Jesus is our salvation

Scriptures: Luke 4:14-30; Psalm 146

The gospel of Luke gives us one of our only insights into Jesus when he was growing up. Luke has a story in there, prior to Jesus being an adult and being tempted, about Jesus going to the temple in Jerusalem and amazing all the people there, all the rabbis, with his knowledge and his insight.

His mom wasn’t so pleased, since he just kind of disappeared to do it. That’s when he said, “Did you not know I would be about my Father’s business in my Father’s house?” Luke notes that he grew in wisdom and in stature and in the Spirit.

Now the Spirit has fully come upon him, in his anointing at his baptism, and we get to see Jesus in a slightly different light. We see him in the synagogue, and it was his turn to read. He turns to a passage on Isaiah and reads it. Then he sits down and begins to explain the passage, to bring the passage alive for the people.

To fully understand all the significance of this, we must first understand the Jewish synagogue system of worship. In the synagogue, sacrifice was not done. The synagogue was a place for teaching and reading. The temple in Jerusalem was the place for the priests to offer sacrifice to God, but in the synagogue, men came to learn.

Another difference between the synagogue and the temple was that in the temple, the priests were in charge, but in the synagogue there were no priest, no preachers. Each man had an opportunity to participate in the time of reading and learning. A man would volunteer to read a passage from the scrolls of the Old Testament, and then afterward, he would sit down and explain what those passages he read meant to him.

In some of the most well-to-do areas, they did have rabbis, whose purpose was to study and to read and to cantor. They actually did a lot of chanting during their services, so you needed someone who had a little bit of musical ability – or a very understanding congregation, if the cantor was tone-deaf.

But mostly it was led by the people. How would you like it if some Sunday I came up and said, “Hey, Lyn! You want to come up and read the Scriptures today?” Not only that, maybe I would say, “Forrest, why don’t you come up here and explain it to us all? What do you think it means in the passage that we just heard today?”

That’s the way it was in the Jewish synagogue. So on this day, Jesus was taking his turn in the synagogue to read the lesson and then to explain it. I’m not sure if he actually picked the scroll or it was given to him. But it was a lesson that was very familiar to the Jews, a lesson that stirred up the hearts and the passions of all the Jews.

This passage from Isaiah was a passage of hope, a passage of deliverance, a passage that reminded the Jews that God was indeed still with them, and still caring for them. This was a great passage to read, because it was one of the favorite passages from their ancient traditions.

Then Jesus hands the scroll back to the attendant to put away, returns to his seat, and the eyes and the minds of the men present follow him, for they know that he will now explain the passage, and he will teach this passage to them. By the way, this is another thing that was different, that sometimes I’ve thought about suggesting. In the Jewish synagogue, in the Jewish tradition, the teacher sat and all the students stood.

The text we’re going to focus on actually stops at the first line of his sermon. We’re not going to get into the part where they got really mad at him and tried to throw him off the cliff.

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus is dropping a bomb shell on this congregation. He is shaking them up. He is telling them that he is God’s salvation in the world. Through him God’s deliverance, God’s promise of hope, God’s promise of freedom has come to his people.

Jesus is revealing something about himself. He is making clear his mission, his calling, his task as he goes about his ministry on this earth. Jesus is setting the scope, the limits, and the horizons of his ministry.

Again, it’s subtle for us to understand, but since it was speaking of a Messiah in that passage, by his saying “today this has been fulfilled in your hearing,” he was claiming to be the Messiah. He was claiming to be God.

I think as we look at this text for us, as we try to see how this text may fit our situation in life, we need to dwell, not on the fact that Jesus surprised his synagogue with this remarkable statement, that he was God’s salvation, nor do will we look at the reaction of those people to this statement of Jesus, but today I think we need to concentrate on what it means that Jesus is our salvation. What does it mean that he has fulfilled this passage in Isaiah for his time and for ours?

I think the best way to get a handle on this first is to look at this passage as Isaiah said it to his people many years ago. The people had returned from captivity in Babylon. They were trying to rebuild their ruins, and things weren’t going very well. The people were getting discouraged, and they thought God had abandoned them. Times were hard, food was scarce and hope for the future was in short supply.

The people were so desperate, so full of mourning that they even covered their heads with ashes, and wore sackcloth, the garment of mourning. But Isaiah comes and says to all that God is here, and He will deliver, He will save, He will make you a mighty nation again. Through you, God will keep his promise to bring salvation to the world. This passage is one of hope, of freedom, of release, a passage of salvation. It was one that the Jews were waiting to hear.

When Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, ” he was saying the same kind of thing to the people of his day. God will deliver. God will restore. God will keep his promises to you, that through you, salvation, deliverance, freedom will come to the peoples of the earth.

But Jesus went beyond Isaiah. He didn’t mean that one nation would be restored, he didn’t mean that the physical restoration of the temple would take place, because that already had happened. But Jesus was talking about the spiritual restoration rather than the physical one.

Jesus was talking about God’s plan of salvation for the whole earth, instead of just the nation of Israel. Jesus was saying that through him, God would bring salvation to all people. Jesus was saying that through him, salvation would come even to us today. Salvation is here for us because Jesus has fulfilled this passage.

This salvation is seen very clearly in the passage. Jesus says that part of his salvation is to preach the good news. The good news is that God is with us, and God cares about us. God is Emmanuel. There is forgiveness, there is hope, there is renewal. Jesus knew that in a world where people find only the bad news, where sin, death and the devil are alive and well, we need some good news. We need to know that God has not abandoned us.

That hasn’t changed since Jesus’ day. Just take a look at the news today. We need to be reminded over and over again that God is with us. I don’t have TV, so I can’t say I watch the news, but I check several sites online and I stream their clips, and it seems like there is so much bad news about violence in our world today.

Most recently, the gunman in the Ft. Lauderdale, as an example. People doing strange things, like leaving children alone and the house catching fire and killing them. There is a lot of violence in the world, a lot of bad news in our world, and one could in the face of all that wonder if God is still around. And many do.

This passage reminds us He is. God is still here amidst all the bad news, amidst all the violence of our world. The good news of salvation needs to be proclaimed in our world. Jesus saw that people needed to hear the good news about God, because there was enough bad news in their lives.

As we experience the brokenness of this world, as we live among all of the violence and hatred, all of man’s inhumanity to man, the good news of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed loud and clear. There is still hope. There is still God.

He is here amidst all that is wrong with our world. He is still here amidst all the killing, all the hatred, all the abuse we pile upon one another. God is still here. That is good news, because that is our hope and deliverance.

Jesus also says in this passage there is release for the captives. Isaiah was speaking about those people still in prison, those people who had not been set free by the Babylonians, but Jesus again is going beyond that.

He is saying there is release for the captives of this world, who are captive to sin and their own selfishness. We can be made new creatures because God can release us from ourselves, from our sin, so that we might be a service to him and our neighbor.

There is a poem that can speak to our situation of selfishness and sin, that all of us at one time or another get caught up in.

“I had a little tea party,
this afternoon at four.
T’was very small, three guests in all.
Just I, myself and me.
Myself ate all the sandwiches,
While I drank up the tea,
T’was also I who ate the pie,
And passed the cake to me.”

Jesus says he will release us from our sin of self, forgive us our wrongs, so that we might be free. For in freedom there is the possibility to risk, to give of ourselves. In our freedom from sin, we have the opportunity to give ourselves to God. To turn over to him our lives, our souls and our hearts. Jesus releases us from the captivity to self – which is really what sin is all about, that we want to control everything – so that we might be free to respond to him.

Finally, Jesus says that salvation means to give liberty to those who are oppressed.. Isaiah was speaking to those people who were enslaved, who had been captured by the Babylonians and put to work, but Jesus is going beyond that.

He is speaking to all those people who are oppressed because of either disease, lack of food, shelter or clothing, those who are discriminated against because of race or creed, or even sex. Jesus is saying that salvation frees people from the oppressions of this world.

Much of our walk in the coming weeks and months is going to be through Luke’s gospel, at least up through Easter. And according to Luke, Jesus pays special attention to those people who are oppressed. There are more healing miracles in Luke’s gospel, there is more concern about women, who were second class citizens in Jesus day, there is more concern about food and the hungry, than in any of the other gospels. Jesus is not only concerned about our freedom from sin, but he is just as much concerned about being set free from those things that hinder a life from being whole, that hinder a life from having quality.

Even today Jesus is concerned about those same kinds of thing in our lives. He is concerned and it is his body, the church, that is the caring agent in this world. We don’t have Jesus walking the earth today, reaching out to touch the diseased, to give food to the hungry, to bring comfort and courage to the oppressed, but we do have his church. We are the body of Christ, we who are the hands of Christ are to bring healing to the diseased, food to the hungry, and comfort to the oppressed. We do that for people in and outside of our community.

Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing.” Today salvation has come to you. God’s salvation is here, and is present in our world. Thanks be to God.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

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