160131 Luke 4:20-32

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 January 2016 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Luke 4:20-32
Theme: When Jesus Talks, People Listen

The atmosphere in the upscale restaurant is lively. Thanks to the lunch crowd, every chair in the place is filled. The clicking of silverware and the buzz of conversation make it very difficult to distinguish individual words. But it is possible to pick up on a conversation at a table in the middle of the dining area where the discussion is about financial matters.

A businessman tells his friend that you'll never regret the purchase of a good stock, and that his broker told him this particular stock was a very good buy. When he asks his friend what his broker says, the other man leans over the table and says: "Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and Hutton says..." At that moment, everything in the room stops. People stop talking. Waiters stop serving. The only movement comes from people stretching and leaning over as far as possible to hear what this man is about to say.

Maybe some of you recognize this commercial or others like it from the late 70s and early 80s. If you remember the ad campaign, there is a good chance you also remember the slogan that went along with it: "When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen."

It was the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He had just completed a successful preaching tour of Galilee. Everyone praised this new teacher and his new teaching, and he was beginning to attract a following. When Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, the excitement continued to build. People were proud of their hometown hero. They wanted to hear him too, and so they invited him to speak in the synagogue on the Sabbath.

As Jesus stood up, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).

As Jesus took his seat, the room was completely silent. Every eye was fixed on him. Every ear was eager to hear him. But this was no commercial. This was real. And the anticipation of the people of Nazareth demonstrates this important spiritual truth...


I. His message brings initial popularity
II. His message creates intense hostility
III. His message possesses divine authority

Nazareth was not a very important place. Not many people lived there. Not much happened there. So when Jesus came along, it was big news. The headline in the paper might have read something like this; "Local Boy Does Good."

What good had Jesus done? He had gone from town to town in Galilee teaching in the synagogues, and he had performed any number of miracles along the way. The people of Nazareth wanted to hear about his experiences, every miraculous detail. And so they invited him to speak on the Sabbath.

It's not surprising that Jesus was willing to address the people because teaching was an important part of his ministry. It's not surprising that Jesus stood up and read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah because Scripture reading was a regular part of a synagogue service. But what Jesus said after he sat down came as a huge surprise to everyone in the room when he declared: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (21).

Maybe the people were in shock. Maybe they didn't understand what Jesus meant. Maybe they felt they had to say something. Whatever the people were thinking, Luke reports that "all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips" (22).

Jesus' message brought him initial popularity. He was treated like a celebrity. He was the topic of conversation in the marketplace. At least at the beginning of his address, the people were impressed. And I think that we can find some parallels today. There are plenty of people in the world who have only a limited knowledge of Jesus. They don't equate Jesus with God. They might not describe Jesus as their Savior. But those same people aren't necessarily looking to bash Jesus either. Instead they call him great teacher, a moral leader, a noble example.

On the surface much of what Jesus says has a broad appeal. "Don't worry. Don't judge other people. Don't be afraid." But when you dig a little deeper, when Jesus starts to poke his nose into your personal business, when he tells you that you are doing things you shouldn't be doing and that you aren't doing the things you should be doing, it doesn't take long for that initial popularity to disappear. Jesus experienced that personally in Nazareth. And as he continued, his message created intense hostility.

When we read this account, we need to remember that Jesus has an ability we don't have. He can read people's minds. He can see into people's hearts. He knew that the people wanted something, that they were looking for a miracle. This helps us understand what Jesus was talking about when he said: "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum'" (23).

The people of Nazareth believed that they were special. Not only were they Jews like Jesus, not only were they God's chosen people, they were family. They knew Mary and Joseph. They watched Jesus grow up. Because Jesus was a Nazarene, because Jesus was one of them, he owed them. And they thought that a miracle would be a good place to start.

Instead of giving the people what they wanted, Jesus gave them a stern rebuke: "I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown" (24). And then he referred to two Old Testament prophets to reinforce his point. In the time of Elijah, there was a severe drought in Israel, a drought that lasted over three years and caused a severe famine in the land. Instead of using Elijah to help the thousands of needy people at home, God sent him to a foreign country to help a widow in Sidon. Not long after that Elisha succeeded Elijah as prophet. In Elisha's day there was no shortage of sick people in Israel, but the Lord chose to heal Naaman, the commander of the army of Israel's sworn enemy.

Jesus invoked the names of Elijah and Elisha to tell his fellow Nazarenes: "I don't owe you anything. God didn't send me to entertain you. God sent me to save you, and not just you either. My mission is a worldwide mission. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost, no matter who they are, no matter where they live."

This time there was no confusion. This time the people understood exactly what Jesus was saying. And their intense anger moved them to immediate action: "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff" (29). Within minutes, the same people who were amazed by Jesus were trying to kill Jesus.

Maybe the reaction isn't exactly the same, maybe the hatred is more controlled, but God's message continues to create intense hostility today. And the venom doesn't always come from the fangs of card carrying atheists or anti-Christian groups like Freedom From Religion. Hatred for God and God's Word starts in here. The animosity burns inside every sinful human heart.

My sinful nature demands: "What gives God the right to dictate to me? I go to church. I give my offerings. I try to do more good than bad in my life. I may not be perfect, but I can think of a lot of people who are a whole lot worse than me. And God wants to condemn me? God wants to punish me? If anything, God owes me."

Instead of answering those accusations, the Lord asks the same question: "What gives you the right to dictate to me? I know what you did last week. I know what you said last night. I know what you are thinking every minute of every day, and you and I both know that I don't like what I see. The truth is that you aren't as good as you think you are. You aren't good enough. You are not good at all."

We don't want to hear that. We don't want to admit that. We don't want to draw the personal conclusion to passages like "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Instead our natural defense mechanism is to fight back, to deny accountability, to deny culpability, to react to the truth with aggression instead of confession.

The good news is that Jesus foiled the plans of the people. When they tried to kill him, Jesus "walked right through the crowd and went on his way" (30). Jesus' miraculous escape confirms the fact that his message possesses divine authority.

Jesus made his way to Capernaum and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. What he did was basically the same, but this time the results were very different: the people "were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority" (32). Jesus didn't attract large crowds because he was a dynamic speaker. People were drawn to Jesus because of his message. People are amazed at Jesus' teaching because his teaching is amazing.

Every other religion in the world tells you what you need to do. Jesus tells you what he has done for you. Every other religion puts the burden on the individual. Jesus put the burden on his cross. Every other religion strives to help people find God. Jesus gives you the assurance that God has found you.

The message of the Bible is unique because it isn't a message about God. It is a message from God. And this is what he says: "I love you. I love you so much that I gave up my life for you. Remember all the sins you have committed. They are forgiven. You are forgiven. You are mine. Trust in me now, and join me in heaven."

Chances are that you haven't heard much about E.F. Hutton lately. There is a good reason for that. Ironically, the company that built its business on a foundation on honesty and integrity later went bankrupt because of corporate fraud.

It has been two thousand years since Jesus left this earth, and his name continues to be proclaimed throughout the world. We are living proof. We have gathered in God's house. We have gathered in God's name. We have gathered to hear God's Word. And the fact that we are here today confirms what we already know to be true. When Jesus talks, people listen. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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