Grace For The Journey
We are in Luke chapter 4 and we will pick up at verse 14. Here is the background: Luke has told us in the opening chapter that someone is coming, the Messiah, the anointed Savior of God. He tells us about the Angel Gabriel declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. We read where Simeon the Prophet declares Jesus to be the Christ; Anna the Prophetess declares that Jesus is the Christ; and John the Baptist declares that Jesus is the Christ. Now, in our passage today, Jesus Himself declares that He is the Christ. I remember preaching my first sermon as I was sensing the Lord’s call into full-time Gospel Ministry. I remember asking the Lord for some kind of favorable response to the preaching, someone coming forward to be saved or re-commit himself to Christ. The service went well and through that event and a combination of other events God confirmed His calling in my life.
I am not so sure how I would have felt had people responded to my first sermon the way people responded to our Lord’s first recorded sermon. That is what we have here in the text, our Lord’s first sermon recorded in Scripture.
His first sermon has one main point . . .
I am the Messiah, the Christ,
The long-awaited Good News.”
That is it. What is remarkable here is the response to the sermon. The people praise Jesus for His ministry in Galilee (verses 14-15, and 22). Then when Jesus travels 30 miles south and enters Nazareth, His hometown, and preaches in the synagogue, the people again respond favorably at the beginning, but by the end of the message they are out to literally kill Him. Note that progression in verses 23 to 29, as they go from liking Him for what He says to wanting to kill Him for what He says.
The passage leads us to consider how we are to respond to the preaching of our Lord and how we are to respond to the Gospel. There are two responses we are to have . . .
I. We Must Acknowledge Our Personal Need For The Gospel.
The Bible says in verse 16 that Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. We do well to pause for a moment and underscore the phrase, “as His custom was.” It was our Lord’s predictable, weekly routine to be in the God’s house every Sabbath. It was His custom. It was His habitual practice. Luke does not say that Jesus went only when He felt like it . . . only when His schedule permitted it . . . only when He was not so tired from the previous week . . . only when everything at the Synagogue worship service was to His liking. No. He just went. That is what this phrase means. It was His custom. He went because He wanted to and needed to. Our Lord’s worship behavior is to be mirrored in His followers. There is rich, spiritual benefit to us and to our families when we predetermine to be in God’s house every week as a custom, as a predictable behavior, a weekly routine, an expectation, not a question. We are going. A small child asks his parent, “Why are we going?” His dad replied, “Because, son, it is what we do. It is our custom.” And week after week after week, faithful attendance to the exposition of Scripture, participation in the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the singing of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs produces a man or woman in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. What a powerfully concise statement is this, “As His custom was.”
Jesus enters the synagogue on the Sabbath and stands up to read. It was His turn to preach, to provide an exposition of a text. Verse 17 tells us He is handed the book of Isaiah. This would have been a scroll at this point in history. He is familiar with this Old Testament scroll and He un-rolls it to the point we know as Isaiah 61. And He reads in verse 18-20, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, and the blind, and to set at liberty those who are captive. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, (that is, ‘the season of our Lord’s favor.’” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.” Why? Because now He was going to provide the exposition. He was going to give the meaning and application of this text. And Luke gives us the opening words of His sermon, verse 21, “And He began to say—in other words, He said more than what Luke records here—He began to say, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Of course, He said more than this as verse 22 says, “All bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.” Luke provides a summary of our Lord’s exposition of the text. It may be summed up with, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words,Jesus is declaring, “I am He. I am the Good News. I am the One who is Good News to the poor, who gives sight to the blind, who sets the captive free. Today this Scripture is fulfilled in Me.”
Jesus Christ is Good News to the poor, both economically and spiritually poor. In fact, what we see in Luke’s Gospel is the frequent comparing and contrasting of the rich and poor to show those who are most aware of their personal need for the Gospel. In the Bible . . .
We see what we also know to be true
By experience that those who are poor
Are usually in the best position to see
Their personal need for the Gospel
While those who are rich are typically
Less likely to see their personal
Need for the Gospel.
