Luke 4:14—30

Luke began his history of Jesus’ ministry with an account of Jesus’ first sermon. This may be the same incident described in the other two Synoptic Gospels, and if it is, then we have a example of the historian Luke proceeding logically, rather than chronologically, in the timeline of Jesus’ ministry. Assuming it is the same incident, it did not occur at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. For Luke, however, it’s an important sermon and an important incident that he uses to set the scene for a short life-time of ministry to follow.

As a matter of fact, Luke doesn’t actually say that this was the “first” sermon Jesus ever preached. As we read the account, it becomes obvious that Jesus had a following by now, therefore He must have been engaged in some preaching and ministry activity before the events of this part of the chapter.

In John 1:46, we read this:

Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

Of course, this was Nazareth’s reputation before the arrival of Jesus. Ever since our Lord became identified with Nazareth, it has become a sacred place – sacred simply because Jesus identified Himself with it. In fact, everything and everyone the Lord identifies Himself with becomes Holy. The so-called “Holy Land” is so named because Jesus walked there. A sinner, out of whom nothing good can come, becomes holy the moment Jesus touches him.

1. The Preacher, verse 14

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

Matthew and Mark imply that the reason Jesus was in Galilee was because He had heard about the imprisonment of John the Baptist.

Temptation is like a double-edged sword; it will either strengthen the believer or weaken him, depending on how the individual responds to it. Jesus, as we know, resisted temptation and emerged victorious, full of the “power” of the Holy Spirit.  Many scholars like to note that Jesus did not a single miracle until He was filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a good observation, one highly suggestive of the kind of “power” associated with the Holy Spirit. Another equally valid observation is that Jesus was an obscure man until He was baptized in the Spirit. He, the Holy Spirit, was like a luminous sign that pointed all eyes toward Jesus. So it was with Peter and the rest of the apostles, who were frightened little mnn until they were filled with Spirit, at which time whenever they opened their mouths to proclaim the Gospel, people were drawn to them.

The Holy Spirit, though, was no stranger to Jesus. He was active in Jesus’ conception (1:35), baptism (3:22), and temptation (4:1). No doubt, the Spirit drew people to Jesus, who were in turn touched by His Word.

2. The place, verse 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.

Jesus was home. He apparently had been preaching long enough to have established some “customs” or habits. This may imply that Jesus had a sort of “preaching circuit” established by now. But the point is, Jesus went home to preach, which could not have been an easy thing to do. Maybe that’s why He did it, and why He advised others to do the same:

Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)

It’s a New Testament principle that true faith and piety begin in the home. Paul seems to establish as an essential part of the life of the church:

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, the home field is often the most barren of fields, as Jesus found out:

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” (Matthew 13:57)

But that doesn’t mean a believer shouldn’t share his faith with his family. Even though the Gospel may turn some off, the Holy Spirit will do His work:

Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. (Matthew 13:54)

Of note is that Jesus did His preaching on the Sabbath in the local synagogue. Jesus knew where He belonged on the Jewish version of the “Lord’s Day.” On that special day, Jesus was right where He ought to have been. Too bad more Christians didn’t take their faith as seriously as Jesus took His; if they did, our churches would be full on a Sunday morning!

3. The text, verse 17

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written…

The passage Jesus read from was Isaiah 61:1, 2. The quotation, which was usually read on the morning of the Day of Atonement, is significant because it is a statement of our Lord’s call to His redemptive ministry. It is also significant that, at the end of the reading, Jesus basically affirms that He is the subject of Isaiah’s prophecy. The text, then, was the prophetic counterpart of Jesus’ own experience. Like any good preacher worth His salt, Jesus preached from the Word as it touched Him. No preacher should ever try preaching any part of the Bible that he himself has not experienced in some way. This was the plain testimony of Jesus:

I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen… (John 3:11)

4. The sermon

Filled with the Spirit, Jesus began to expound on the Word of God, itself authored by the Holy Spirit. The Isaiah passage is purely Messianic and outlines the functions of the Messianic ministry, which are fulfilled under the anointing and direction of the Holy Spirit. We can summarize the Messianic ministry and the Gospel message in six succinct points.

to preach the gospel to the poor. Part of the work of the Messiah is to announce “good news” to the poor. Why the poor? In all societies, because of their needs the poor seem ready to embrace the good news about and from the Savior. But no one, regardless of their standing in society, is ready to receive anything from Jesus until they are made aware of their need.

