Powerful Passages, Pt. 4
Study Guide September 25, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
How many have been to Nazareth in Israel? It’s a beautiful city. Of course, in Jesus day it was a bit smaller.
But it was in the town of Nazareth, as Jesus was beginning His public ministry, that Jesus stated something that shocked all of those who had gone to the synagogue that day. Actually, it’s one of the most powerful passages we find in the Bible. So let’s go to Nazareth and hear what Jesus said. Luke 4:16-21- “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” NKJV
What a stunning announcement! Jesus reads from the passage of Isaiah 61, which clearly refers to the Messiah and then stops and basically says to the people; “These Scriptures are talking about Me!” So first, let’s look at what Jesus said about Himself here, and then we’ll look at what He said about His ministry.
Transport yourself back in time a bit and imagine you are at that synagogue. Remember, Nazareth is a small town. Most people knew each other. They knew that Jesus was one of the sons of Mary and Joseph. But Luke also reminds us that news about Him had been spreading all around Galilee, things that the Apostle John records in John 1:19 though chapter 4:45. These things included His miracle in Cana of turning water into wine, along with performing other signs that were confirming that He was the Messiah. He had also witnessed to Nicodemus that the New Birth could be experienced through receiving Him as Messiah. Nicodemus had testified that he also knew about all these signs that were confirming Jesus’ claims about Himself. Jesus had even presented Himself to the Samaritans, and many of the Samaritans were being born again. Not to mention that He had also challenged the Pharisees in Jerusalem and turned over the tables of the corrupt leaders who had set up shop and were bribing people in the Temple. So, yeah, news had spread and everyone should have been on the lookout for the Messiah.
And so now the people of Nazareth are all gathered at the synagogue that day. A typical synagogue service opened with a prayer and was followed by the confession of faith from what’s called the Great Shema, from Deut. 6:4-9. ‘Shema’ is the Hebrew word for ‘Hear’. It started with “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deut 6:4-5 NASU By the way, that’s also what Jesus later pointed out was the greatest commandment of the law. Isn’t it just amazingly simple and yet profound that all of life comes down to this Great Shema? “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The answer to all the world’s problems and conflicts is settled in this one revelation. If each person would submit their life and commit their life to living by this Great Shema it would change the course of all mankind. But, of course, we know that most people won’t and that’s why we need a new world…which is coming, for those who have submitted themselves to the One God, who is the Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Three in One, and who do love the Lord their God. Praise God! (And, by the way, all Three Persons of the Trinity are represented in that first verse of Isaiah 61 that Jesus read…“The Spirit [The Holy Spirit] of the Lord [The Father] is upon Me [The Son]…”
After the confession of the Great Shema there would be the readings from the Law and the Prophets. Then one of the leaders would have a sermon, or if there was a visiting Rabbi, he might be asked to have some comments on the passage of Scripture that was read. And oh boy, did Jesus have some comments on this passage of Scripture! Think about it: Ever since the announcement to Adam and Eve that a through human birth a Deliver for all mankind would come, who would also have the power to crush Satan, along with all the prophet’s additional prophecies, the people had been on Messiah alert; Messiah watch. So after thousands of years of watching and waiting, one day in a normal synagogue meeting, Jesus reads the Scripture that has it’s primary reference to the Messiah, and stops and says to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And they all rejoiced and repented and received Him as their Messiah and Savior…right? Not exactly, for that part didn’t happen. No instead, they said something like, “Wait a minute…who does He think He is…isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Take a look: Luke 4:22-30- “And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in Your hometown as well.'” And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.” NASU
What a change of atmosphere here…there was like about an 80 degree drop in attitude! They soon changed from wonder and admiration to skepticism and spite, and Jesus knew it. That’s why He said essentially, “No doubt, now you want a miracle.” But He knew their hearts, and He knew that just like their ancestors in the days of Elijah and Elisha, not even miracles change hearts that are ‘God resistant hardened hearts’. Note something very important here. Yes, Jesus used many miracles to confirm His Messianic identity. And to the people that had ‘God receptive seeking hearts’, the miracles simply confirmed what they had been seeking.
