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Home Sermons “ The Jesus I Never Knew.” Luke 4:14-44

“ The Jesus I Never Knew.” Luke 4:14-44

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“ The Jesus I Never Knew.” Luke 4:14-44

Imagine if the commentators and cameras at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton had spent their time focussed on people in the audience – describing how the man who made the wedding cake was dressed; talking about the family background of the woman who helped dress Kate; interviewing William’s kindergarten teacher.

Everyone would have said – this is so wrong. The focus should not be on the guests but on Will and Kate.

But that is exactly what Christians so often do when it comes to reading and teaching the gospels accounts. Even though they are by definition biographies or accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, we often shift the focus wrongly so that it is not on the Jesus people met, but the people Jesus met.

Let me say that another time. The gospel accounts intend us to focus on the Jesus people met, not the people Jesus met. At a practical level this means we should be reading and teaching Luke’s material first and foremost to learn what it tells us about Jesus, and thereby to find encouragement for ourselves.

So, let’s turn to the text and ask: who is the Jesus that people met? It is clear from the verse first paragraph of Luke’s account that his purpose is to focus on the life and ministry of Jesus so that people might be totally confident in the things Jesus said and did.

First, he wants us to see that Jesus comes with supernatural credentials.

In chapters 1 & 2 Luke is at pains to show that Jesus is God come into the world; that Jesus is the Messiah - God’s long-awaited King and Saviour come to fix the mess caused by our rebellion against God. So he emphasises the supernatural context of the birth of Jesus.

And in chapter 3 Luke is at pains to show that Jesus’ focus from the start was salvation:- sin and repentance and bringing people into new relationship with God.

And to reinforce that in practical way Jesus submitted to baptism, which he didn’t need, and in so doing began the process of identifying with his people in their sin, and symbolised that he would take upon himself the sin of the world.

And secondly, Jesus identified with his sinful people in submitting to temptation from Satan. In sharp contrast to Adam and every person since, Jesus holds his own against the deceit and temptations of Satan because he perfectly obeys God’s word.

Then, verses 14 &15, Luke begins a new section of his biography, with Jesus poised to begin his formal teaching ministry. Obviously some time has passed from the actual period of temptation, but this has only added to the reputation of Jesus.

Again Luke emphasises the supernatural character of Jesus. An ordinary person would not survive almost six weeks without food in such an extreme environment. If somehow they did, they would have serious medical issues including loss of mental faculty, would not be able to function normally, and would take months to recover.

But not Jesus. With him it was as though six weeks of starvation and then incredible temptation had not even happened. He was just the same as he was at the start of that terrible time.

He was in the power of the Spirit - and I am assuming that means he was fit and well; focused clearly on his task; and able to teach with clarity and excitement such that he was widely known and very popular as a teacher.

Friends, I am convinced that Luke as he has Jesus poised at the start of his public ministry of salvation, is encouraging us to ask the question: Can anything prevent Jesus from accomplishing his mission?

The answer, clearly and confidently, has to be NO! Jesus will succeed he has all the credentials needed for his mission. He is God’s son; he has the father’s backing; and the Spirit’s power; he is not afraid to identify with his sinful people in their sin; he has shown his mastery of Satan and his ability to do things right when all others before him failed.

2, the Jesus people met came with incredible credentials for the task of spiritual salvation and making all things new (16-22).

At the start of Jesus Ministry, Luke gives pride of place to an incident that Matthew and Mark record much later, presumably because it illustrates the nature and context of Jesus ministry.

One day while in the local synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus was invited to read from the prophet Isaiah, who has already featured many times in Luke’s account of the lead up to the birth of Jesus.

And as was the custom after reading he sat down to follow up with teaching comments on what he had read. Verse 20, you could have heard a pin drop as everybody waited to hear if this local boy was as good as his reputation. It would appear that Jesus did not disappoint them. Verse 22, everybody was impressed with his performance.

And in summary form, what Jesus claimed in the plainest possible way was that he was the living fulfilment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy; the Messiah come to deliver the promised salvation to God’s people symbolically described as spiritually bankrupt, captive to sin and Satan, and stumbling around in darkness and helplessness.

This is radical stuff. Jesus goes back to the past to spell out the future. Jesus is not just promising salvation as others, like Isaiah before him had done. Jesus is clear that he has brought salvation to God’s people in himself and by his own words.

Jesus is telling everyone what he has come to do, who he has come to save and what salvation will mean - a new life free from debt and judgment, free from accusing guilt of sin, and new relationship, vision, hope and direction.

Jesus is correcting what the Jews understanding of the role of Messiah. His salvation would be spiritual and on the inside; his victories would not be won over worldly enemies, but over sin; his redemption was not from the power of the Roman Empire, but from the power of Satan and sin and the world.

