Epiphany 3 2022
January 23, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Luke 4:16-30


            It is a wild scene.  Mob violence.  First century vigilante justice.  The angry crowd surges and surrounds the man and through the sheer force of their mass they push the man outside and up the hill to the edge of the cliff.  They want to push the man off the cliff so His body will be crushed on the rocks below.  Mob thinking has taken over.  This man needs to die. 

What did he do?

Did he murder someone?  Did he hurt a child?  Did he steal from a widow?  What has this man done that has made the crowd so furious that they want to kill him?

He didn’t do anything.  That is really the problem.  He didn’t do anything He simply told them the truth.

What did this man say that has made them so angry that they are going to throw Him off the cliff?  Well, it turns out He is not who they want Him to be and He won’t do what they want Him to do. 

            This man, Jesus, has come home.  He comes to His hometown of Nazareth and He goes to the synagogue on Saturday and He reads to the people from the prophet Isaiah.

            Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) 

18 “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, 

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[1]

            Jesus then sits down and tells the people that today, this prophecy is fulfilled in their ears.  Jesus announces to the people that He is the One.  The Spirit of YHWH is on Him as was clearly shown at His baptism in the Jordan when the Spirit descended like a dove.

            Jesus tells the hometown crowd that He is the one anointed to proclaim good news and liberty; to bring sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.  Jesus is the Christ of God.  He is the Messiah.  He is the chosen one; He announces this to the hometown crowd.  Small town boy made good.  Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.  He has come to bring the good news of forgiveness of sins.  He has come to bring people out of spiritual darkness. He has come to free people from spiritual bondage.

            What an amazing announcement.  The people marvel at His words of grace, but the marveling soon turns to rebellion.  “Hey, we know this guy.  Isn’t this Joseph’s son.  We’ve known this guy since He was a child.  Who does He think He is?”

            And what is all this talk about being poor and captive and blind and oppressed?  Hey! Hold on just a minute.  He is talking about us.  He is saying that we aren’t good enough.  He is saying we are sinners.

            And Jesus knows that the people know that Jesus has done signs and wonders in other places and they want Him to do the same here.  Jesus knows that they expect a miracle show. But since they are going to reject Jesus He is not going to do miracles for them. 

            And hearing that Jesus will not do what they want Him to do the crowd goes wild -- and not in a good way.  They want to kill him and the mob surrounds Him in the synagogue; the Jewish house of worship.  Jesus tells them that He is the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, but that is not enough.  They want Him to do a miracle and since He won’t because they are going to reject Him; they indeed do reject Him and drive Him to the edge of the cliff in order to kill Him.

            And then, ironically, Jesus does perform a miracle as He moves through the angry crowd and goes away for it is not yet time for Him to die. 

            The people want to kill Jesus because this is not the Messiah they are looking for.  The people of Nazareth don’t want a Messiah that is going to call them sinners living in spiritual darkness.  They don’t want a Messiah who will save them from their sins, instead they want a Messiah to be a powerful force and do great signs and wonders and drive out the Romans and bring the people prosperity and glory; health and wealth.  This Jesus fellow claims He is the Messiah.  But this is not the Messiah they are looking for, and they react with violence.

            Not much has changed today.  Jesus can bring intense reactions from people and demands for a sign. Once, when I was talking about Jesus to an unbelieving friend, he demanded proof.  “If Jesus is really God then have him show up behind the Dairy Queen at 7 PM and we can duke it out.”  People want Jesus to give them a sign.  “If Jesus is real then He will do exactly what I tell Him to do when I tell Him to do it. If Jesus is really God then He will heal my sickness, He will get me the new job, He will get me the bigger house. If Jesus is really God…”  We can hear echoes of the devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness.  “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  Folks look at Jesus and think, “This is not the Messiah that I am looking for.”

            Jesus may not be the Messiah you are looking for, but He is the Messiah that you need.  Jesus comes to tell you that you are a sinner who needs a savior.  You are, by yourself, poor, oppressed and blind. He comes to bring you sight in your spiritual blindness.  You need Jesus as the Messiah.  Jesus comes to you with His words.  His words of forgiveness come into your ears working the truth that they proclaim. Your sins are forgiven.  Jesus comes to you in the Words of scripture read and sung in worship proclaiming that He is the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus comes to you in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion to bring you forgiveness, life and salvation.  Jesus comes to you here, in this place, to proclaim to you good news and liberty. 

            But there is a great temptation to believe that Jesus is not the Messiah because He is not the Messiah you are looking for. There is a great temptation to believe that you need a Messiah to do your bidding.  A Messiah to do what you want to do.  A Messiah to tell you that you are good enough on your own.  A Messiah who will bless your sin.  A Messiah who will bring you happiness and prosperity. A Messiah who will make you healthy, wealthy and wise.  This is the Jesus that people are looking for, but Jesus of Nazareth is not that Messiah. He is the Messiah of the truth; the truth about you, and the truth about Him.  You are a sinner and Jesus came for sinners.  But this truth is too much truth for so many. 

It is fascinating how much power the cross has to offend people who believe the cross is meaningless.  Jesus provokes people. 

            And so even today there are so many that reject Jesus and want to destroy him along with any of His followers.  There is blatant violence against the followers of Jesus around the world.  In North Korea if someone is caught with even one Bible verse they face years in a concentration camp or even execution.  In Afghanistan the Taliban have lists of Christians and those on the lists are being killed or are disappearing.  There are Christians around the world facing violence and death because of Jesus.  1 in 7 Christians in the world faces violent persecution for their faith.  In Western nations it is not so much violence, but there is tremendous push to silence the truth about Jesus.  People reject that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  The elites of society push an ever new radical sexual agenda and any opposition must be silenced.  They want to silence Jesus when he says, Matthew 19:5 (ESV)  5 …‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 

Jesus is offensive.  The cross of Jesus is offensive.  So many in our nation are offended by the cross and seek to have the cross of Christ removed from public land and public places.  It is fascinating how much power the cross has to offend people who believe the cross is meaningless.  Jesus provokes people.  He provokes people to love and hate.  I worry that the opponents of Jesus hate Him more than we, as His followers, love Him. Jesus’ enemies are quite motivated in opposition while those in the Church can be complacent.  Jesus Himself was in the practice of weekly worship at the synagogue while today many find a couple of hours once a week to be far too great a commitment. 

            Thank God Jesus doesn’t play to the crowd.  He isn’t swayed by current trends or public opinion. Jesus remains the Messiah that we need. He is the one who comes to tell us we are sinners and He is the one who gives us the solution to our sin in His own suffering and death.  He is the unexpected Messiah who is glorified in His shame.  He is exulted in His death when the crowd goes wild and shouts for His blood and drives Jesus up the hill to crucify Him.  He takes from you your sin and gives to you His holy perfection. 

            Jesus may not be the Messiah that you are looking for. But He is the Messiah that you need. Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001