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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1242

January 31, 2016                                                                                            Luke 4:14-30

Dr. Ed Pettus


"Teaching in the Synagogue”


1. Jesus’ First Act of Ministry 


Sometimes we look at the first thing as the most important thing: first impressions, first place, first in line, first day of a new beginning, and for many guys it was your first car.  Sometimes it is about love, first love or the love that comes first at any relationship.  It is like the warning given to the church in Revelation 2:4, “But this I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”  I imagine that love was excited, devoted, focused, and somewhat giddy!  First things are often seen as important things, well, unless we finish second…J.  Today I want us to just follow the story line through this reading and then I want to present 3 observations for us to take away. 

In Luke’s gospel the first thing Jesus does is teach.  It is similar in the gospels of Mark and Matthew where Jesus begins preaching.  These days we might equate teaching and preaching, and perhaps we should, but our focus this morning is on Luke who talks about Jesus teaching in the synagogues.  The synagogue is the Jewish house of worship, what we would call our sanctuary.  Since first things are often so important, we might wonder what message the first act of ministry means for Jesus and for His church.  Luke 4:14-15 only gives the information that he taught, nothing on the content.  Of course, we can assume he taught from the Torah, the Old Testament lessons that would have normally been read in the synagogue. 

When Jesus returned to the public after his forty days in the wilderness, word began to spread about him and he in turn walked from synagogue to synagogue teaching the word and his praises were growing.  I’d really like to have a manuscript of all those teachings, and perhaps we do in the gospels.  God has given us all that we need to see the teachings of Jesus and exactly what God intended for us to have.  We have not missed anything!

It’s like the road to Emmaus story in Luke 24 when Jesus taught the two disciples along the way, yet we have no record of what he said…except we do have a record of what he taught from “beginning with Moses and all the prophets”. 

Let’s assume that because Jesus began His ministry with teaching that it is of first importance.  And what do teachers need?  Students.  So Jesus needs His people to become lifelong learners, apprentices, that means, disciples!  It is our responsibility to be an avid student of Christ’s teaching, a passionate follower of Jesus’ message, and that may lead many of us to teach others as well. 


2. Jesus’ Reputation Grows

Word spread quickly about Jesus.  In our time, we know how easily and quickly word can spread about anything with all the modern ways of instant news and social media.  But when I think about biblical times, New Testament times, I immediately think that word could not spread nearly as quickly, except for one thought, word of mouth.  We still say that “word of mouth” is one of the best advertisements.  If something is good about a product or service, we talk about it.  Well, people were talking about Jesus.  This guy who kind of burst onto the scene had become the talk of the town, of the entire region.  His reputation grew because of his teaching.  As the gospels reveal, Jesus taught with authority unlike anyone else.  He was the real deal and people were sharing what they heard bringing glory to his reputation. 


3. Jesus Comes Home (To Mixed Reviews)


When Jesus comes home things don’t end up as we might expect.  Sometimes when someone becomes popular, bigger than they have ever been, sometimes it is hard to come home to the humble beginnings.  Jesus grew up in Nazareth and in many people’s eyes he was just a carpenter’s son.  He came to teach in the synagogue just as he had been doing in so many other towns and, at first, people are amazed.  But after Jesus speaks and people start talking and the views of the people begins to change.  It changes so drastically that they want to toss Jesus off a cliff.  How angry do you have to be to want to kill someone shortly after you’ve been worshipping in the synagogue? 



4. The Scripture Read and Interpreted


What does Jesus read and what does he say that eventually leads people to turn against him?  The text is from Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…”  This alone would never had given anyone reason to become upset with Jesus, but what he says after the reading begins the rise of their anger.  “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It may not have registered in their hearing right away, but Jesus is essentially saying that Isaiah’s prophetic word has become fulfilled in Him.  In fact everyone spoke well of him at first.  Then they ask about his background.  Joseph’s son?  Is that him?  They knew Joseph.  They knew Jesus, probably watched him grow up from childhood.  When you know someone’s past, even if it is the one who never sinned, you do not expect him to be the Messiah.  He is too familiar; to them he is just a normal guy, so how could he be the Messiah?

Jesus responds arguing that the people will require him to perform for them.  Heal us like you did in Capernaum.  But Jesus turns again to the prophets and talks about Elijah and Elisha and the accusation from the stories is taken by the crowd as a personal indictment.  What was it that Jesus said to set them off?  Sometimes we call that stepping on someone’s toes.  Apparently Jesus stomped all over theirs. 

They became so angry that they wanted to kill him.  At least two things caused them to turn on Jesus.  The first is the claim that the scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing.  Jesus is basically proclaiming his identity as the long awaited Messiah.  And secondly, from the Elijah and Elisha story Jesus is saying that God has more work that includes more than just the Jews.  The Gentiles are also among God’s chosen.  The widow is a Gentile and a woman, two strikes in the Jewish mind, yet God helps her, and the Elisha helps Naaman, a Gentile who has leprosy, another two strikes.   The scandal that Jesus raises up is twofold, He claims to be the Messiah and he claims that God is reaching out, and has always reached out, beyond chosen Israel.  His claims attack their understanding of the Messiah and their election as God’s own.  This is why they get angry with Jesus.


5. There’s No Place Like Home


I wonder what would happen if I returned to my hometown.  People remember a different kid than who I am today.  I know my high school friends are quite surprised to find out that I’m a minister.  Jesus is received as the popular hometown boy until he makes two “outrageous” claims, then the crowd turns on him.


6. The Great Escape


Here is a crowd of angry people, perhaps a mob of people, who are out to toss Jesus off a cliff.  What might have been a miraculous event happens with the simple statement that Jesus passes through the crowd and goes on his way.  We are not told it is a miracle, but it sure has the visual effect of a miracle.  How does he turn and just walk through an angry mob?  We don’t know.  All we have is this brief description, “passing through their midst, he went away.”




7. Listen to Your Teacher


We teach our children to pay attention to their teachers as they go through their years in school.  We need to hear that encouragement throughout our lives because we are always a student of Jesus.  We will spend our lives learning from the Master Teacher.  Here are just a few things to listen to from this lesson today:


  • Listen to the gospel in the Old Testament – Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  It points us to Jesus.  The Old Testament helps us to understand who Jesus is and who God is and who the Spirit is and who we are and, I could go on and on, but the Old and New Testaments help us understand everything!  At the very least, everything we need to know. 


  • Listen to the affirmation of the gospel – Jesus is the Son of God who has come.  The gospel is revealed in Luke 4 through the prophet Isaiah as Jesus reads those words of anointing and proclamation, liberty and sight, and the year of the Lord’s favor.


  • Listen to the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ – Jesus teaches us through his word and by the Holy Spirit.  Now that does not mean we can isolate ourselves and claim that Jesus and the Spirit are our only guides.  We too easily deceive ourselves.  We need God’s people around us and God’s people who have come before us to help us discern what the teachings of Christ mean for us.  But we must also reflect what we read and hear back to the Bible and to Jesus and through prayer.  Listen to your Teacher!  Amen.