Sermon: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

Sermon for Longview Rest Home, Tawa, Wellington, 31 January 2013.

(Luk 4:14) Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.(Luk 4:15) He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.(Luk 4:16) When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,(Luk 4:17) and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:(Luk 4:18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,(Luk 4:19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(Luk 4:20) And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.(Luk 4:21) Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

In this reading we hear about Jesus returning to his home town, having been working miracles in the surrounding countryside. His home town was bound to be a tough place to minister – people were used to him as Mary and Joseph’s son. He had grown up there, working alongside his father in the carpenter’s shop. At some stage Joseph has died, and Jesus has continued his life, going out to be baptised at the ripe old age of thirty. Now this seems comparatively young these days – even policemen and politicians who are thirty seem to be mere children as we get older! But in the first century in Palestine, people were married in their teens, and a man of thirty was a mature, even senior member of the community. Jesus was no starry-eyed youth. That’s why it must have come as even more surprising when he sat down in the synagogue, after reading the passage that we have just heard from Isaiah, and said, “”Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

“What?” They would have said. “Who is this? Isn’t it that Jesus who we’ve known for ever? How come he can say these things?”

But today I wonder what message this passage from the Bible has for us. Maybe it’s about revising our opinion about someone. When Jesus came back to his home town, people judged him and were surprised by his new role, to put it mildly. Jesus had changed. Something had blossomed in his life, after being anointed by the Holy Spirit, and publicly acknowledged by his father, God.

In our families people change too. Something happens and they turn over a new leaf. But often we are cynical – “that one’ll never change, he’s always been like that”. Are these words familiar?

Jesus knew better than to hang around Nazareth for much of his ministry. He went where people hadn’t pre-judged him, where he could be who he was sent to be, without being constrained by his previous role, as dutiful son, apprentice carpenter, and all those things which had gone before.

I wonder whether there were some people in his home village who held the words that he spoke that day in their heart, and whenever they caught a hint of a rumour about this miracle-maker from Galilee, whether the skin on the back of their neck tingled.

‘I was there that day. I heard him speak.” Imagine what difference that would make in their lives.

Well, thanks to the technology of the printing press, and various translators, we can hold Jesus’ words in our hands, and read them, if our eyes are up to it.

We can hear these words afresh ourselves. Because they’re true. Jesus said, quoting Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”

In Jesus’ name this is our mandate too, and even if we can’t actively go out and heal and set people free, we can actively support those who do, in our prayers. And if we see a person’s life transformed in the name of Jesus, let’s rejoice, and trust, and believe that the God who worked miracles two thousand years ago can still work miracles today.

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