The economically poor are typically
Most sensitive to their spiritual poverty.
For example . . .
- In Luke 13, Luke records the parable of the rich fool, a self-sufficient man who is totally blinded to his need for spiritual riches.
- In Luke 15, we read of the prodigal son, a young man who went from riches to poverty and was then in a position to see his spiritual need.
- In Luke 16, it is the rich man who fails to see his need for the Gospel and dies and goes to hell while the poor man, Lazarus, acknowledges his spiritual poverty and was therefore reclining upon Abraham’s bosom in heaven. In Luke 18, it is the rich young ruler who walks away from Jesus sorrowful because his money was more important to him than his salvation.
- In Luke 21, it is the poor widow who, in putting into the temple treasury two small copper coins, gives more than all the rich people put together. Why? Because she, in her economic poverty, had been set free from her spiritual poverty.
It is not that the poor are more spiritual than the rich or that having riches is somehow intrinsically evil. That is not the point. The point is the truth captured by evangelist Billy Sunday when he said, “The fellow that has no money is poor, but the fellow who has nothing but money is poorer still.”
In Luke 19, Luke presents Zacchaeus who was rich. He had plenty of money. But by God’s grace His eyes were opened to his spiritual poverty. He had been blind to his need for the Gospel, but now He could see. By God’s grace His eyes were opened to the fact that his money had held him strongly in its grip. He was captive to it. But now Jesus had set him free from bondage. Now Zacchaeus says, “Look, I am ready to part with this money because I now know true riches.” He saw his personal need for the Gospel.
We, too, must see ourselves among the poor, the blind, and the captive. We must see ourselves this way if we are to be saved. Doing so requires humility. One of the unfortunate truths about the so-called religious people in the New Testament is that they are the least aware of their need for the Gospel. They are offended at the very idea that they need to repent and come to Christ.
The religious people in the New Testament are very much like religious people today. They thank God that they are not poor, blind, and captive! They are a good people. They have been raised properly. They are morally upright. They a decent job and contribute positively to society. They love preaching because it makes them feel good about themselves. They are glad that Jesus came to speak gracious words to all those common, dirty, less religious people who need to hear them. But they do not realize the condition that they are in.
In a moment Jesus shows that this idea of the Gospel is far from right. He very directly says that they really do not know what they are talking about.
The Gospel is not for those
Who think they are healthy,
It is for those
Who know they are sick.
The Gospel is not just for those who see yourselves on the wrong side of the track;, it is for those on the right side of the track too.” This causes the people to quickly change their opinion of Jesus and before you know it they are out to kill Him.
One of the greatest challenges of ministry in America in the 21st Century is . . .
To lead people to understand that
Their goodness, morality, and charity
Neither saves them nor impresses God.
He is not pleased with our boastings of
Our goodness, our uprightness in the
Community, our fine moral examples.
He wants us to see that we are
Poor, wretched, and blind captives.
It is the morally upright, the good people, who are often least likely to see their need for the Gospel. They think they are not as bad as others and certainly are not in bondage! They think they are free. Their thinking is like someone who looks at a mouse whose tail is caught painfully in a trap – he is in bondage, but they are fine. But there another kind of trap that traps an animal inside of box, allowing him a freedom with limitations, the freedom to breathe and move about? But he still is trapped, isn’t he? Such is the nature of man. We do not even realize it, but we are captive. We move about as though we will live on this planet forever, but we are blind to the fact that our freedom is a freedom with limitations. We freely breathe and move about, but judgment is coming. We will die and we will stand before our Creator. And . . .
He will not be pleased if we begin to boast
About how good a person we were.
He will not be pleased with our wasting
Our lives on worldly pursuits and selfish gain.
He will be pleased only with whether we have
Bowed humbly before the Lord Jesus Christ,
Having received Him as Lord and Savior and
Having lived our lives wholly dedicated to the Kingdom.
We must acknowledge our personal need for the Gospel.
The other response this text requires from us is that . . .
