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Epiphany Sermons

Epiphany 3

Text: Luke 4:16-30

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Beginning His ministry at His Baptism, we find Jesus at Cana where He performs His first miracle. Today, Luke puts Jesus in Nazareth, “where he had been brought up.”So what is Jesus doing here? “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day…”So it looks like Jesus is going to attend the local divine service. Quite fitting, especially since it is the Sabbath and where else would we expect to find Jesus except in His Father’s house? But what Jesus does there is a bit unexpected: “and he stood up to read.”But what Jesus read from the Scriptures wasn’t just any text. He read from Isaiah, namely, the following: “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”These words from Isaiah 61 are good words to hear, as they echo what Isaiah had come to do: deliver the message of God to His people and to proclaim the love and favor of God unto the people. But is there another side to these words that Jesus quotes?

We can’t forget who Jesus is and why He is here, and I don’t mean here in the Synagogue. We can’t forget why Jesus has come. He is the long-promised and long-awaited Messiah. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. The Spirit of the Lord is indeed upon Him, for He is the Lord. He has been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor. And just who are the poor? You are the poor. It doesn’t mean poor with regards to your wealth, but poor with regards to your salvation. You are spiritually poor; even worse, you are spiritually bankrupt. You have no salvation apart from Jesus. You are and have nothing without Jesus. That is why He has come, why He has come for you.

But being spiritually poor is not the only thing you have to deal with. You have to deal with your captivity, and yes, you are captive. You are captive to your sin, held hostage by all the times you have failed to keep God’s Word, held hostage by your lack of confession and repentance for all those sins you committed that you don’t think really are sins. That captivity keeps you from God and all that God desires to give you.

Everything that Isaiah has recorded, everything that Jesus reads, is indeed true. But there is even more to what Jesus has to say: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”It is true, all that Jesus has said has been fulfilled in Him. All seems right with the world according to the people: “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”

It’s a miracle! The people get Jesus! They understand what He is trying to tell them! And now, the next three years of Jesus’ ministry will be easy as pie, with no questioning or resistance to His message. You might think that given the people’s response, but Luke records that the people ruin it: ”Is not this Joseph’s son?”

With a simple breath, the people have gone from hearing the words of Jesus and seeing the truth in them and maybe even getting a clue of who Jesus is to seeing Him as nothing more than a carpenter’s son.

What can you expect? These are sinful people that we’re talking about. They can only grasp what they understand, and if they don’t understand it, then it must not be true; hence why Jesus is nothing more than Joseph’s son. But we are no different than the people of Jesus’ day. We too fail to grasp who Jesus truly is. Even though we have the Scriptures in plain view with a plain understanding, we don’t acknowledge Jesus for who He truly is. But then again, they had the Scriptures, the prophecies and God’s promise to inform them of who Jesus was and they failed to do so.

Jesus, the hometown boy returns to church as a guest, and He claims that Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah is now come true – in the person of Jesus. Jesus not only brings good news to the people, He is the Good News of God for every sinner! It’s just a shame that the people then didn’t hear it and a shame that you and I don’t want to hear it.

Just as quickly as the people were enamored by Jesus, they turn against Him. Luke records, “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up 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.”The people of Nazareth reject the good news that Jesus is the Messiah and with that, everything that comes along with it. The expected response might be for the all to throw up their hands and rejoice in the hometown hero. You can almost see them wringing their hands and licking their chops with greedy anticipation. “Here is the answer to all our problems! Can you believe that this is Joseph’s boy? We really hit the lottery with this one!”Instead, the initial reaction was split. They marveled at the way or manner He spoke of God’s love for them. But then doubt is quickly planted: “Is not this Joseph’s son?”You can almost hear them contradict themselves earlier. Surely Joseph’s son cannot be the Messiah. Eventually, doubt turns into rejection.

Isn’t that just like us? One minute we are in love with Jesus and what He comes bringing and then the next, we’re ready to throw Him out of town and off the cliff. This was the problem with the hometown crowd. This is why Jesus spoke such brutal, attention-getting Law. They were stubborn in their spiritual deafness and blindness. They heard the words of Christ, but they didn’t hear the Word of God. They didn’t listen. That is us to a tee. We hear God’s Word, but we do not listen to it. We hear God’s pronouncement of forgiveness upon us on account of Jesus Christ, but we do not listen to the fact that the forgiveness is by Jesus alone. We want to find that forgiveness in anything but Jesus. But there is no forgiveness in anything or anyone but Jesus.

What does the hometown boy do? Does He leave the people with their desires or something else? He dies. He dies for the people who want to kill Him. The people get what they wanted: Jesus dies. The people should be happy. Everything worked out the way they had wanted it. And you know what? Everything did work out the way it was supposed to. Jesus died. He died for creation. He died to fulfill the Father’s will. And He was successful. He died but did not stay dead. He rose victoriously to again fulfill the Father’s will.

Even after everything that Jesus has done for creation, what is today’s response to the shocking Good News of Jesus Christ? Some reject the Good News to their own damnation. They deny who Jesus is and what He has done. They deny that Jesus is the Messiah, the One who is promised of long ago to bring about salvation for creation. But then you have the other side of the coin as well. God the Holy Spirit creates faith in your heart through the Word of the Good News of Jesus Christ for you. By faith you see Jesus’ mission completed – from Bethlehem to Calvary, from resurrection to ascension for you. By faith you see that all of Scripture points to Jesus for you.

Jesus truly is the fulfillment of God’s promises. He is the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah. All this He gives to us through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith. God has promised all these things to us and today they are fulfilled in our hearing. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

By Rev. Jared Tucher

I'm a Lutheran (LCMS) pastor serving in Gillette, WY.