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Feb 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 30, 2011

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 the recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
Luke 4:18-19 (read verses 14-30)

INTRO: In this passage Jesus’ ministry is summarized from the outset

Luke is tracking Jesus’ steps
– he’s been baptized, completed his ordeal, and now he’s back in town
– but he’s returned different – “in power”
Almost immediately he becomes a public figure (v. 14)

When Jesus gets to Nazareth, Luke zooms in on the details
– “came,” “entered,” “stood,” “opened,” “found,” “closed,” “handed,” “sat,” “say”
– a cluster of verbs that pack this scene with action
Jesus is like an energy field – going around in “the power of the Spirit”

The words he read in the synagogue explain him, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me . . .”

Reading through the Bible this year, I have been surprised by how little God reveals about himself. He never hands any of the characters a complete reference book regarding himself or anything that even remotely resembles a systematic theology
– theology is the study of a What (e.g., What is God? What are his “nature” and “attributes”?)
– but God reveals himself as Who

God reveals himself:

  1. As Person – not as concept (impersonal)
  2. In relationship – “God of Abraham,” “God of the Hebrews”
  3. In a way that combines events and words – words explain the meaning of the events
    – God’s word is “performative” (Isa. 55:11). It affects or creates history
    – it takes the form of story
    – this is how we come to know others: through their story and through our history with them

Jesus enters history – he enters human experience, in order to be known by us
– if we understand this, we’ll discern what’s happening in this particular story

Verse 23, Jesus admits that he is treating Nazareth differently

Every family develops its own personality
– each person plays a role in their family’s personality
– some people find their role, others are assigned their role

Roles maintain the family’s cohesion and function (or dysfunction)
– if someone wants another’s role or breaks out of theirs, the family resists them and exerts tremendous social pressure to keep them in their place
– in Luke 8: 19-21, Jesus refused to let his family define him. Instead, he redefined “family”

Why did Jesus have to provoke the people gathered in the synagogue in Nazareth?
– it started out so well – the “all”  in verses 20 (eyes on him), 22 (impressed that he spoke so well)
– but then he offended them by bringing up two stories in which God skipped over his people in Israel to assist Gentiles from bordering nations. Then “all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage” (v. 28)

But if he had not upset them, they would have assumed:

  • that they knew him
  • that what they knew about him was good enough

Jesus spells out what his work will be

But there is more to this than his work
– Jesus reveals his work and through his work he reveals himself
– Luke is showing us that this is how we come to know Jesus (i.e., through his work)

A few times Jesus does something that makes people ask, Who is this? (e.g., 7:49; 8:25; etc.)
– he is pushing us toward the same question, which he is also answering for us by introducing us to Jesus

The problem: we begin with our little bit of knowledge and then try to squeeze Jesus into it

V. 22, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
– Jesus’ old neighbors knew that much and they would naturally try to reduce him to that
– but Luke has already shown that particular piece of knowledge to be wrong (3:23)

If the goal is to know Jesus and be in relationship with him today, then the ways we normally study someone in history will not work

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Lk. 10:21-22)

In his hometown, Jesus places himself in the class of prophets
– that is not how his family and former neighbors had perceived him
In effect, Jesus is saying:

You don’t know me. I am not who you think I am; I am more. What you do know does not define me. You do not own me. If you cling to what you think you know, you’ll never understand me.

It may be best for us to say, “I don’t know you,” give up what we think we know about him, and let Jesus reveal himself to us

Jesus reveals the horizon of his vision

We need to take another look at what Jesus says here
– notice who is at the heart of his concern:
v. 18, poor, captives, blind, oppressed
vv. 24-27, widows and lepers

  • these are classes of people (poor, captives, widows, etc.), not individuals
    – we don’t encounter them here as “persons”
  • so what does the fact that they are introduced as classes tell us?
    – that the horizon of Jesus’ vision was filled with outsiders, the poor and the weak members of society

Luke, more than any of the other gospels, brings out Jesus’ concern for outcasts
– no widows or lepers are mentioned in John’s gospel
– one widow is mentioned in Matthew, two in Mark, but six in Luke
Also, we meet many more lepers and sinners in Luke
– Jesus reveals, not who he is in himself as the Son of God, but in relationship with the men and women on his horizon
– this is another way we come to know Jesus; that is, by being among the people on his horizon and watching his interaction with them

There are two things we need to take with us from this:

  1. That we live on Jesus’ horizon
    – when he looks at us, what puts us on his horizon?
    – our brokenness, our need, our weakness. These are not disqualifications!
    Jesus does not connect with us in our finest hour. So let’s be good, but not too good.
    – of course we will put all our effort into being good people, but we will not try to create the impression of being better than we are or act like we already know Jesus perfectly well
    – no one should ever feel we are too good for them!
    Jesus came, not for the righteous, but for sinners (5:32). If I’m not a sinner, then he didn’t come for me
  2. That we put our eyes on the same horizon
    – Luke is going to help us with this. He will shape our thinking and feeling regarding sinners, widows, the poor, and so on

CONC: The people of Nazareth had a past with Jesus

That past prevented them from knowing him – who he was after his baptism and temptation

We do not meet Jesus by going into the past (first century Israel)
– we don’t have a time machine and we can’t travel back in time

We meet Jesus in our present
– how does Jesus enter the here and now?
– by two agents that come into the range of our present experience: The Spirit and the Word
– the Spirit gives life to the Word so that I hear it as coming from God

Both the Spirit and the Word are greater than I am – both outrank me
– to receive the illumination that shines through the Word, I must accept its authority and the authority of the Spirit
– I am not in charge of what happens when I read the Scriptures. Rather, I go to them with a willingness to surrender and obey

Together, the Spirit and the Word produce an effect in me (1 Thes. 1:5-6)
– they create a new life
– they create a new consciousness
And through that new consciousness I meet Jesus and grow in my relationship with him

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