II. We Must Acknowledge The Global Need For The Gospel.
Jesus has just heard the crowd in the synagogue say, “What gracious words proceed out of His mouth! Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?” And perhaps that last question is framed in the negative as if to say, “Wait a minute! How can this carpenter be the Christ? Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Jesus knows what they are thinking, and He certainly knows how they will ultimately respond to His being the Messiah. He says in verse 23, “You will surely quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” The crowd believes they know who He really is, just a local boy of Joseph’s! If He is the Messiah, they want Him to prove it by performing some supernatural signs. Jesus answers this proverb with another in verse 24, “No prophet is accepted in His own country.”
He says this because He knows the people in His own country will reject Him just as they rejected the prophets of the Old Testament. And in verses 25-27, Jesus illustrates how the prophets Elijah and Elisha were better received outside Israel. They were not received as well among their own people, “inside the beltway,” as it were. Their ministries were better received outside Israel, not among the Jews, but among the Gentiles. Jesus reminds them in theses verses that God sent Elijah not to a Jewish widow, but a Gentile widow in the region of Sidon (Phoenicia). God sent Elisha not to a Jewish leper, but a Gentile leper needing cleansing, Naaman the Syrian.
When these Jews hear that the Gospel, the Good News, is not what they thought it was, Good News for “good people,” religiously favored people, elite people, but Good News for common, dirty, Gentiles, too, well – you know how this ends! Verses 28-29 tell us, “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.” They sought to kill Him! But it was not yet His time, so verse 30 says, “Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” No sooner than Jesus begins His earthly ministry do we see the shadow of the cross immediately appearing and growing larger and larger with each passing day, darkening His path until He arrives in Jerusalem three years later and is sentenced to death.
Isn’t it striking how the people move from “Good preaching, Jesus!” to, “We want to kill You, Jesus!?”
They liked the preaching
So long as it did not
Require a personal change
On their part.
They liked the preaching
So long as it did not
It is not enough to say to the minister after the sermon, “Good preaching! I enjoyed the message today!” We must respond to the preaching by repenting, by turning to God in response to the message.
J. C. Ryle says, “Let us often examine ourselves on this important point. Let us see what practical effect is produced in our hearts and lives by the preaching which we profess to like. Does it lead us to true repentance towards God, and lively faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ? Does it (lead) us to weekly efforts to cease from sin, and to resist the devil? These are the fruits which sermons ought to produce if they are really doing us good. Without such fruit, a mere barren admiration is utterly worthless. It is no proof of grace. It will not save the soul.”
The people of Nazareth reject the Good News, so Jesus takes the Good News elsewhere. And as He goes . . .
He teaches them that the Good News
Is not at all what they think it is.
The Jews think it is something they
Personally do not need because
They believe they are morally upright people.
They have missed the point that the Messiah
Has come not to deliver the Jews
From their Gentile oppressors,
But that the Messiah had come
To create one new “people of God,”
A people consisting of both Jew and Gentile.
And when the people hear about the Gentiles coming into the kingdom it makes them angry.
This passage is a bit like the one in Matthew 8 where Jesus is talking to the Roman centurion who asks Him to come and heal his servant. In verses 11 and 12, Jesus says to the crowd, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus says, “Many will come from east and west.” Many will come from Egypt, Greece, Lybia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and Indonesia. He is redeeming a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue. Those who thought they were the exclusive recipients of the Good News were “cast out into outer darkness.” We must acknowledge . . .
Not only our personal need for the Gospel,
But we must acknowledge
The global need for the Gospel.
Jesus rebukes their ethnocentric ways of thinking. He rebukes them for their racial prejudice, for thinking that their own people were somehow more favorably disposed than all the other nations of the earth.
Do you think this way? Do you resent taking the Gospel to the nations? Do you look at all the people in Iran or Afghanistan as people less worthy to hear the Gospel, people who don’t really deserve the Gospel? Do you hear the Word of God convicting your heart, exposing your feelings of religious superiority? May God have mercy on us and lead us to acknowledge our personal need for the Gospel and the global need for the Gospel.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”