Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Daily Reading: Luke 4v14-30 'The Problem with Miracles.'

Mr Brown never really had one and Mr Cameron’s was short lived. What is it?  It is the honeymoon period, when someone is new to office and they are well thought of, when everything they do seems good, or at least they are given the benefit of the doubt if people are not so sure about it.  Look at (14-15) and Luke seems to be suggesting that Jesus experienced something similar. There is probably a year in between (13) and (14) during which Jesus is active in Capernaum, changing water into wine at the wedding and so on, and his fame has been spreading. And (15) everyone thinks he is great, as he teaches in the synagogues he is praised for his teaching. But here the honeymoon period ends and the conflict that will characterise the rest of Jesus ministry begins. And the surprise, the shock, is that it is not with the tabloid media, with the Romans or the sinful but with the religious.

We’re going to focus as Luke does on Jesus teaching. This is a summary of what the one who is God’s perfect Son, the Saviour and long promised Messiah taught. Luke also gives us the people’s reactions to it too.

1. The Promise of freedom

As the scroll is handed to Jesus and he reads from Isaiah 61 and then sits down ready to teach what do you notice about the audience? “The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.” There is no-one counting the number of roof tiles in the ceiling, no one sucking mint imperials, or mentally replaying the goal they scored, or should have done, on Friday. They are on the edge of their seats, they are expectant, and they are eagerly awaiting his teaching. And the question is why?

I’m sure it had something to do with his reputation, but it is also because of what was read to them. Now when we read it we just think it’s an Old Testament quotation. If our Bible has footnotes we may look and think ‘it’s from Isaiah, that’s interesting.’ But these people had been waiting hundreds of years for this promise to be fulfilled. They were a frustrated people.

They were back in the land after the exile, but actually the return had been a disappointment, things hadn’t really changed. They are still under occupation, just now its the Romans not the Babylonians or Medes, and even the new temple is a bit of a disappointment and they are very religious but it doesn’t seem to match up to the promises that were made. They are back in the land but they are still just as far from God, the promise of Jeremiah of a new covenant, of each knowing God has not been realised. That’s why when we met Anna and Simeon in ch2 even though they are in the temple they are still waiting for the consolation of Israel (25), the redemption of Jerusalem (38). It’s only when they see Jesus that they recognise the waiting is over.

And now Jesus reads this passage from Isaiah 61. It is a passage loaded with expectation and hope, dripping with the promise of deliverance and freedom, recovery and healing all associated with the coming of the Servant of the Lord. (18-19) Which promises freedom in place of imprisonment, sight in place of blindness, release in place of oppression and favourable relationship with God in place of judgement.

That’s why as he sits down everyone is holding their breath, what will he say? (20)

(21) “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Now that is an outrageous statement. Do you see what he is saying? I am the Servant of the Lord and I have come to do all these things. And it is not just a wild claim, look at (14) what does it tell us about Jesus? The Spirit of the Lord is on him, look ahead to the next few chapters and what is he doing; he frees the man imprisoned by a demon, those who are sick are healed, look at 5:27-32 Jesus deals with the outcasts and spiritually bereft and oppressed, blind and imprisoned and frees them.

Last week we looked at the temptations that clearly showed Jesus was God’s Perfect Son on God’s mission and here he is engaged in that mission full of the Spirit. He comes to bring freedom, to proclaim God’s Jubilee – when all debts are cancelled and slaves are freed.  It is a picture of exactly where we are. I guess that is quite an offensive statement, am I really saying we need to be given sight, to be freed?

Do you want to know if you are free, then ask yourself why you do what you do? In the Rocky film his wife asks him why he is going into the ring and he says “I just want to go the distance, then I’ll know I’m not a bum.” In other words he has to prove it to himself. He is a slave to others and his own perception and expectations. Actually that is all of us – we are not free, we are slaves to what others expect of us or what we expect of ourselves. We are not free, but Jesus comes to free us if we will listen to him.

2. The Consequences of Rejection

How do the people respond?  (22-3) They’re impressed with what Jesus says and how he says it. But will not accept his claims and their rejection is seen in the phrase “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” In other words how can he be the Messiah. They have heard the most wonderful news, news they have been waiting hundreds of year to hear but will not accept it. He comes to bring them freedom but they won’t listen.

(23) Jesus knows that they don’t believe and that they want proof, they want to see a miracle. It is one of the lessons the gospels repeat miracles don’t result in faith, miracles don’t save. And here Jesus issues a warning to the religious, to the complacent that it is who he is and his words that matter.

Jesus gives 2 examples of prophets that God sends out to Gentiles in a time of need. Why are they sent to Gentiles? Because Israel wouldn’t accept them and God’s message through them. Jesus is saying that he has come to be the saviour not just of the Jews but of the Gentiles.

But there is also a warning to the religious if they will not accept who he is others will, just turn on a couple of pages to ch 7 and you see it – he goes to a Roman Centurion who has faith.

Jesus is not meek and mild. Jesus is a radical, he stands in the synagogue and declares I am the Messiah and then says this message is for the whole world and you need to listen or else.

But they will not admit who he is and do you notice their reaction?  (28-30) They recognise Jesus the radical, they understand that having heard his words you can’t sit on the fence, either you accept who he is or you reject him, they are outraged and offended by what Jesus says. They want rid of him take him up to the cliff. But their rejection has consequences (30-1) he leaves Nazareth.

But actually that isn’t the only warning because there is warning in the reading. Jesus doesn’t fully quote Isaiah 61, he actually stops half way through.

“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn.” 

Do you see?  Why? Because when he came he came to bring freedom to those who will trust in him but also to warn of the need to respond because when he comes again judgement comes with him. Jesus offers freedom, he offers relationship with God, but actually it will be followed by judgement.

The big question is will I accept who Jesus is and follow him, put my trust in him? Don’t presume on privilege if you hear it week by week, because the danger is religion or familiarity will inoculate you to the freedom Jesus brings.  Maybe you have put your trust in him this morning but actually as you read this passage you find yourself thinking I know I am free in Jesus but I still struggle with my sin, I still find myself at times bound by what others think or my own expectations. This promise doesn’t seem to be fulfilled in my life what does that say about me?

Jesus came and he proclaimed good news, he brought freedom for us because he died for us, sin is no longer our master we are free, once and for all. But Isaiah goes on to talk of the new heavens and the new earth where that freedom will be fully realised. We are free here but we are freedom fighters battling to live in the light of what we know; that Jesus has freed us, but the day will come when we will experience unhindered freedom, when we will know God and his favour fully.

The challenge is to work out what it means to live free, we are not saved by our efforts but by Christ’s death, we are freed to live for him, not bound by others expectations or our own, but not bound by religion either. But such freedom by grace must change the way we live.

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