There’s something we need to remember about human nature, and that is: Not even miracles will change a heart, if that heart is resistant and hardened to the truth, which is really saying ‘resistant to the authority of God’. St. Augustine said, “They (People) love truth when it enlightens them, but hate truth when it accuses them.” Yes, miracles will confirm truth, and that is what Jesus was doing through His miracles. They were fulfilling the prophecies that were written about the Messiah, which would then confirm His identity. But the miracles themselves could not create a repentant heart. It is the Laws of God written on the heart of each person and the convicting work of God that Holy Spirit that is revealing to the heart and mind of each person of their need for a Savior. And if they are responding to that light, God will reveal more light and whatever is necessary for them to be saved. But if they are resisting that, well then, do you remember what Jesus said about the story of the unsaved rich man?
As Abraham was talking to this unsaved man who was now in Hades, this man told Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers. But Abraham pointed this out to him: “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 NASU That is crucial to know and understand. You see, you can actually gauge a person’s receptivity to God by how receptive they are to the authority of the Scriptures. God’s promise to all people is if you seek God will all your heart, you will find Him. Point being: God is seeking seekers. And the reason they are seekers is because they have been responding to the Laws of God that He has written on each person’s heart and to the convicting work of God’s Holy Spirit, who is seeking to draw all people to Himself. Praise God, some are responding and therefore seeking God. And be assured, wherever they are, in whatever corner of the world they are, if they have been responding to the Law of God written on their heart and to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit with a ‘God receptive seeking heart’ – they will find God, or better; God will find them and save them.
But also note something else Jesus pointed out that is another sad commentary on human nature, but it does explain a lot, and it consoles us all as well. The Apostle Matthew fills us in on a little more of the discussion here: Matt 13:54-58- “He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” NASU
Have you ever wondered why it seems so hard to witness to your relatives and those you’ve grown up with? Well, you are in good company…really good company, because even Jesus got ‘push-back’ from His hometown and own relatives. But it shows us something else about human nature, and that is that people tend to think about beliefs in terms of ‘Who are you?’ instead of in terms of ‘What is true?’ And when you try to share ‘What is true’ with people who are caught up on ‘Who are you?’ you are pretty much stuck with ‘No can do!’ But the point is; it is, sadly, very common that the hardest people to share Biblical truths with are with those who have known you so well that they are caught up on ‘who you are’ instead of listening for ‘what is true’, regardless of who it is that reveals it to them. Plus, when you throw in other ‘common and bad ingredients’ found in our lower nature, like pride and envy and such, it explains why there is often so much push-back from those you know so well. It doesn’t necessarily change the frustration of it all, but it does relieve us of the false parts about the frustration of thinking that it’s because there’s something wrong with you. Don’t let the Devil discourage you by making you feel that the problem is because you are a deficient Sower, when the real problem is in the deception in the Soils. If the soils of souls are not receptive to the seeds of truth, then they will resist truth regardless of who the Sower is, even when it is Jesus the Messiah Himself.
But before we leave this powerful passage we need to see one more thing that is amazing about it. And interestingly enough, it’s something that Jesus didn’t say or didn’t read as He was reading from Isaiah. And for any who were there who knew that passage in Isaiah, this must have been very striking to them as well, because when Jesus read “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” He then closed the Book. But in Isaiah 61 it doesn’t stop there. No, there is an ‘and’ that goes along with ‘proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord’ that also proclaims this: Isa 61:2- “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God…” NKJV
Again, amazing, because the prophet Isaiah reveals that the Messiah was going to fulfill two works of God. And one would be focused on on the time when the Messiah’s mission was proclaiming the Good News and healing the brokenhearted and setting captives free…the time of providing for the salvation of all who would become saved by His grace through their faith. And that is what Jesus proclaimed was being fulfilled by Him. But the other part of the Messiah’s mission, ‘the day of vengeance of our God’, that was yet to be fulfilled. Oh it will be fulfilled, but not in Jesus’ first advent, His first coming. It would be in His second advent, His second coming. For all those who resisted His saving grace and would not repent and come to know the Messiah as their Lord and Savior when He came the first time to save them, well, then the next time He came they would then have to know Him as their Judge, because the next time Jesus will come as King of kings and Lord of lords, and will judge unbelievers of their sin. That time has not yet been fulfilled, but that time is coming when this second part of Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled, when Jesus will also say to those who would not repent concerning ‘this day of vengeance of our God’: “Today, this Scripture is now fulfilled in your hearing.”
God’s Word always comes to pass. We thank our Lord Jesus for fulfilling His work of salvation in our lives and we pray that many others will respond to the convincing work and convicting work of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus as their Messiah, Savior, and God.