Sermon title: OPEN YOUR EYES OF FAITH TO RECEIVE GOD’S BLESSINGS Luke 4:16-30
Immanuel Baptist Church – February 25, 2018
In the days when our Lord Jesus was ministering here on earth
the Promised Land was under Roman rule.
The Romans divided it into different administrative districts.
Jesus spent most of the first year-or-so of his ministry
in Judea, the area surrounding Jerusalem.
Then he headed north,
and spent most of the next two years in Galilee.
This morning we’ll look at what he did when he arrived there
in Luke chapter 4, and John chapter 4. [ OPEN ]
Galilee was the territory
where Jesus had grown up in the town of Nazareth,
where he worked as a carpenter until the age of 30.
All four Gospels tell about
Jesus’ return to Galilee at this time,
but Luke and John tell us the most
about what happened.
In Luke 4, Verse 14 we read,
14 Jesus returned to Galilee
in the power of the Spirit,
and news about him spread
through the whole countryside.
15 He taught in their synagogues,
and everyone praised him.
When Jesus was in Galilee a year or so earlier
he had turned water into wine.
And since then he had been in Jerusalem,
where he cleansed the Temple and threw out the moneychangers,
and in Judea,
where he taught and made disciples.
So, by the time Jesus returned now to Galilee,
he was famous,
and the Galileans welcomed him.
John Chapter 4 tells us more about this,
beginning in John 4, Verse 43
just after Jesus had spent
two days with the Samaritans:
Beginning at John 4:43,
43 After the two days he left for Galilee.
44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out
that a prophet has no honor in his own country.)
Matthew, Mark and Luke elaborate more on that—
which we’ll see in a moment
when Jesus visits his home town of Nazareth.
But, in the meantime, Verse 45 tells us,
45 When he arrived in Galilee,
the Galileans welcomed him.
They had seen all that he had done
in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast,
for they also had been there.
The Galileans who saw Jesus cleanse the Temple
must have cheered him on—at least in their minds—
since they were among those victimized
by the crooked money-changers
and price-gouging merchants
Jesus threw out of the Temple.
And the Galileans knew Jesus worked miracles, too.
Verse 46 says,
46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee,
where he had turned the water into wine.
And there was a certain royal official
whose son lay sick at Capernaum.
Capernaum was about 10 or 15 miles east of Cana,
on the shore of the Sea of Galilee—
so about 10 or 15 miles from where the man found Jesus.
47 When this man heard
that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and begged him
to come and heal his son,
who was close to death.
But Jesus was apparently
in the middle of addressing the crowds,
because Jesus spoke to people in the plural
when he said in Verse 48,
48 "Unless you people
see miraculous signs and wonders,"
Jesus told him, "you will never believe."
Jesus didn’t direct that to the distraught man
whose son was sick unto death,
but rather to the crowds of onlookers.
He addressed it to “you people” in the plural.
But this man was desperate,
so he interrupted Jesus again to beg for help.
In Verse 49,
49 The royal official said,
"Sir, come down before my child dies."
50 Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
So, the man had enough faith
to believe that Jesus could heal his child from a distance
without accompanying him home to Capernaum.
And his faith was rewarded.
Verse 51 says,
51 While he was still on the way,
his servants met him with the news
that his boy was living.
52 When he inquired as to the time
when his son got better, they said to him,
"The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour."
53 Then the father realized
that this was the exact time
at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed.
54 This was the second miraculous sign
that Jesus performed,
having come from Judea to Galilee.
Jesus didn’t have to accompany the man back to Capernaum.
Our Savior’s almighty power
worked from a distance
to heal that boy.
So, we today don’t need to see Jesus
standing in the room with us
for him to answer our requests and prayers.
His almighty power works from a distance.
But, like that man, we need to exercise faith—
to put our faith in Christ.
The man’s faith was rewarded,
in that Jesus healed his son.
And he received an even greater reward,
in that “he and all his household believed”—
they all became believers.
We today are similarly blessed,
when we open our eyes of faith
and put faith and trust in Jesus
as our Lord and Savior.
But now we’re going to see a contrast
when Jesus visits his home town, Nazareth.
It’s been close to a year since he’s been there.
