Summary: A sermon based on the manifesto of Jesus from Luke Chapter 4
A minister managed to run out of fuel in his car just 100 metres from a petrol station. He looked in the boot only to realise that he’d left the petrol can at home. All he could find was his baby’s potty. So he took it, walked the 100 metres to the garage, filled it with petrol and returned to the car. As he was pouring the fuel from the potty into the petrol tank one of his congregation happened to pass and said to the minister ‘I do admire your faith.’
What is the faith we have? Is it about hoping for unbelievable things, things that just can’t or won’t happen? Is it pie in the sky, thinking about a heavenly glory, a future with God? Or is it about something that is rooted and grounded in real life? I think that the gospel reading set for today sets out clearly the kind of gospel Jesus came to bring, the message he proclaimed in what he said and what he did.
We need to picture the scene of this passage from Luke’s gospel. The passage comes early in the ministry of Jesus. Before this passage we are presented by Luke with the birth of Jesus, his presentation in the temple at 8 days old, his visit to the temple when he was 12.
Then we have John the Baptist preparing the way, Jesus’ baptism and then, immediately after his baptism he goes out into the wilderness where he wrestles with how he is going to carry out his ministry – what it’s all about, why he is here, how he was going to carry out the work he was called to do. In that time in the wilderness Jesus rejected the way of power and prestige and fame. Instead Jesus committed himself to the way of humble service.
The fruits of that time in the wilderness are set out when Jesus returned to Galilee and went into the synagogue in Nazareth where he had been brought up, and read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah which was given to him. And we heard that earlier.
In the passage Jesus quotes from Isaiah some profound words that Isaiah used and which Jesus makes his own. He, like political parties before an election, is setting out his manifesto, letting people know where he stands, what he stands for, what he’s about, what his priorities are. This is why Jesus came, this is his message. So what is it? Listen again to the central part of what we heard:
18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because 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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. 20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
I want to look at this message before having a look at the reaction to those who listened to him speaking. What should we make of the message? I’m not going to look at each of the things he said in turn but rather look at them with a broad brush approach because what Jesus said sums up his message.
At a fundamental level the message is of a gospel that speaks to people where they are, a message that speaks into people’s hearts, that has meaning and relevance to people in their daily lives. It’s a gospel that speaks to the pain and the suffering of the people of the world as well as to its joys and celebrations. It’s a gospel that speaks into poverty, injustice and oppression as well as to wealth and plenty. It’s a gospel that speaks into the heart of family life, community life, national life, the workplace, the home, hospital, hospice and school.
At its heart the message of Jesus is a spiritual gospel. The good news that Jesus came to bring was something different, something new, something from God, words from God and not from human beings. The pattern of his ministry is set when he says ‘the spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me …’
His life is rooted in his heavenly Father and throughout the Bible you can read of people who were rooted in God and whom God used effectively.
Moses, busy minding his own business looking after his father in law’s sheep when he saw the burning bush and, being the inquisitive type, went off to investigate. As he approached the bush God revealed himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then he heard a voice calling him to a task top lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses work for God was founded on a spiritual experience.