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Summary: A short but important sermon for a Wednesday morning Communion. Jesus made himself famous in the power of the Spirit in word and deed. We are called to do the same.

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Is news about Jesus travelling fast in Billericay?

Perhaps for some people the news has come and gone and is now in the past, almost forgotten, occasionally recalled when something happens – a subconscious memory; a little bit like the Boxing Day Tsunami – when we think about it we are stirred again inside, but for 360 days a year most of us no longer think about it because the news has come and gone.

Is news about Jesus travelling fast in Billericay?

Perhaps for some the news about Jesus was heard, but it was reported wrongly, badly, incoherently; perhaps communicated without love – a bit like a piece of trashy journalism – a newspaper or Television report that just gets it wrong; and having been on the wrong end of one or two of those I know how bad reporting does a disservice the truth.

Is news about Jesus travelling fast in Billericay? What kind of news about Jesus is being reported?

In our Bible reading today we heard that ‘news about [Jesus] spread through the whole countryside’ (4:14). Why did it spread? Well, Luke tells us that ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit’ (4:14). The background to this is that Jesus has been baptised (3:21); he has been filled with the transforming power of God’s Spirit (3:22); he has spent 40 days in the desert contemplating and preparing for ministry; (4:1-2) – a bit like a prayer retreat that we could go on – and Jesus has undergone some severe testing and temptation (4:3-13). Now, full of the Holy Spirit, news about Jesus is spreading far and wide. Jesus is becoming famous.

I recently came across a 2 minute video by Irish Church Army Evangelist Mark Russell entitled ‘Making Jesus Famous’ (www.churcharmy.org.uk).

In it Mark makes the point that at least 7 out of 10 people in the UK have never had any meaningful connection with the Church. He says, “The Jesus we want to make famous is someone to get really excited about; someone you can get to know; to bring fresh life, fresh hope and fresh confidence to you.” In a nutshell, that is the message that Mark encourages us to take out onto the streets of every village, town and city. It was the message that Jesus embodied in himself both in word and in deed. He himself was the message, and still today Jesus is the message; the only difference is that we are now the messengers.

Jesus visited his home town of Nazareth (4:16) and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his custom. It was not Sunday because Jesus never went to Church; it was the Jewish Sabbath (4:16) – Shabbat - so it was either Friday evening or more likely Saturday morning; and Jesus was handed the treasured scroll of Isaiah to read from (4:17).

Jesus announced with words that he was the one to fulfil the ancient Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah (4:21). He was the anointed one who would ‘preach good news to the poor’. He was the one sent ‘to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (4:18-19). ‘The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him’ (4:20); and today, as ambassadors for Jesus, when we speak of the truth about him, all eyes will be fastened on us, because people will want to see with their own eyes, and experience with their own lives, whether or not we live out the Jesus message.


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