Summary: Asserting the mission of a new church

The Main Thing

Scripture Reading: Luke 4:14-21

It was early on the morning of the sabbath.

Bearded men in long robes

passed behind and between rows of pillars

as they took their seats in the room,

which was lit by a clutter of low-hanging lamps.

In the center of the room was an angled desk

atop a low platform.

Backless benches were arranged on all sides,

and looking down on the scene

was a balcony filled with the wives and daughters of the men occupying the room below.

A row of dignified men sat

in front of a heavy curtain at the end of the room;

one of them rose from his seat and spoke briefly to several of the others in the room, one of whom was the carpenter, Yeshua ben Yusef--Jesus of Nazareth.

The room was full, with many men standing,

when Jesus walked

to the raised desk

in the middle of the synagogue,

the same place where as a boy of thirteen,

he had celebrated his bar mitzvah.

All eyes in the room

were riveted upon his lean form,

made more gaunt by the recent ordeal he had endured

during a forty-day fast in the wilderness of Judah.

An air of expectation

mingled with the smoke

from the oil lamps in the room

as he ascended the rostrum;

sensational rumors had been spreading

all over the countryside

about the carpenter’s son,

and he had already taught in other synagogues in the area.

This sabbath appearance in his hometown of Nazareth had been long awaited by many in the room.

The carpenter’s strong voice commenced the first part of the service by reciting a series of prayers and recitations . . .

And then Jesus waited, briefly, while the Chazzan, the man whose duty it was to do so, carried a heavy scroll to the podium.

Jesus, handling the bulky scroll

with a skill that betrayed practice,

deftly unrolled it

while the crowd in the synagogue waited.

After just a moment,

he found the passage he sought,

lifted his eyes to the congregation,

and spoke without another look at the scroll.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” he said.

Immediately, puzzled looks were exchanged among the men in the rows of seats; this was not the haphtarah, the scheduled reading, for the day.

Up to that point Jesus had led the synagogue service in customary fashion,

but this was unconventional,

a jarring departure,

an unexpected development.

The son of the carpenter was reading from a passage of his own choosing.

“Because,” Jesus continued, the old words flowing from his mouth, ringing with new meaning, “he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me 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.”

In the quietness that followed his reading,

Jesus rolled the scroll together,

handed it back to the Chazzan,

and sat down in his seat,

as a rabbi of that day would do

when he was ready to begin teaching.

He gazed around the room,

meeting the stares of those who watched him.

“Today,” he said, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

That sermon in Nazareth, recorded in the fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, was Jesus’ inaugural sermon, the first official act of his public ministry. And I believe that what Jesus did that day has much to teach us today:

• about us as a fledgling church body, and

• about each of us individually as Christians.

So let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Luke, the third book of the New Testament, and then to the fourth chapter, as we see what we can learn from God’s Word this morning. . . .

Luke 4, and we’ll be concentrating on verses 16 to 21. . . .

Before I go any further, let me just introduce myself: my name is Bob Hostetler, and I’m one of a small group of people--their names are on the programs you received when you came in to this room--who were just mentally unbalanced enough to believe that God might be calling us to start a new church in Oxford, despite the fact that we all had day jobs!

But as we began to discuss

and consider

and pray

about this crazy idea,

it became clear to us that very early on,

we should do exactly what Jesus did on that long ago Sabbath day in Nazareth, and that is to carefully,

prayerfully, and

clearly define our mission.

Now, scholars agree that what Jesus read that day,

as recorded in Luke 4:18-19,

was not part of the haphtarah,

the schedule of readings for synagogue worship.

In other words, he did something that was almost never done: he chose his own text. . .

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Talk about it...

Alfred Johnson

commented on Feb 27, 2009

Awesome intro. Great substance. I love this message especially the 3 M''s.

David Jankowski

commented on Jan 11, 2013

Good practical message. I hope he truly had a plan to help folks find their missions.

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