Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beginning His Ministry

After Jesus’ baptism and temptation, he began his ministry. He returned from the site of his baptism to Galilee. Galilee was the northern part of Israel. He went to different towns and spoke in their synagogues. He began to develop a reputation as a great teacher. The news about him spread throughout the area. (14) He was “glorified by all”. (16)

Jesus went in the power of the Spirit. (14) Jesus was conceived by the Spirit and the Spirit descended on him at his baptism. The Spirit then worked to give him power to preach in a way that got the attention of people. He was full of the Holy Sprit according to Luke 4:1. He had the fullest measure of the Holy Spirit, who worked in Jesus powerfully.  

After developing this reputation, Jesus went to his home town of Nazareth, the town where he grew up. (16) People still knew him there. He was the precocious boy who stayed in the temple to converse with the scholars, he was the boy who grew in favor. In addition, he was now somewhat famous. Everyone loves a local boy or girl who becomes famous and then returns home. That was the case here.

On the Sabbath, then, Jesus went to the synagogue. We see here something about worship in the synagogue. There was reading of scripture as part of the service. It was a custom to have a visiting person who was respected to read. So, the ruler of the synagogue pulled out a scroll and handed it to Jesus to read. It was a scroll of the book of Isaiah. (17) That tells us the reading that day was planned to be from Isaiah. Jesus found what we know as Isaiah 61:1-2. He stood out of respect for the Word and read it. 

A little side note is that the scrolls contained no chapter and verse markings. In fact, they contained no punctuation or spacing. It was not easy to find a particular passage unless you were very familiar with the scroll (or the Holy Spirit led you to it). 

This passage is about the Messiah or Christ. It is written as if the Messiah were speaking. It told several facts about the Messiah. These are:
  1. The Spirit of the Lord would be upon him;
  2. the Lord anointed him;
  3. He was anointed to:
    1. proclaim good news to the poor;
    2. to proclaim liberty to captives;
    3. to proclaim recovery of sight to the blind;
    4. to liberate those who are oppressed; and
    5. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  

The year of the Lord’s favor refers to the Jubilee. It occurred every 50th year. You can read about it in Leviticus 25. It was a great day for the poor. Slaves were  set free, debtors were release from their debts, lost property was returned to the original owners. 

Messiah would bring a super Jubilee. 

The Jews in the congregation knew this passage. They knew Jesus was a respected teacher. Since there was also much speculation around this time as to when Messiah would come, they were very interested to hear what Jesus would say about the passage. And so, “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him”. (20) 

After reading, Jesus sat down. This was the normal posture of a teacher at the time. Sitting actually was a sign of his authority. He began to explain the passage to them, saying “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. (21) 

Jesus was anointed. He was chosen by God to be the savior and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus would preach the gospel, especially to the poor. That does not mean he favored the poor over the rich, but that he would preach it to them and not overlook them as many did. 

Jesus would liberate those who were captive to sin, he would not only restore physical sight but open spiritually blind eyes to spiritual truth and light. He was, and is, the light of the world. He would liberate those oppressed by demons. We will study several accounts of Jesus’ battles with demons.  And he would proclaim the time of God’s favor, when all who believed in Jesus would be free.

At first people marveled at his speaking. (22) Then, as they realized he claimed to actually be God’s anointed one, they began to get concerned. Then they got angry. They said “is not this Joseph’s son”? (22) In other words, how can he claim to be the Messiah when we saw him grow right here in our town. We saw him born to this poor laborer and under questionable circumstances. How dare he claim this?

Jesus replied to this by quoting a proverb (physician heal yourself) that meant, show us what you can do to prove your claim. We heard you did miracles at Capernaum, do them here if you are the Messiah. 

Jesus, of course, did not do tricks on demand. He did tell them he expected their reaction, saying no prophet is accepted in his home town. (23) Jesus had preached God’s word to them. They now were accountable to God for it. It is the same way today. The Word is preached. We are accountable for it. He has given us enough to believe. 

But then Jesus went on. He began to speak of God’s care for the Gentiles. Jews of that day had lost sight of God’s desire to bring the Gentiles into his family. They called them “Gentile dogs”. They thought God’s only dealing with them would be for them to serve the Jews in the new kingdom.

But Jesus pointed out that God had always cared about the Gentiles. He gave two examples from Scripture. First, he said there were may widows in Israel during the ministry of Elijah, but God sent Elijah to take care of a Gentile widow in Sidon. We call her the Widow of Zarepath. (26) You can read that story in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

Jesus gave a second example, this time from the life of Elisha. He said there were many lepers in Israel, but God had Elisha cleanse Naaman, a Syrian general.   You can read this story in 2 Kings 5:1-24. 

The widow and the general had a trait in common besides being Gentiles. They were believers. The widow had to believe God’s promise through Elijah before she received the miraculous provision. Naaman had to believe God’s word through Elisha before he received healing. Jesus was calling those in Nazareth to believe. 

At this point, the congregation had progressed from wonder to fury. They literally ran Jesus out of town. They tried to throw him off a cliff. But Jesus was able to walk right through the crowd and away. We see several times in Jesus’ ministry where his “time had not come”. This was one. He will not be harmed until it is time for him to be arrested and killed. 

Jesus escaped death. But they remained dead in their sins. 

This is true for all who reject Jesus. When the gospel is preached, we either receive him or reject him. Those who receive him receive eternal life and are brought into God’s family. Those who reject him face eternal punishment for their sins. 

Receive him today if you have not done so. 

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