Sermon on Luke 4:14-21
It was a humid summer day in August of 2002, and the heat was rising outside and inside my soul. I had been held captive to drugs and alcohol for about eight years, I was what’s known as a functional alcoholic and smoking marijuana on a daily basis; it was only thru the power of the Spirit I was able to be set free. The words of this passage are powerful and poignant to me. Freedom is a great and wonderful thing and not to be taken lightly.
Luke’s work was written to a specific audience Theopolus (which means lover of God), he emphasizes that what he is writing is from evidence and people who were witnesses.
All of Scripture is about Jesus and this passage is no different. What can be considered one of the major focuses is what the Spirit does throughout these verses.
This passage of Scripture takes place after the temptation of Jesus near the Jordan. Verse 14 states that Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity. This verse in one of many where Luke will emphasize the work of the Spirit between the Gospel and the Book of Acts. Just as he was driven to the wilderness by the Spirit he is doing the work of God by the same power. It speaks about “news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity or region.”
Verse 15 says he was teaching in their synagogues being praised by everyone. I have heard it said, “Don’t let their praise go to your head, and their rejection go to your heart!” Scripture is silent about how Jesus responded to their praise. One thing that is interesting is Jesus was going about to their synagogues teaching. He wasn’t showing off he was teaching them the word and they chose to praise him. Some versions say being glorified instead of praised. Either way the sense of the Greek word is to have glory bestowed upon him.
A question that comes to mind is what are things you regularly do? Is going to church one of them? Having Christian conversations? I ask these questions because of verse 16. He returned to his hometown, Nazareth, AS USUAL was his CUSTOM he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read. The Greek word eiotha has the sense of a habitual practice of long standing look to Matthew 27:15 for another example of the use of this Greek word. These words give us reason to believe that this was not Jesus’ first time going to the synagogue and reading. We know from verse 15 that he was going to other places and teaching in their synagogues. It was customary for a young man to read from the Scriptures during the time at synagogue, they would stand to read a portion from the Pentateuch and someone else would read a section from the Prophets. On this day Jesus, would read from Isaiah 61, and Isa. 58.
Verse 17 is clear in telling us that the scroll of Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll he found where it was written: ….
Scripture tells us he found the place where it was written which leads me to think he know this scroll extremely well. There are some who argue that he may not have had to search for the text because the attendant on hand at the synagogue had already picked out the text he was going to read from. I tend to be of the thought of the first camp that Jesus was so well acquainted with the text he was able to find this portion with minimal trouble. How well do we know our Bible? Do we have verses or portions of Scripture committed memory? I like to think most Christians can recite John 3:16. But what other Scriptures can be repeated from memory?
Jesus starts verse 18’s reading: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. As Luke, has been doing throughout the chapter starting at verse one he has been showing how the Spirit has been at work in the life of Christ, from the Spirits descending at the baptism of Christ to the driving or leading out in to the wilderness. Something we have to remember is that as Luke rightly says the Spirit is not an IT, however but a HE.
When we read these words, it is easy to pass over them and to miss the meaning behind them. To anoint someone was to say they were to be installed into a particular office, such as the OT anointing of David as king over Israel. Jesus was telling his audience he was being prepared for a specific office and work. That work started with him preaching the good news or as we say the Gospel. He preached the Gospel to the poor, not just those without money but poor in spirit. They tended to be the most receptive to what Jesus had to proclaim. What exactly is this Gospel or good news? Paul tells us is 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
He (being the Spirit) has sent me, given me a mission to complete which includes proclaim release (freedom) to the captive (or prisoner). According to scholars this is to be understood metaphorically. And through the use of other Scriptures like those of Paul we would he is a prisoner for the Gospel. Jesus goes on to say recovery of sight to the blind Robert Stein in his commentary on Luke, “
This may be a reference to the blind that Jesus healed. Only one specific example is given in Luke (18:35–43), but others are clearly referred to in 7:21–22. There is another sense, however, in which “blind” refers metaphorically to those who are “spiritually blind.” It is my understanding that both ways of reference to those Christ has healed and to the spiritually blind are most likely the one in our time to receive their sight. That is not to say that Jesus cannot give sight to the blind or heal any other infirmities that ail us. By taking a look at Matthew 15:29-31 we see Jesus doing the great work of healing the many.
In the next part of the verse he says to set free the oppressed, the sentiment that is taking place here is similar to that which was spoken of earlier. It may very well be for dramatic effect restating the freedom that comes from the Gospel.
Verse 19 says, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This just might be a reference to the Jewish year of Jubilee. When debts were cancelled, land was restored to families and slaves were set free. What does the year of the Lord’s favor look like in your life?
According to verse 20 Christ rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the person in charge of the service and sat down. This was customary for any Jewish teacher to read from the Scripture standing up and then to sit down and teach. This is much different then todays style of church.
In verse 21 he starts his teaching with an extremely bold statement, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
At this moment in your hearing this Scripture has been fulfilled. It has the sense of to be satisfied concerning the requirements or expectations of a contract or promise. This way Christ was proclaiming himself to be God and having to power to bring all of these things to fruition.
There has been so much said in this sermon but my greatest hope is you see Jesus as more than merely a good man, but as the sent one of God empowered by the Spirit. He did not let the accolades of some make him feel greater than even though he was. May you come to know him as he proclaimed himself to be.