Scripture: Luke 4:14-30
Key verses: (16-21) When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and 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 bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Reflection: Jesus knew how to make an impact when he spoke. He didn’t have a long sermon here. He read scripture that was familiar to all who heard it in the synagogue. It was a passage from Isaiah the prophet, who spoke of the Messiah to come. This one, sent from God, would be chosen, anointed, to upend everything. He read the words of hope aloud. Then he took a pause to roll up the scroll, hand it back, and sit down. With everyone watching and listening, he announced that the day had arrived. His listeners thought it was a pretty good sermon. At least, until he began to say things that sounded like the hoped-for Messiah might have come for people outside of Israel. Then, they were filled with rage and tried to throw him off a cliff.
It was a tough audience! It actually makes me feel better as a preacher. Even Jesus couldn’t please everyone. What words make you uncomfortable from the pulpit? Would the interpretation of a passage like this one from Isaiah—if it sounds like a call for actual policies of freedom from oppression—make you mad? Would it feel like that kind of talk has no place in worship? What about a sermon that shakes up your idea of those whom God loves? Would you ever try to run the preacher out of town if it sounds like, or feels like, a sermon is directed at you? May God give us all ears to hear what we need to hear, even when it is uncomfortable.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see. Help me to hear. Help me to love. In the name of Christ, the Messiah, I pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].