Isaiah 45:22-end, Luke 4:16-24
In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit, Amen.
There are several things we need to pay attention to in the account of Jesus in the Nazareth Synagogue. I am sure this was one of those ‘where you there moments’ in Jesus’ life. When afterwards people who were there remembered what Jesus had said and done. We are early on in Luke’s gospel, accompanying the itinerant Jesus in the early days of his travels spreading the good news. Jesus has obviously got into the habit of visiting the local synagogue where he was on the sabbath and speaking. This was revealed in the phrase ‘as was his custom’.
The synagogue visited on this particular day is different in so much as it was very familiar to him. It being the one he would have visited regularly as he grew up and matured as we are in Nazareth. The people there would know him well.
As it is indeed Bible Sunday, it is good to see Jesus relying on the scripture as he does in the early part of this account. We know Jesus is well versed in the scripture of his day (which would be the Hebrew bible or Old Testament). When he reads that dramatic prophecy from Isaiah chapter 6, it is His own message of good news. Release, healing and freedom from oppression to a people who were very much oppressed at the time and often suffering times of great hardship.
It ends with a proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favour. (This is pointing to the divine will and purpose in Jesus being there, to bring salvation and as we know his love changes things forever).
One can feel the tension in the room in how the scene is described – as he sat down after having read, the text says- and All the eyes of the synagogue were fixed on him. This is the kind of moment we might describe as being able to hear a pin drop! What was happening on the surface was pointing to much deeper truths underneath and the people gathered knew it.
We aren’t given too much information as to what happens next. He confirms (and this is a pretty radical thing to do in the Synagogue) that this scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing. Pointing to Jesus saying “I am the Messiah”. Then he spoke gracious words – which we don’t get written down. What can we learn from this specifically and apply to our lives
Firstly, that Jesus relied heavily on the scripture available to him. This is not so frequently seen in Luke’s gospel, which we have been studying in our Sunday worship during this year but much more frequently in Matthew’s. Matthew’s gospel was written for a predominantly Jewish audience rather than a predominantly gentile one which relates to Luke’s gospel. We will be moving in our Sunday worship in a few weeks time to mostly concentrating on Matthew’s gospel. So now would be a very good time, to re-read Matthew’s gospel for ourselves. It will take a bit longer to do (probably a couple of hours over a couple of afternoons in the armchair). I have put the link to the David Suchet version (2hrs 36 minutes) in the newsletter. But I do recommend it to get a sense of how our teaching Sunday by Sunday hangs together. This is the equivalent of us following the example of Jesus of holding the scripture close and as well as reading passages each day to provide spiritual nourishment – like using the New daylight bible reading resources from the Bible Reading Fellowship, immersing ourselves in the wonder of the rich resource the Bible is. Reading whole books from time to time can be a useful exercise for going deeper.
Whilst we think about this let’s also marvel at what a gift reading is and the world and levels of understanding it opens up to us. We are extremely fortunate to be able to read and to be able to read freely. We are also very fortunate to have the resource of our Bibles to read so freely. This is easy to take for granted – let’s not be people who do that! If we are going to be like Jesus in reliance on the scripture, we do need to be familiar with it, and use it to guide our lives.
The second thing I want us to think about and learn from Jesus this morning is that he spoke gracious words. When we get an opportunity to speak do we stay within the margins of graciousness in our words? We are living through some pretty trying times and it is easy for our interactions to stray from graciousness into being strident about what we want! We have had a lot of examples of very strident behaviour and reasonably graceless behaviour in our public sphere at the moment. A lot of it has been a pretty uncomfortable watch, especially in view of the seriousness of the underlying situation. This way of being is not something to aspire too and really we want better from ourselves and those who inhabit the public domain.
I think (though disagreeing with me) is allowed, more attention to ‘graciousness’ in our communications could really help here. Both in the words from our mouths, in what we write and especially in social media (if we do that). Being gracious can be defined as being kind, courteous and even delightful. Going deeper it can also mean being forgiving, merciful and compassionate.
Seeing someone being gracious or experiencing it can move us to change ourselves. We can trust God to always love us graciously. Our challenge is to model doing likewise.
I am going to end with some well-known verses from psalm 103 – which describe how God loves us and how we need to model our gracious life on his love for us
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; Amen
References: https://bibleproject.com/blog/biblical-grace-and-a-generous-god/, The New Revised Standard Version (Anglican edition) copyright 1989, 1995