Luke 4

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What do you expect when you come to worship? I wonder what the worshippers who came to synagogue in Nazareth expected? Maybe they thought it would be a day like any other. Saying prayers, reading Scripture, some study. ...

I want you to imagine what it would have been like for the men and women who had high hopes for Jesus’ ministry. They were there that day when Jesus read Scripture. He said ...

The Spirit of the Lord is on me and he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. (Luke 4:18-19)

He claimed that this ancient reading was fulfilled even as they heard it. Jesus certainly proved to have the power to back up his claim. No wonder people followed him and wanted to learn how to live.

But now it is years after that and those same men and women have lost their hopes. Jesus is hanging on a cross.

What did Jesus do to end up hanging on a cross? The answer is not “nothing.” In fact Jesus did everything that he said he would do. He proclaimed good news to the poor. He set captives free. He restored sight to the blind. He released the oppressed. He had the audacity to say that God favored us.

Now, I understand if you feel like that isn’t fair. I understand if you feel like that isn’t just. It isn’t. In fact it sort of makes us think that there’s something sort of broken with the way things are. It shouldn’t be like this. You are right. It shouldn’t.

But Jesus was a threat to the powers that keep us poor, blind, imprisoned, captive, and oppressed. And they would do anything to keep their power – even if it meant remaining captive to sin. They nailed Jesus to a cross in order to send the message that there was no good news for the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. They wanted to reserve God’s favor for those that they considered worthy.

Can you feel what the disciples of Jesus felt when all of their hopes were dashed?

What happened to the Spirit of the Lord that rested on Jesus? Did God remove his favor?
Even as Jesus suffered and died, he trusted in God and his goodness. He said “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

The cross seemed like the end, but it wasn’t. Jesus’ trust and submission to God was not misplaced. God raised him from the dead and exalted him. Hope was restored.

Here we are now. What did you expect today when you came to worship? Maybe a song, a prayer, communion, some preaching and scripture reading.

What if I told you that the Spirit of Christ is still proclaiming Good News. For those who are poor, captive, oppressed, there is hope. God favors you.

But be warned ...

  1. Some people rejected Jesus in the synagogue – as soon Jesus got very generous with God’s favor, they wanted to kill him.
  2. Some people rejected Jesus at the crucifixion. Jesus threatened the truce that they had made with the powers of sin and evil. They had become comfortable in their blindness and captivity. Jesus threatened that comfort.

Those who reject God’s favor, choose poverty, captivity, blindness, and oppression. Could that be you?

Some of us are poor – literally and figuratively, our spirit is impoverished – we quench the joy that can be ours by submitting and trusting our spirit to God the Father.
Some of us are captives – to the state, to debt, and to our lusts
Some of us are blind – to the truth, to the needs of others, to the sin in our own lives
Some of us are oppressed – by our own selfishness, our anger, our hatred, our sin.

The Spirit of the Lord, through Jesus, is proclaiming good news. Something good and something new ... The good news is this: God favors you.

The Holy Spirit of God was working through those disappointed disciples who had their hope restored when they met the risen Christ.

Peter preaching to those who rejected God’s Favor ...

(Acts 2:38-40) Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

There is hope. God favors you. Will you trust your spirit to God? Will you accept the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 June 2009

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