Messiah Jesus

Luke 4:14-21

Back in 1998 the graduating class of Harvard University heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books on the Bible. Doctor Gomes took no prisoners that day. He began: “You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren’t ready to go. The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women and, (and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis) you know just – how – dumb – you – really – are.”

The senior class cheered in agreement.

“And worse than that,” Doctor Gomes continued, “the world – and your parents in particular – are going to expect that you will be among the brightest and best. But you know that you can no longer fool all the people even some of the time. By noontime today, you will be out of here. By tomorrow you will be history. By Saturday, you will be toast. That’s a fact – no exceptions, no extensions.”

“Nevertheless, there is reason to hope,” Doctor Gomes promised. “The future is God’s gift to you. God will not let you stumble or fall. God has not brought you this far to this place to ABANDON you or leave you here alone and afraid. The God of Israel never stumbles, never sleeps, never goes on sabbatical. Thus, my beloved and bewildered young friends, do not be afraid.”

Today consider, who you listen to.  Who influences your thinking and values.  Where do you get your “truth.”  What version of “truth” do you hold on to.  Another way of saying this is, “who or what is your truth source—the authority that you yield to and allow to shape your inner being and life.

Most of us would like to say that truth source is God and God’s Word.  And while I would like to believe that is true, the reality is most of us listen to and follow sources.

Psalm 19 which we read responsively this morning tells us that God’s voice—language—can be “heard” through nature.  Even though no language or speech is used.  I believe you and I have witnessed that.  The created world of nature fairly well shouts out God’s majestic wonder.  Hymns like, “How Great Thou Art” and so many others are our human attempt to say, yes, God speaks to us through creation.

Over the last couple of weeks we have witnessed Jesus being baptized into our humanity.  As He stepped out of the water of the Jordan River, God spoke and the Holy Spirit descended on Him.  As He stepped out of the Jordan River He was cloaked with our humanity,  bearing our sins on His shoulders.  He took our place under sin so that He could give us His righteousness through His life, death and resurrection.  The Israelites were baptized through the crossing of the Red Sea as they fled from Pharaoh in Egypt.  They again were baptized as they crossed the Jordan into the promised land.  Jesus, symbolically and literally was entering into our human story so that we could enter His new reality.  

He was tested by the devil in the wilderness for forty days.  This is another evidence of His stepping into our role.  The children of Israel were tempted in the desert forty days.  They failed over and over again.  They complained and rebelled against God.  Jesus resisted the devil’s ploys in our place.  We will read that again in a few weeks when we go through the season of Lent.  

Last week we witnessed the turning of water into wine as Jesus’ first miracle reminding us of God’s presence and abundance and desire to give us hope and joy.  

Today in our reading from Luke, Jesus goes to church—Sabbath worship on Saturday.  He’d grown up doing that in Nazareth.  In our text He is back in His home town of Nazareth, in worship, on the Sabbath.  He stands up.  The scroll of Isaiah is handed to Him.  He unrolls it and finds the passage that talks about Messiah’s ministry and call.  He reads it, sits down, and proclaims that He is the fulfillment of this passage.  

Jesus is Messiah.  Messiah is the Hebrew word for “anointed one.”  Christ is the Greek word for Messiah.  Our Gospel reading for today tells us Jesus in anointed by the Holy Spirit to proclaim freedom, liberty, and healing.  Jesus is the answer to our brokenness.  He brings the Year of Jubilee to us.  Every fiftieth year in the Old Testament God’s people would have everything reset back to default.  Debt was forgiven.  Slaves who had sold themselves were set free.  The consequences and bondage of past mistakes were erased.  

Jesus reads this passage from the Prophet Isaiah.  He sits down.  Then says this is happening now in your very presence, as you are listening.  

Jesus is God’s “living Word,” God-in-human flesh.  Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises.  He is Messiah, Christ, the “Anointed One” of God who has come to communicate by word and action God’s true nature and care for us as God’s people.  Amazing, He does this by reading from Isaiah 61 which unpacks what might be called our spiritual Jubilee.  God instructs the Israelites in Leviticus to hit the “reset” button in life every fiftieth year.  Land goes back to the original owner.  Slaves were set free.  Debt was forgiven.  Jesus is telling us that as our Savior and Redeemer, He sets us free and helps us all to start fresh and clean, to start over again.  That is hope.  That is God’s love for us lived out.  That is God’s call to us to follow His truth and let His Word change and shape us in our relationships, values and living.  

Many of you will recognize the name of Eli Wiesel, the renowned Jewish theologian and prolific author. In his book, All Rivers Run To The Sea he tells of his family, living in Hungry during the dark days of the WWII. His family was waiting for their time to come, for the Nazis to arrive at their door and take the to labor camp.

He tells about a peasant woman by the name of Maria. Maria was almost like a member of the family. She was a Christian. During the early years of the war she continued to visit them, but eventually non-Jews were no longer allowed entrance to the ghettos. That did not deter Maria. She found her way through the barbed wire and she came anyway, bringing the Wiesels fruits, vegetables, and cheese.

One day she came knocking at their door. There was a cabin that she had up in the hills. She wanted to take the children, of which Eli was one, and hide them there before the SS came. They decided after much debate to stay together as a family, although they were deeply moved at this gesture. He writes of her:

Dear Maria. If other Christians had acted like her, the trains rolling toward the unknown would have been less crowded. If priests and pastors had raised their voices, if the Vatican had broken its silence, the enemy’s hand would not have been so free. But most thought only of themselves. A Jewish home was barely emptied of its inhabitants before they descended like vultures.

I think of Maria often, with affection and gratitude, he writes, and with wonder as well. This simple, uneducated woman stood taller that the city’s intellectuals, dignitaries and clergy. My father had many acquaintances and even friends in the Christian community, not one of them showed the strength of character of this peasant woman. Of what value was their faith, their education, their social position, if it did not arouse their love. It was a simple and devout Christian woman who saved the town’s honor.

May we hear God’s Word today.  May God’s love in Jesus shape us and change us, so that God can use us in this world for the good of all people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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