But it was Jesus habit, his custom,
to attend Sabbath day services at the synagogue,
and that’s what our Lord did on this occasion, too.
Verse 16 says,
16 He went to Nazareth,
where he had been brought up,
and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue,
as was his custom.
And he stood up to read.
17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah
was handed to him.
It was Jesus’ custom
to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath day.
So, he set the example for us,
as to regular church attendance.
And when he was there,
he took his turn
at reading the Scriptures.
That was a regular part of Jewish synagogue services.
They read through the Old Testament Law and the Prophets,
in much the same way
as we are now going through the Christian Gospels
in our responsive readings and sermons.
We don’t know
whether Isaiah was the scheduled reading for that day,
or whether Jesus made a special request
for that scroll.
Today we have the whole Bible in one small-print book.
Back then the different books of the Old Testament
were kept on separate hand-written scrolls,
and the scrolls were kept in a special ark or box.
And when it was time for them to be read,
the reader would stand up,
and the attendant would remove a particular scroll
and hand it to him.
After reading from it, the reader would sit down,
and while seated,
he would teach about what he had just read.
So, Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah the prophet,
and he opened it—by unrolling it—
to Isaiah Chapter 61,
where he read from Isaiah 61, Verses 1 and 2.
Continuing in Luke 4:17, we read
Unrolling it, he found the place
where it is written:
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20 Then he rolled up the scroll,
gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue
were fastened on him,
21 and he began by saying to them,
"Today this scripture
is fulfilled in your hearing."
It was the custom for a rabbi
to stand up and read from the Scriptures,
and then to sit down and teach.
So, that’s what Jesus did.
After reading from Isaiah,
Jesus sat down to teach,
and he began by saying to them,
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The passage Jesus read started out,
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
This passage from Isaiah foretold Jesus’ ministry
as God’s “anointed one” – God’s Messiah.
Jesus was telling them that he was sent by God,
empowered by “the Spirit of the Lord”—
and “anointed” by God.
The words “Messiah” and “Christ”
both mean “Anointed One.”
So, Jesus was telling the people in the synagogue
that he was sent by God
to fulfill this role,
and to do these things.
The prophecy was about good things
that would come upon the Israelites.
It was ‘glad tidings’ or ‘good news.’
Jesus would “preach good news to the poor.”
Our English word “Gospel” means “good news.”
And it was good news—very good news:
“freedom for the prisoners”
“recovery of sight for the blind”
“release the oppressed”
“the year of the Lord's favor.”
The people in the synagogue
appreciated Jesus’ sermon.
Who wouldn’t enjoy hearing good things like that?
Verse 22 says,
22 All spoke well of him
and were amazed at the gracious words
that came from his lips.
But then some began to object.
Verse 22 continues,
"Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked.
Jesus was too ordinary looking, they thought,
to be saying such grand things.
After all, he was just the boy next door.
Matthew and John both mention that Jesus said,
“a prophet has no honor in his own country.”
But Mark and Luke supply more details.
So, let’s jump over to Mark chapter 6,
which is quoted in the Study Guide in our bulletin insert,
under point Number 2.
Mark recorded more
of what the people said,
when they objected to Jesus.
In Mark 6:3,
we read that the crowd
began to grumble among themselves.
“‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What's this wisdom that has been given him,
that he even does miracles!
Isn't this the carpenter?
Isn't this Mary's son
and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?’
And they took offense at him.”
The good news Jesus preached sounded great,
but why should he be the one preaching it?
We have the expression “familiarity breeds contempt,”
and these people held Jesus in contempt
due to their familiarity with him and his family.
Mark Chapter 6 goes on to say in Verse 4,
4 Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown,
among his relatives and in his own house
is a prophet without honor."
5 He could not do any miracles there,
except lay his hands on a few sick people
and heal them.
6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
We can learn from that what not to do.
We may be familiar
with deacons and others in the church
who minister God’s Word among us.
But we should never let that familiarity
lead us to reject God’s message or God’s work.
God works through ordinary-looking things
and ordinary-looking people,
and we shouldn’t let our familiarity with them
blind our eyes of faith.
Even though they are familiar people,
faith enables us to see
that it is God’s message and God’s work.
