Summary: Does your witness stand up in the face of opposition?
Pastor J. H. Crowell, when about sixteen, sailed on a shipping vessel, where he was the only Christian in a crew of twelve. Before leaving his mother, he promised to meet her three times a day at the throne of grace. So regularly, he went below and prayed aloud. He thought he must.
His fellow sailors mocked him, threw wood at him and poured buckets of water over him, but could not put out the fire in his soul. They tied him to the mast and whipped him, laying thirty-nine stripes on his back. Still he prayed.
Finally, they tied a rope around his body and threw him overboard. He swam as best he could, and when he took hold of the side of the ship, they pushed him off with a pole. At last, his strength gave way, and, certain he would die, he prayed that God would forgive them, and called out: "Send my body to my mother and tell her that I died for Jesus."
They finally pulled him on deck and left him for dead; miraculously, he regained consciousness. Conviction began to seize the sailors. Before nightfall two of them were gloriously converted. Inside of a week every one on board, including the captain, was saved.
1. Last week we traveled in our time machine to Nazareth, A.D. 30; we sat with others in the very synagogue where Jesus came to worship.
2. While we were there, we heard him read the words of Isaiah the prophet, who prophesied about the coming Messiah. A long, uncomfortable pause was broken when Jesus said, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.
3. Initially, the people are thrilled as they see the opportunity Jesus’ claim brings to them. However, their joy soon turns to anger, hostility and opposition to his message. In order to understand this passage, we must understand both the opportunity and opposition that coexist in this story. TWM to Luke 4 as we consider these two conditions.
II. OPPORTUNITY FOR THE JEWS (Why they were initially happy)
1. Fulfillment of prophecy (the waiting is over)
A. It was over seven hundred years since Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah. The people alive in Jesus’ day knew of this only through oral tradition of their fathers and the contents of the scrolls of the prophet. They did not hear him for themselves.
B. As a result, their exposure was limited to what others told them, and surely there was some doubt among the younger people.
01. This is true in our day as well. Younger people who have not yet seen God work in their lives may doubt his power or his interest in their lives. However, as you grow older and experience his power first-hand, you are convinced.
C. Perhaps nothing drew the attention of the Jews more than the fulfillment of prophecy…God’s promise through the prophet is coming true!
2. End of Oppression
A. The prophets spoke of the Messiah as the “Deliverer”; Jesus’ words at the close of his reading confirmed that he would “release the oppressed” (v.18). To most Jews this deliverance was from political oppression.
B. The Jews were subject to the Romans, who ruled the known world of their day. Roman Emperors were generally tolerant of the Jews, allowing them to practice their religion, observe their holidays and feasts and the like. The Jews did not, however, have any authority whatsoever in matters outside the synagogue.
C. As emperors changed, treatment of the Jews changed. They were in a precarious position – dangerously unstable – and they hated it…as you and I would.
D. Jesus’ words brought the promise of freedom; and that was worth celebrating.
3. Beginning of a new life
A. These changes would initiate new life for the Jews. Their freedom assured, their prospects great, they begin making plans in their minds for what they will do first.
B. Suddenly, in the midst of jubilation, they begin to doubt Jesus’ words.
III. DOUBT APPEARS (v.22)
1. The detail Luke omits in this transition from opportunity to opposition Matthew records in his gospel (13:54-55).
A. Jesus speaks with wisdom beyond his years and training. How could he possibly know the things he claims to be true? They’ve heard of the miracles he performed in Capernaum, yet he has shown them nothing since he arrived back home. Why?
B. Finally, what are the odds that the Messiah would be a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, anyway? After all, they’ve watched him grow up, know his family (of humble means), and live among them to this time –
C. Eventually, doubt turns to disdain, and disdain to opposition. Let’s consider three causes of their opposition (and rejection):
IV. OPPOSITION BY THE JEWS
1. They wanted to keep him “in his place” (who do you think you are, anyway?)