Today…in your hearing

Third Sunday after Epiphany / January 27, 2019 / Deacon Rex Watt

Neh 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 / Psalm 19:(1-6) 7-14 /

1 Cor 12:12-31a / Lk 4:16-30



+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Dear Saints of Redeemer, isn’t it exciting when a celebrity comes to town?  It’s even more exciting if the celebrity is a product of your own hometown.  We have some celebrities that our communities can lay claim to:  Jake Locker of Ferndale, who was starting QB for the UW for four years, and spent four years as QB for the Tennessee Titans; Hillary Swank, a graduate of Sehome HS who is an academy award winning actress; Doug Pederson, a Ferndale HS grad who went on to a multi-year NFL career, most recently as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, winning the Super Bowl just last year; and Stephen S. Oswald, a 1969 graduate of Bellingham HS who went on to the US Naval Academy pursuing a career as a naval aviator/test pilot, and eventually became a NASA astronaut with three space shuttle missions and 33 days in space to his credit.   If any of these celebrities showed up at our church services, we’d beam with pride.  Home boy/home girl made it good.  If we knew they were coming, we’d invite friends and relatives to come and see and get in on the excitement.

In our Gospel lesson for today the synagogue in Nazareth was beaming with pride.  As Luke tells the story, Jesus had returned from His temptation and been going about Galilee teaching in their synagogues, being glorified by all.  Mark gives us more details of the events leading up to our reading today, outlining several healings and miracles prior to His return to His hometown Nazareth.  But today is special!  It’s the Sabbath and Jesus has returned home.

“And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”  Jesus went to church regularly.  He was obedient to the Third Commandment.  This would have been his home synagogue, where he grew up, where He went to synagogue school with the other boys in town, and where He would have heard, studied and learned by heart the Scriptures.  But this Sabbath day was different from others.  Jesus didn’t come to the Nazareth synagogue because he was “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph” (Lk3.23), to be a hearer of the Word; he was there as a teacher of the Word, a rabbi, a guest preacher in his home congregation.

The people of Nazareth had never seen this side of Jesus before.  They had never heard him speak in the synagogue.  Synagogues operated without professional clergy.  Elected presidents or rulers of the synagogue would select a man to read the Scripture and expound upon it, prompting a general discussion.  Visiting rabbis were prime choices for this privilege, so Jesus was invited to read and teach.  This would be a new experience for Jesus, and the people of Nazareth, for although Jesus grew up in their midst, he had never read publicly the Scriptures nor offered his comments, since the custom was that until a man reached 30, it was required that he be a hearer; to listen to his elders.  Jesus, having now attained that age, was invited to read.  “And he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’” (vv 16-19).

“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” (v 20)

Then came the sermon.  It was not a lecture on theology; a list of ten steps to a better you; or even a rally for some social issue.  It was simple, profound.  “Today,” Jesus said, “this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (v 21)  “What Isaiah wrote,” Jesus says, “is about me!”  It’s as if the words of the prophet walked right off the pages of Scripture and stood right in front of them.  And actually, that is exactly what happened.  Jesus, the Word who was in the beginning, who was with God and who was God, who became flesh was coming to his own, and just like the Apostle John wrote, “…his own people did not receive him.” (Jn 1.11)

The people of Nazareth couldn’t believe their ears.  “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (v 22) they asked?  No, not really.  He’s “the Son of God” (Lk 1.35) conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  He is, as Isaiah wrote, and Jesus just declared, the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, we don’t have to wait for some celebrity to come to our church.  The celebrity of celebrities is here.  This Jesus, your Jesus, the Word in human flesh, the Word that’s living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, is present here, as he was in Nazareth, to deliver the Good News of salvation to you who are poor and needy; to proclaim liberty to you who are in debt with sin; to give sight to you who walk in darkness; to set you who are in bondage free; and to let you know that the Jubilee of the Lord has begun. It all happens “in your hearing” – literally in your ears.  That is how Jesus makes himself and his forgiveness known to you.  Saint Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10.17)  So today, in your hearing, right here at Redeemer, this Scripture is again being fulfilled: Jesus, the Christ, comes with the Lord’s favor for you.

A few weeks ago I asked you why you come to church.  This, dear saints, is why.  Every Sunday, flesh-and-blood Jesus, true God and true man steps into our gathering.  He comes to us in his Word again and again, never tiring to bring us forgiveness, life and salvation, week in and week out.  Sunday isn’t about you or what you are doing here, though it is good that you are here.  What matters is that he is here…here for the depressed and despairing, here for the sinner and the sinned against, here for all who are oppressed, victimized, abused, taken advantage of, and suffering.

Unfortunately, like the people of Nazareth, not all who hear believe.  All they see when they look at Jesus is that he is Joseph’s son.  What do they want with Jesus?  Apparently not the good news he proclaims, the liberty he brings, the sight he restores, or the freedom he promises.  They want him dead.  Those people of Nazareth dragged him up to the brow of a hill to throw him off so that he’d be bruised, wounded, stricken and crushed as he fell.  Today, people simply want him silenced.  They want to shut any mention of Jesus out of the public square.  It’s as if they have an innate fear of hearing his voice – lest they be convicted of their unbelief.  Yet his voice still speaks, and you, dear saints have heard that voice.  That’s why you are here.  That’s why you keep coming back here.

The voice of Jesus cries out to you from another hill.  This one he willingly ascends for you.  Despised and rejected by his people, he carried his own cross along with all of your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world to the top of that hill where he, bruised and wounded, stricken, smitten, and afflicted was crucified being delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.  This same Jesus was laid in a tomb only to be raised from the dead after three days for your justification.  Just prior to his ascension, having given his disciples the commission to proclaim his gospel, baptize, teach and forgive sins in his name, he promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age.

My friends, there is no need for a celebrity.  Jesus, the Living Word, comes to you every time Scripture is read, studied in Bible class or proclaimed from this pulpit.  He came to you in your Baptism, washing you clean from the guilt of your sins, giving you his Holy Spirit as a down payment of your inheritance.  And he comes to you each and every time you kneel at this altar and receive his very body and blood broken and shed for you on the cross of Calvary for the forgiveness of your sins and strengthening of your faith.  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” he said. (Mt 18.20)

You dear saints of Redeemer have received the good news, so you are no longer poor, but rich in his grace; you have been set free from your captivity to sin by your burial with him in your Baptism; he has opened your eyes like he did for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; he has freed you from the oppression of the guilt of your sins; he has brought you into his eternal rest, the Jubilee of the Lord’s favor.  Today, in your hearing, the Scripture is again fulfilled: Jesus, the Christ comes with the Lord’s favor, for you.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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