3. Both the message and the messenger would be rejected by many (22-30). Jesus knew that the people were impressed by his performance, and impressed by talk of God’s salvation, but would not accept that it could come through Jesus.

They could only see Jesus as the local boy, no different from the rest of them. Jesus knows, verse 23, that had already rejected his words, and were hanging out for Jesus to prove his reputation by doing a couple of miracles like they had heard he performed at Capernaum.

So, verse 24-30 Jesus warns them all that the message and the messenger go together. God’s salvation has arrived is the message and I am that salvation. Jesus warns them that to turn their back on Jesus is to turn their back on salvation.

Jesus warns them that if their prejudice is not dealt with they will see a repeat of history when God actually bypasses his own people and brings salvation to the gentiles. In other words Jesus intends to be the saviour of the whole world whether they want to be part of that salvation, and the new kingdom of saved people or not.

That, verses 28-30, caused such a hostile, angry response, they immediately as a unit determined to kill Jesus. They had formed their conclusion about Jesus. And it appears that Jesus formed his conclusion about them. As far as is known, Jesus left Nazareth and never returned, perhaps symbolising that in rejecting Jesus the opportunity for salvation was lost.

Amazingly, the Jesus we meet at the start of his ministry knows only too well that his great message of salvation, so desperately needed, will spread across the world in the context of rejection and suffering. The plain words of Jesus will easily produce extreme hatred, terrible anger, and criminal violence.

4. But Jesus just gets on with his mission of salvation (31-44). Luke wants us to understand that Jesus was not the least perturbed by his rejection at Nazareth. His rejection does not mean defeat as we would assume.

Rather we see Jesus getting on with the very thing he spoke of from Isaiah. Verses 31-32, in contrast to those in Nazareth, these people seem to have genuine interest in Jesus and seem to be genuinely moved by his teaching.

Verses 33-37 he sets free a man in spiritual bankruptcy, bondage and helplessness. Here was a man who was in the centre of Jewish religion, yet there was no real help for his terrible state. Jesus liberates him from his spiritual ailment.

What’s more the evil spirits recognise and acknowledge what the Jews of Nazareth refused to recognise, that Jesus is God and Messiah.

People were amazed. This man Jesus controls the spirit world, something only God would be expected to do. And while they couldn’t fully understand what this meant, they were drawn to Jesus’ power and the restored life that Jesus delivered.

Verses 38-41 Jesus liberates from their bodily illnesses and ailments any who came to him trusting that he could save them or deliver them. Again the context is so clear in verse 40. It was the end of the Sabbath. In other words, after the Jewish holy day ended all the people who the Jewish religion was unable to help came to Jesus for salvation and renewal.

Verses 42-44 Jesus is clear that he must declare his message far and wide, to all peoples. What message – the kingdom of God. That is, that Jesus has come to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, verse 19. Salvation is Jesus putting God’s people back into God’s place in new relationship with him.

The actions of Jesus are so clear. At the start of his public ministry he declares that God’s rule, God’s kingdom s and salvation have arrived in him and his word.

And in spite of rejection by some, the clear effect of God’s rule in Jesus is seen immediately and dramatically as desperate people are renewed, with the prospect that many others will likewise be renewed as the message of Jesus continues to be proclaimed.

Friends the only application we need to see in these verses is to see Jesus as Luke wants us to see him. This is the Jesus people met!

The Jesus who will not allow anything or anyone prevent the success of his mission in 2011, now carried out through you and me as his ambassadors, any more than when he first began his ministry of salvation?

The Jesus who offers salvation to desperate people in 2011 – family friends and workmates - just as desperate and needy as they were in Jesus day. People are spiritually bankrupt, in bondage to the very things in their lives they think will give freedom; lost and helpless in this world not knowing which way to go or where to get help.

So, are we convinced that the words of Jesus are just what they need and are we determined to speak those words knowing that they will often be rejected out of hand and generate hostility, rejection and even violence?

We all long to be popular and accepted by friends, family and workmates. But the reality is that identification with Jesus and the gospel will often bring the same hostility to us that Jesus experienced.

In that situation is Jesus enough? Is his approval enough to make you stand true? Is concern for the plight of those people who reject you enough to encourage you to keep on trying to get them to listen to the gospel?

The Jesus who is not satisfied simply that people know about him. Many in Jesus own day knew that, but still rejected him as saviour. You need to know him personally as the one who can deal with your bankruptcy of heart, and free you from your instinctive desire to rebel against God, and the one who gives you new life and light and direction.

The fact that you are here this morning means that you have at least some sort of temporary admiration or tolerance of the message of Jesus, but that is not salvation. Real salvation is a deep change of heart and attitude as you recognise you rebellion and your own helplessness to deal with it, and a turning to Jesus to restore you to relationship with God.

The Jesus people met back then is the Jesus who cannot be ignored today. What will he be to you – your generous saviour or your just judge?

David Calderwood

 

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