There’s a humorous story often repeated.
Nobody seems to know the original author of the story.
But it goes like this:
But a man was trapped on his rooftop
during rising flood waters.
He prayed for God to rescue him,
and he imagined that God
would perform some miracle
to accomplish that.
Soon a neighbor came by in a canoe,
and said, “Climb in, and I’ll take you to safety.”
He replied, “No, thanks. I trust that God will rescue me.”
As the flood waters got higher and faster
someone came by in a motorboat
and said, “Quick! Get in! I’ll get us out of here.”
But the man replied,
“Thank you, but I’m expecting God to perform a miracle.”
Finally, as the flood waters reached the peak of his roof
a helicopter let down a basket
and a man shouted from the helicopter door,
“Climb in, and I’ll hoist you to safety.”
But the man simply waved the ‘copter away.
Not long after that,
the water swept him away and he died.
And when he faced God in heaven,
he said, “Why didn’t you rescue me?”
And God replied, “I sent a canoe,
and a motor boat and a helicopter.
What more did you want?”
So, we should remember
that God works through ordinary-looking things
and ordinary-looking people.
We shouldn’t reject God’s help, or advice, or comfort
just because it is coming through
Tom, Dick or Harry here in the church,
instead of through an impressive-looking angel
sent directly from heaven.
1st Thessalonians 5:12 says,
“Dear brothers and sisters,
honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work.
They work hard among you
and give you spiritual guidance.”
But for those people back then in Nazareth,
Jesus had grown up in their town
and had worked there as a carpenter.
He was just too ordinary and familiar
for those people
to accept him for who he was—God’s Messiah.
Even worse, those people
were filled with arrogance, pride, hatred and jealousy.
Jesus knew their minds and their hearts,
so he knew they were jealous
of the miracle he had done,
healing that official’s son in Capernaum.
Jesus could read their minds,
so in Luke 4:23 he told them what they were thinking,
23 Jesus said to them,
"Surely you will quote this proverb to me:
'Physician, heal yourself!
Do here in your hometown
what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' "
Then in Verse 24, Jesus answered
their unspoken accusations against him.
And he gave them a couple of examples
in the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha.
Those prophets lived at a time
when the Jews in Israel were unappreciative,
so God sent those prophets to do their miracles
for Gentile people instead.
Verse 24 says,
24 "I tell you the truth," he continued,
"no prophet is accepted in his hometown.
25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time,
when the sky was shut for three and a half years
and there was a severe famine throughout the land.
26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them,
but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.
27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy
in the time of Elisha the prophet,
yet not one of them was cleansed—
only Naaman the Syrian."
And then Verse 28 adds,
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious
when they heard this.
It was bad enough that the people were jealous
of the miracles Jesus had done
in the neighboring town, Capernaum.
But Jesus compared them to the unfaithful Israelites
in the days of Elijah and Elisha—
who were so unfaithful
that God gave miracles of healing
to their Gentile neighbors,
instead of to them.
The people in Nazareth didn’t like what Jesus said.
At Galatians 4:16 the Apostle Paul said,
“And now have I become your enemy
because I tell you the truth?”
The answer is almost always YES.
That crowd in Nazareth then showed themselves
to be not just lacking faith,
and not just unwilling to hear the truth,
but they showed themselves also to be murderous.
Verse 29 says,
29 They got up, drove him out of the town,
and took him to the brow of the hill
on which the town was built,
in order to throw him down the cliff.
30 But he walked right through the crowd
and went on his way.
Jesus was not harmed,
but those people of Nazareth harmed themselves
by their lack of faith.
We don’t want to be like them.
I ask the Lord every day
to strengthen my faith, and to give me more faith.
And the Lord answers prayers like that.
He knows we need help in that area.
Jesus used to call his disciples, “Ye of little faith.”
Besides asking for more faith,
we can also work along with the Lord
to increase our faith
by prayerfully reading the Bible.
As we open the Word
we can lift up a prayer of thanks,
thanking God for speaking to us through the Bible.
And we can ask him to open our hearts
to receive its message.
Reading the Old Testament as well as New Testament
will help us open our eyes of faith
to receive God’s blessings.