Audio Worship, 3/17/2024. "That Which Jesus Commands" Luke 4.16-30

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1629

March 17, 2024

Luke 4.16-30    Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“That Which Jesus Commands”


16And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30But passing through their midst, he went away.


Essential # 7 The Lord Jesus Christ commands all believers to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and to make disciples of all nations. Obedience to the Great Commission requires total commitment to “Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.” He calls us to a life of self-denying love and service. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)



  • To Proclaim the Gospel


We are concluding today our look into the Essentials of Faith in our denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. These Essentials are based on the authority of Scripture and we have examined God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, salvation, the true church, Christ’s second coming, and today, what Jesus commands to all believers. I have broken this down into four categories: proclamation of the Gospel, making disciples, commitment to Jesus, and self-denial. With each one I have chosen a Scripture passage to consider. The first is Luke 4 and Jesus’ reading from Isaiah 61. Jesus was anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Three proclamations: good news, liberty, favor. The word gospel is good news. For those who believe in Jesus the good news is Jesus and what He has done for us in the cross and resurrection. The good news is one of repentance for the kingdom of God is at hand. The good news is grace, mercy, hope, love, everything represented in the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus proclaimed liberty. That means freedom from sin and death because Jesus conquered both on the cross. We are set free in Christ from anything that would hinder our faith in Him and anything that would hinder our walk with Him.

Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor. One way we might look at this is through the word favor as grace. We have received unmerited favor from the One who has brought us back into right relationship with God. For what the law could not do, Jesus has done.

Romans 8.2-4, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Some commentators believe that Jesus was returning Israel and the Jews to the year of the Lord’s favor in light of the jubilee year of Leviticus 25. It is an interesting command after 49 years to have a year long sabbath for the land and a Day of Atonement when all the property of the land would be returned to the original owners. It’s purpose was generally to set everyone free from debt and slavery and give all a reboot, so to speak, for a new start. There is no clear evidence that the Jubilee year was ever practiced by Israel. But, the point of Jesus proclamation was at least to set everyone right with God for a new start by Jesus’ atoning for our sin.

So Jesus proclaimed all these things and much more. Why are we commanded to do the same? Paul tells Timothy to be prepared to preach in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4.2). Peter tells all of us to be able to defend the hope we have in 1 Peter 3.15. Paul shares one way of proclamation in 1 Thessalonians 2.8, to share not only the gospel but our lives with others. We used to call that befriending non-believers in hopes of sharing the gospel.

There are many ways we can proclaim the gospel, even around the world, as the Essential points out.

  • We all give, through our offerings, financial support for missionaries around the world. Our church budget includes two thousand dollars per year for EPC missionaries in Pakistan. We also have occasional gifts and support for other ministries around the world and locally.

  • We can proclaim the gospel with our own personal testimony.

  • We can proclaim from Scripture.

  • We can perform acts of service.

  • We can share talents, skills, art, music, things of beauty, anything of excellence (Philippians 4.8).


In essence we are passing on the good news that we have received like any good news we hear. But this good news is beyond all other news. This is the news of love and forgiveness and peace and heaven and discipleship and much much more. We proclaim to make disciples...our next point of the outline!



  • To Make Disciples


Matthew 28.16-20 “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The church has always taken this passage as the mission of the church. The authority has been passed on for us to go and make disciples, to baptize, teaching obedience, and trusting the presence of Christ with every step. In the Greek grammar, the “Go” is literally, “as you are going”. I think that is important to our understanding of making disciples. As we are going means including disciple making a way of our every day life. On our way to this or that we are looking for opportunities to proclaim the gospel, to share a story, to give a word of encouragement, to tell someone about Jesus and what He has done for us. I realize in saying this that it is not easy to make contact with people every day and I know we can be intimidated by the thought of making disciples. It has not been the practice of mainline churches to be intentional about making disciples. We are more comfortable doing a multitude of things that are religious, that are even helpful to others, but speaking about Jesus and leading people to follow Jesus, is often dismissed as “not my ministry”, “not my calling”. But there is a problem in that way of thinking because Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, as we understand it, was not just for those disciples standing on the hill, but a command that we have taken as a command to the entire church, generation to generation, all the way to today and long into the time after we are gone from this earth.

Jesus does not really give us an option of not making disciples. Jesus calls us to follow Him, to obey His Word, to take up our cross daily, to love one another, to love our enemies, to give generously, to show grace and mercy and truth and compassion...and, and – to make disciples. It is the last command of Matthew’s gospel – a final concluding word before Jesus ascended into heaven.

It is not that we have to have a count of those we have led to Christ. It is not that we have to have had someone convert to the faith because of what we said to them on a particular day. But we can be a part of leading people to Christ in the many ways we can proclaim the gospel. We might be one voice among many that eventually leads someone to become a disciple. I had plenty of voices along my path before I actually believed. I have even gone back to some of those people to tell them that they had a role in leading me to Christ.

One of the important things about making disciples is that we have to be firmly committed ourselves to be disciples and to being discipled. We are to be on the road to learning and growing in maturity in Christ Jesus. This leads to our next point, commitment to Jesus



  • To Commit to Jesus


John 14.15-24, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.


Commitment to Jesus is really a supporting attribute for proclaiming the gospel and making disciples. Only those who are totally committed to Jesus will want to proclaim the good news and make disciples. The Essential calls for total commitment to “Him who loved us and gave Himself for us” (Ephesians 5.2). In John 14 that commitment is expressed through keeping Jesus’ commandments. The commitment is supported by the Holy Spirit whom God has sent, our Helper. Loving Jesus and keeping His commandments are bound together.



  • To Deny Ourselves for Love and Service


Mark 8.34-38, “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


The Christian life is one of self-denial. There is no getting around this. It’s not about me! What a counter statement to the world’s view where everything is about me. We give of ourselves by giving our lives over to Jesus, yielding ourselves and our agendas and our old nature, our self promotion in order to bring glory to God. One of the reasons we were created is for good works of love and service. Ephesians 2.10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” These good works can only be done out of denying ourselves for that purpose. Jesus said in Mark 8, “If anyone would come after me,” that is, follow Him, believe in Him, trust in Him as Savior, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus. Now, Paul says when we are in Christ we are a new creation (2 Cor 5.17). We just saw in Ephesians that we are created in Christ for good works. That’s a really cool connection between self-denial and being created new in Christ. The Essential says, He calls us to a life of self-denying love and service. We might add to that, He has created us for a life of self-denying love and service. Denying self also allows us the freedom to proclaim the gospel and make disciples, because it is not about us, but about Jesus and what He has done to bring people into right relationship with God.


We’ve done it! We have journeyed through the Essentials of Faith as expressed by the EPC. There is even more to explore, of course, because the Bible is filled with how we might live out these Essentials. We also note at the end of the Essentials that “The Essentials are set forth in greater detail in the Westminster Confession of Faith.” So, read the Bible! Check out the Westminster Confession if desired and may we all trust in the authority of God’s Holy Word from which we get our entire understanding of faith and life. May God be glorified. Amen.