Luke 4:14-21 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. 15He was teaching in their synagogues and being honored by everyone. 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Service At the Synagogue
I. The Savior was there. II. The Gospel was there.
III. Poor Sinners were there. IV. Faith and Joy were there.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, dear children of God,
A man called the church office a few weeks ago to let us know that he was part of a historical society putting together an article on the houses of worship in Greenfield for their newsletter. He said that he was somewhat familiar with St. Jacobi’s history because he had grown up on the south side of Milwaukee even though he had been born and baptized at St. Lucas in Kewaskum. He said that a person would be surprised to see how many churches are all around us. One of the things I’ve noticed when I drive on the high rise bridge and look out over the city of Milwaukee is how many steeples there are throughout the city. Even though you and I might say that in general it seems like people are attending church less often now days, that sight of all the steeples gives the impression that going to church is a part of normal everyday life.
Throughout this church year season of Epiphany, God’s Word has shown us Jesus, the Savior doing normal ordinary things people do but in extraordinary ways for us. On Epiphany we saw Jesus as a baby in a house with his mother, but being visited and worshipped by the wisemen, some unique visitors. Then we saw Jesus on the banks of the Jordan with other people as John the Baptist was baptizing. The Bible tells us, “As the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.” Last week we heard about Jesus going to a wedding, a normal thing people do. But at this wedding Jesus turned water into wine. Now today we see Jesus going to church, a normal thing people do. Let’s take a look at the Service At The Synagogue. Let’s see I. The Savior was there. II. The Gospel was there. III. Poor Sinners were there.
IV. Faith and Joy were there.
When I was a little boy, I remember playing the game “Memory.” That’s the game with all of the cards turned upside down and spread out over the tabletop or floor. Then as each player turns over two of the cards you try to get a match. If no match you turn them over again. The trick is to try to remember where the cards were so that you can get the match. Today in God’s Word we see Jesus playing memory in church. Jesus turns over a “card” from the Old Testament and we get to see that it matches Jesus, the Messiah. At that synagogue service, Jesus is there.
The Gospels record for us that after Jesus had been baptized and shown to all to be the promised Savior, he dove right into the work of being our Savior. The went into the desert where he was tempted by the devil and he soundly defeated the devil there. Then we hear more of Jesus work on our behalf, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. 15He was teaching in their synagogues and being honored by everyone. 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.”
There are several nerve wracking experiences that a seminary student goes through. One is preaching for the Seminary chapel services in front of all the other students and professors. Another one is preaching in your home congregation. Today we see the Savior there in his home congregation. The Bible tells us, “As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.” Did you catch that? “As was his custom.” It was a normal thing for Jesus to be gathered with others hearing God’s word every week. Even when the most respected rabbis were teaching God’s Word, with Jesus sitting there it must have been like Albert Einstein sitting in on a 1st grade math lesson. Jesus knew it all already. The Word of God was His Word. He whispered the words of Genesis into Moses’ ears. The Good Shepherd told David the 23rd Psalm. He knew it all backwards and forwards but he went anyway. God says that he wants us to gather together to hear his word and encourage each other and here is Jesus that perfectly for us. The Savior was there.
Have we ever let the thought slip into our minds that we know it all already? Church is just the same old same old. Or thought to ourselves, “Church is full of hypocrites.” If anyone knew it all already or could say the church is full of hypocrites, would it have been Jesus. But yet we see going to gather with others to hear God’s Word was his regular custom. I’ve caught myself thinking that if I watch church on TV or listen to it on the radio, that counts right? That was before I became a pastor and had to be here every Sunday- had to be every Sunday. Please don’t misunderstand me. Internet and TV and radio broadcasts of church are great things when we can’t get to church. And I love being a pastor being able to share God’s Word with you. But all too often my sinful heart is revealed in the things I think and say and do. I too easily think that I’m doing God a favor by coming to church. It is way too easy for me to look for a loophole to somehow think that I can do something for God and he will be satisfied. I’m not doing God a favor by being here and neither are you. We can’t do anything that will “satisfy” God. But the Savior did. That’s why we come. The Gospel-that good news is here.
“The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” There was the match. God had set Jesus aside as the one who would bring the news. The good news was there. The good news Jesus announced at Nazareth, Jesus did at Calvary and on all the roads that led up to Calvary. He did all of that for you and me. As we gather here in God’s house, God fills us the good news. He fills us up to go out again into a world where there isn’t much good news. Maybe in God’s word we hear something that we have heard many times before and that gives us strength to go out again. Maybe through God’s living and active word we see or hear something we haven’t really heard before. So often we find that the one anointed to preach the good news gives us something that we just needed to hear that day or how often don’t we find that the words selected from the scrolls of God’s Word, (just like the scroll was handed to Jesus) talk about something that we are going through-maybe struggling with. Jesus has good news, the Gospel-God has sent a Savior.
We can possess a lot of money and be poor in others ways too. Our wallets can be full and still be poor in all kinds of ways. Most of the people in the world would look at the homes that we live in and the cars we drive and say that we are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. But we can be poor in so many ways. We can be poor selfish friends, always thinking about what we are going to get out of a relationship. We can be poor spouses, not treating our spouses as the treasure they are from God. We can sure be poor parents being poor examples of Christians living to our children. Much of what was written on the scroll of Isaiah the prophet matches us- poor sinners. “We all like sheep have gone astray- each of us has gone his own way.” But there is good news for poor sinners. Jesus is here. He says, ”God has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed 19and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
As we look at that service in the synagogue we see that faith and joy are there too as the people hear God’s word spoken through Jesus, the Word made flesh, God’s promises fulfilled. “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. 21He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” I’m sure there were all kinds of people in the service that morning. Young and old, rich and poor, healthy and those who were feeling the ache in the bones. After these verses we hear about some of those who were there who did not believe Jesus. They pushed him away, even tried to push him over a cliff. But there were also those who were there whose eyes of were fastened on Jesus in faith. There were those who heard what Jesus said and rejoiced. God had kept his promise and sent a Savior. That’s where we find ourselves today-eyes of faith fastened on Jesus. Eyes of faith that try to stay focused on Jesus even if there is a snow storm and bitter cold coming this week and we are not so sure how the car is going to start. Eyes of faith that stay focused on Jesus even when we are going through sickness and problems. With eyes fastened on Jesus we rejoice.
There is an old joke about a pastor who said to a man who wasn’t in church very often, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!” The man replied, “I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.” Pastor questioned, “How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?” He whispered back, “I'm in the secret service.” That joke maybe isn’t all that funny when we have people in our families or our friends who are neglecting God’s Word. While we are happy that friends and loved ones hear God’s Word on Christmas and Easter we also recognized that is a dangerous spot to stay at. Let’s us whose eyes are fastened on Jesus encourage those who might be in the “secret service.” Services here are a lot like the service at the Synagogue. By God’s grace, where two or three are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of us. His Gospel is here. Poor sinners are here. And faith and joy are here.