Friday, May 20, 2005

The Unaccepted Acceptable Year

Jesus' Inaugural Fiasco

Luke 4:14-30
And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. (NASB, Lockman Foundation)

Here in Luke 4 Jesus makes His inaugural address. Jesus had been baptized and was already known for a few miracles. Now Jesus walks into a Nazareth synagogue and proclaims His message and the theme of His ministry. However twelve verses after we see Jesus going into the synagogue (vs. 16) we see the people trying to kill Him (vs. 28, 29). Just what did this carpenter-turned-rabbi say that had these Galileans in such a rage? What He said was this: “I come today, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, to reach out to the poor, set free the captive, heal the sick, and stand up for the oppressed. I am not come for you, who have it all together; I am come for those who are in need.”

The passage Jesus read was from Isaiah 61:1, 2 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,” (NASB, Lockman Foundation)

You will quickly note that Jesus ended with the proclamation of the favorable year of the LORD. He said that it was this prophecy that was being fulfilled, while leaving out the proclamation of the day of God’s vengeance. This is because Jesus didn’t come to show the wrath of God; he came to show us God’s love and favor.

I sometimes wonder if Jesus would get the same reaction from the Christians today that He received from these religious Galileans He grew up knowing. We are so convinced that God is blessing our big businesses and justice system that we fail to consider the individual. We only see the poor in terms numbers. We say we care and then convince ourselves by a sizable donation to charity. But do we really care? Would we be willing to go to the needy in foreign countries and personally show them God’s love in the tradition of the Teacher? Would Christian physicians who are so sure that they healing the sick for Christ be willing to take their abilities to those who cannot pay?

Jesus clearly tells us that He didn’t come for the religious, the rich, the satisfied, the proud, and those who have a comfortable standard of living. He came for the needy, the poor, the defenseless, the meek, the seeking, and the despised. Jesus’ ministry was to the downtrodden and outcast. Yet modern Christianity doesn’t really identify with these people. Western Christians are content in their cushioned offices, heated mansions, and their positions in business, law, and government. Where is the vision of the Master?

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