Summary: A sermon for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, Series C.
4th Sunday after Epiphany, January 28, 2007 “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: O God, who brings good news to the poor, release to the captive, and sight to the blind, let your word this day be fulfilled in our hearing. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds, that we might come to a deeper appreciation that Jesus is your beloved Son, through whom your Word and saving grace has been revealed to our world. And give us courage to respond to your word with devotion and service. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning picks up where we left off last Sunday. According to Luke, following his baptism and temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee, and began to teach and preach in the synagogues of the towns and villages around Capernaum. And the people praised him for his wisdom and insight, and his reputation began to spread throughout the region.
Then he returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where he had been raised as a child. As was his custom, Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, where he read these words from Isaiah: “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 favor.”
He then sat down, the customary position of the preacher at that time, and said simply, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And Luke tells us that “all the people spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
Now there is a preacher’s dream! You preach one sentence, and the whole congregation is amazed! They were in awe. They even began to show a little hometown pride, saying, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Wow! Can it be that this child whom we had grow up in our midst, be the Messiah? It’s too good to be true. He’s going to be a blessing to our town.”
But in reaction to the enthusiasm and amazement of his hometown folk, Jesus added, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself’! And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”
In other words, I believe that Jesus understood the enthusiastic response of his hometown to his message, to be motivated by the hope that they would be able to benefit from his ministry. After all, this was where Jesus grew up. Surely he feels an allegiance to his hometown. Surely he would think of Nazareth first, and shower us with his blessings. It’s as if they were saying, “Do a few miracles for us, Jesus. Show us your power.”
Then comes the clincher. Jesus tells the people in Nazareth, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” And then he goes on to cite the examples of Elijah being called by God to feed the Gentile widow in Sidon, while the rest of Israel suffered from famine, and how Elisha was called by God to cleanse the Gentile Naaman, a Syrian of leprosy, while many others in Israel suffered from the same disease.
Jesus’ point was made. Not only would Jesus not fashion his ministry in such a way that would specifically benefit the people of his hometown, his mission of extending God’s redeeming grace would go even beyond the people of Israel. Jesus would not be persuaded by hometown or other personal loyalties. His loyalty was to God, to follow God’s lead, that God’s Word and grace might be extended to all people, without bias.
Think about what this means, especially in this season of Epiphany, in which we focus on how Jesus is manifest to be the Messiah, the Son of God. In his commentary on our Gospel lesson, John S. McClure states: “More than anything else, these verses accentuate the fact that Jesus is God’s free and sovereign agent who will operate on his own terms. Although he has proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of God’s promise of [redemption], Jesus will set about the work of establishing [it] in ways that will be controversial at best.
Jesus knows that his hearers are expecting some immediate evidence that God’s redemption is beginning in and through him. Jesus, however, lets them know that most likely his work will only touch their lives in a roundabout way… This, of course, appears to them, [the people of his hometown] to be presumptuous, if not blasphemous. In their rage, they chase him to the top of a hill with the intention of hurling him off a cliff.