3RD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

SUNDAY, JANUARY 23, 2021

LUKE 4:16-30

 

THE RELEASE AT NAZARATH LEADS TO THE VICTORY AT THE CROSS

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

INTRODUCTION

Coach's Rejection

This story is told by Jeff Kemp, an NFL Football Player.
In 1988, I was playing for the Seahawks against my old team, the 49ers, when I learned first-hand that there are two competing value systems. Now, I wasn't bitter that my old team had traded me, but I wanted to beat it, all the same. Dave Krieg had been injured, and I was to start. I had a great week of practice and felt totally prepared. I entered the Kingdome in Seattle brimming with excitement. I envisioned leading my team to victory and establishing myself as the Seahawks' starter.

Coming out of the pregame meal, one of the offensive coaches put his arm around me and strongly affirmed his faith in me. "I want you to know how happy I am that you are the Seahawk quarterback. I've been waiting for this day."

I felt honored, valued, esteemed. This was going to be a great day!

Well, we ran the ball in our first two possessions, and we didn't gain much. On third down and eight, I threw to Hall of Famer Steve Largent. He split two defenders. There was tight coverage. I hit him right in the hands, and yet he dropped the ball. Next to Jerry Rice, Steve is, statistically speaking, the greatest receiver in history. He is also one of my best friends. But all I could do at that moment was chuckle and moan, "Steve, what's the matter? You never drop the ball. Why are you doing this to me?"

After that Steve didn't make any mistakes. I did. In fact, I played the worst game of my life. At the end of the first half, the 49ers were ahead 28-0. Every person in the Kingdome, except for my wife (and there isn't even a witness to vouch for her), was booing me. Have you ever heard nearly sixty thousand people booing you? It's quite an experience.

As I came off the field at half-time, I knew that I might be benched. But I wasn't defeated. Ever since I had been a small boy, my father had been drumming into my head Winston Churchill's brave words to the students at Harrow School in the dark days of 1941: "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never in nothing, great or small, large or petty never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."

I waded through the players to find the coach who had been so supportive before the game. I wanted to discuss some offensive strategies that might turn things around in the second half. As I approached him he turned his back on me without a word. Then he called to another quarterback, put his arm around him, and began to discuss plays he would run in the second half.

Now, I understood that I was being taken out of the game. That made sense. I was hoping it wouldn't happen, but I understood. But that coach didn't say one word to me for the rest of the game, even though we stood next to each other on the sidelines. Nor did he say anything on Monday when we watched the game films. For about a month, there was complete rejection. He simply couldn't deal with the fact that I hadn't lived up to his hopes, that I hadn't helped the team succeed. He rejected me relationally because my performance fell short.

We hear in our reading for today how the hometown of Jesus, Nazareth, rejected Him as the One who is fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. God the Father uses His Son’s rejection at Nazareth, by the people, as a pathway to salvation on the cross and from the grave.

PART ONE

We first hear about Jesus coming back to his childhood home of Nazareth. We first hear about Nazareth in the Christmas dialog. For example, in Luke 2:51 we hear: 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. Three times in the gospel Jesus is called “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus goes to the synagogue and gives an interpretation of Isaiah 61. He declares that the messianic era of salvation now begins in him. This is the beginning of conflict between Jesus and the people he has come to save.

 

PART TWO

One main idea of Isaiah 61 is the proclamation by Jesus that he has come to “release.” Jesus means here that the term “release” means being free of the bondage of sin, sickness, and Satan. This will be shown through physical healing, exorcism, and rebuking forces, as well as forgiving sins.

“He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives…” talks about the absolution in its most complete manner, the resurrection of the body. He is talking about the liberty of physical bondage, as well as spiritual bondage of sin and death. The Good News is that now in Jesus all of creation has been freed from the bondage of the Fall in Genesis 3.

PART THREE

After Jesus speaks, we now see the reaction of the people. They see an expression of release to the captives. They see it in his acts of healing and teaching. As Jesus begins his ministry, he makes no distinction between physical sickness and spiritual sickness release. In Luke 4:35 we hear: 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And in 4:39 we hear: 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. Jesus’ response tells us to him it was a release from bondage, physical or spiritual. He says in Luke 4:43: 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

PART FOUR

Jesus shows up in Nazareth to proclaim that the era of God’s salvation is breaking in with him, but the people see him only as Joseph’s son, who does marvelous healings. But Jesus does no healing, but instead teaches the people about rejection. 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

What Jesus is teaching here is a foreshadowing of what is to come in Jerusalem. He will be rejected by the leaders of Israel, the people, and finally by his own disciples.

PART FIVE

The people of Nazareth understand well what Jesus is saying. The people fulfill his prophecy. They do reject him. But in the rejection God puts his act of salvation into action. Jesus will go to Jerusalem, and there he will suffer, and die for the sins of all humanity.

But notice how God uses His son to fulfill his prophecy. The mere fact that Jesus gets away from the mob is a miracle of release. A release that must happen for Christ to go to Jerusalem and be held captive on the cross for the final sacrifice for the sins of the world.  

CONCLUSION

In August of 2012, vacationers at the beach in Terracina, Italy were shocked when a car pulled up next to a man who had just left the water and shot him at least seven times. The man was Gaetano Marino, leader of the Camorra crime family. He was known as “Stumpy” because his hands had been blown off nearly twenty years previous when a bomb, he was attempting to set for someone else went off prematurely. Police said they believed the killing was part of a struggle for control of the cocaine business between rival mob factions. Marino was part of a “family business” that placed him on the path that resulted in his death.

Christ came into our world and was rejected, despised, suffered, died, and rose again to release us from our bondage to sin. A release that will be fulfilled on the last Advent. In His name, amen.

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