…to heal the brokenhearted (KJV). Another part of Jesus’ work is to offer consolation and compassion to those who have been overcome by the circumstances of life. The consolation is that there is a better way!

…to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. These may be literal captives, like people in prison, but in all likelihood our Lord is speaking about people in bondage to sin and Satan.

…recovery of sight for the blind. This probably refers to both physical blindness and spiritual blindness. Just a cursory glance at the life and ministry of Jesus shows us that He engaged in restoring sight to the blind using His miraculous healing powers, but also, as in the case of Nicodemus, for example, the light of God’s Truth shone brightly into the dark lives of so many lost souls, showing them their need for a Savior.

…to release the oppressed. This phrase sort of fleshes out what came before it. People may be oppressed by many things: other people, mental and physical problems, financial/relationship problems, etc. People may also be spiritually oppressed; made to feel all is hopeless and lost. But Jesus came to break those chains of oppression, whatever they may be, and set those people free.

…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. This phrase would remind the Jews listening to Jesus of the Year of Jubilee—once every fifty years when everybody’s debts were forgiven and slaves set free. The idea is one of a proclamation of news like that; that would make the one who hears it stand up and cheer.

When you consider the content of this sermon, you see that it was for anybody and everybody who was listening to it. That’s the power of the Word of God! A message given by a prophet thousands of years ago can speak to people in Jesus’ time and to people in our time.

5. The results

When God’s Word is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, it always gets the results God intends!

…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Here are the results of Jesus’ sermon:

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. (verse 22). The “gracious words” were really “words of grace.” Jesus was undoubtedly a good public speaker, but there was much more at work while He was preaching. In back of all His words was the power of the Holy Spirit. The congregation seemed to respect Jesus and respected what He said. But there was one stumbling block: He was only the son of a carpenter, and they couldn’t accept that. How could a mere carpenter’s son be the Messiah? To them, there was a “disconnect” between Jesus’ Messianic claims and His earthly heritage.

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. (verse 28). It seems as though their “wonder” turned to anger and hate quickly. What angered them so? He spoke a few words of truth they would be totally unable to accept.

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. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 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.” (verses 25—27)

Jesus’ point here is pointed and the more His audience realized what He was getting at, the more angry they became. In essence, Jesus just told His people that they, Jews, would be getting no special treatment from God and that He, Jesus, was above ties to His home and His religion.

Jesus knew the people were skeptical. Initially they liked what they heard, but to them, there was a discrepancy between the man and the message. He used two well-know proverbs to illustrate their attitude toward Him:

  • Physician heal yourself!
  • No prophet is welcome in his hometown.

In other words, there was no way Jesus was going to put on a “dog and pony” miracle show for anybody, not even His own people. What His people failed to grasp was that His ministry—the Messianic ministry—was to be as broad as human need. It could not be contained to His hometown or His own nation.

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. (verse 29). Nazareth is located on a hill, built on a slope from 400 to 500 feet high overlooking a valley. We’re not sure exactly where they dragged Jesus to, but the fall would probably have killed a human being.

We see something of the darker side of human nature here. The distance between admiration and disgust is sometimes pretty close! So many people are attracted by the Gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ but get turned off when they realize their lives have to change to conform to His will, not theirs.

But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. (verse 30). How did Jesus do this? Some see a miraculous deliverance, but this is probably unlikely. Jesus never used His supernatural power to help Himself. So, some how, through agility or some special act of providence, Jesus was able to make his escape.

Jesus was able to to go on His way, unhindered by any human. It wasn’t His time.

And so it is with man today. Lots of people love the idea of Jesus and love the idea of being part of the Body of Christ, but they have no interest in really serving Jesus. This kind of person loves the idea of Jesus-as-Savior, but not the reality of Jesus-as-Lord. Jesus must be more than just a sinner’s Savior; He must also be their Lord. If Jesus can’t be your Lord, He might be on His way without you.

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