of prayers or recitations, but then, … totally out with the Jewish protocol, this young man turned to a passage of his own choosing, Isaiah 61 verses 1&2, and began to read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. … He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, … to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour".
Well the congregation were certainly shocked as we later find out; had he flipped his lid? … This was a local lad, … maybe even delinquent, just or strange to some, … who had the audacity to read from a passage of his own choosing, and worse, … and worse, he implied that he was the messiah which was prophesised, that he was the son of God.
But I suppose when you think about it, Jesus had to start somewhere, and where better than is own church where everybody knew him. But unconventionally, he chose his own text, … and not only that, he also announced his mission, or his mission statement as we so like to call it.
Luke 4:18 again says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. … He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, … to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour".
Jesus was bluntly stating “I am the Messiah, and this is what I am going to do”; and as he said that, it sent a shock wave throughout the congregation; they were up in arms, because they all knew Isaiah’s prophecy, that a messiah was soon to appear, and this lad to them was no messiah.
But what is interesting here is the end of that verse which says, “to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" or “the acceptable year of the Lord.”… Now that in itself does not sound too inspiring, but many commentaries on the bible allude this verse to Leviticus 25:9, which speaks of the “year of the Jubilee", … because it just so happened that, that very year was a Jubilee year, … so they were all living in full anticipation of the Messiah appearing, … on a Jubilee year.
Now this Jubilee year is very interesting, because the Jews had a custom ordained by God, that not only would every 7th day of the week be the Sabbath, the day of rest, but … that every 7th year would also be a sort of Sabbath year, where the land would not be farmed, it would be allowed to be fallow, and … that after every 7th Sabbath year, (that is, every 7 x 7 = 49 years), there would be what was called the “year of Jubilee”, .. and in that year, … all slaves would be set free, and those who had lost family members into slavery or imprisonment would be reunited with their loved ones; … and … and all men whose poverty had forced them to sell their lands, would be entitle to be given them back. … Now I quite like the sound of this, … and this was a jubilee year.