My notes from Colin Smith’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)
The events of Luke 4:16-30 take place early on in Jesus’ ministry. Word of His ministry in Galilee had already spread through the area, and os this is taking place about a year in. This is a town where folks played with Jesus as a child, who maybe had a table mended by Jesus… And we’re told it was Jesus’ custom to worship here.
When someone becomes famous, it’s a big deal for a small town. And this great day comes, after all the stories have been circulated, Jesus is coming back to town, and no doubt word circulated so much so that there would have been a really big crowd.
We all know how dead religion can be—but this day was different. The pattern would have likely been the same as always, right up to the reading from the Prophets. And Jesus stood and chose to read from Isaiah 61, and this is what he read:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He rolls up the scroll and sits down. The people, with bated breath, turn wondering what he’s going to say and he says, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Four identifying characteristics of Jesus’ preaching:
1. Jesus preached the Scriptures.
This itself isn’t terribly unusual; but so much preaching can feel like lectures prophecies of the past. But look at what happens when Jesus preaches the Scriptures—what Jesus brings is good news for today, right now. He takes what was there and then and brings it to here and now.
Christian preaching is not just to transfer information but to bring about transformation.
J.I. Packer says, “The purpose of preaching is to mediate encounters with God.” And this si what is happening here. The Son of God who is the Word of God takes the Bible in his hand—how much more should we do the same? And to do this, we need to have the Bible speak to us, to have the searchlight of the Scriptures turned upon us.
2. Jesus speaks directly to the human condition.
“He sent me to speak good news to the poor… to the captives… the blind… the oppressed.” These are the words the Bible uses to describe the position of not just some people but all people before God.
Jesus isn’t speaking of ministry to a particular group of disadvantaged people, the words he uses describe the spiritual condition of all people.
3. Jesus preaches himself.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me… He has sent me…”
I love this statement in verse 20, “as he spoke the eyes of all the people were fixed on him.” Oh, to speak in such a way that the eyes of all who hear are fixed on Jesus.
Spurgeon asked his students, “What good do you think your sermon will do if Jesus Christ is not in it?”
During a sabbatical hearing many sermons, I was struck by how many never had a single reference to the Savior of the World. Christ preached Himself.
4. Jesus proclaimed grace.
“…good news to the poor… liberty to the captives… sight to the blind… liberty to the oppressed… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In the Law, every seven years, all debts were to be forgiven. And after seven cycles of seven years, came the year of Jubilee—land that was sold would be returned to the original owner.
These were marvelously compassionate laws.
They made gave checks to the wealthy, made sure the children of the wealthy had to make their own way in the world, and gave the poor a fresh start once every lifetime.
No culture has had laws like this before or since.
How would you like to live under these laws? It depends if you’re a debtor or creditor. They’re great for debtors but costly for creditors.
God proclaimed these Laws in the wilderness that they were to blow the trumpet for the year of the Lord’s Jubilee—how many times do you think the trumpet sounded?
God’s laws for the protection of the poor were systematically ignored. These laws could only be performed by those who loved the Lord with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength—and there has never been a culture that did this perfectly.
And so the Prophets promised one who would do this, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And so Jesus comes and says, “The Spirit is upon ME, and has anointed ME to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” God is going to cancel your debts and bring you liberty, Jesus says, and he’s going to do it through me.
But it was incredibly costly to Jesus himself. He goes to the cross, releases the debt of sin… that is the gospel.
I want you to notice this—that grace is the dominant note in this preaching of Jesus. Look at it in verse 22: “And all spoke well of him, and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”
Here are these people and they’re hearing Jesus speak, and we’re told the most striking thing about Jesus Christ: gracious. They marveled at the gracious words of his mouth. Grace is what struck them.
Travel the world to synagogues, and mosques and even many churches and what you will hear is message about what you must do for God. This was the steady diet of Jesus’ hearers. But listening to Him, they knew they were hearing something completely different and it was extraordinary to them.
Some of you may have experienced and been marked by a form of Christianity that is more associated with hardness than grace. In the world of moralistic religion, the word of Jesus breaks through and shines light. The law came through Moses, but grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. And the grace of Christ should fill the words of those who speak.
There are some who speak of patience and grace but there’s little evidence that he has such things. But Jesus has these—and the people are marveling at the gracious words that come from His mouth.
But then, there’s a change. A twist that comes in the story. In verse 28, the people are filled with wrath and the people drive him out of town to throw him off a cliff, but we’re told in verse 30 that he passes through the crowd.
His time had not yet come—and even when it had come, they could not take his life away from him.
No one who fights against Jesus ultimately wins.
But there is this extraordinary change—why? They marveled at his gracious words—then they were filled with wrath.
The extraordinary thing is, the grace that first impressed them was also what made them angry. Because grace means God has no obligations and no restraints.
In verse 23, they clearly had a sense that they had some special claim on Jesus. He knows this what they’re thinking—and he tells them you can’t demand grace. You can’t demand a miracle.
Rights are always based on law. You may have a right to a tax refund. If you do, it’s because paying taxes are based on a law.
But there are no rights in the world of grace. And this is where these people got into trouble as many do today. The tragedy of the townspeople is that the same people who demanded mighty works were the same who found no great works were done among them.
We’ve reversed the way things are—we’ve made the world all about us; that we are most high and as long as we are most high there can be peace and goodwill toward God. It’s about us and God doing what we’re telling Him to do.
But Jesus doesn’t work that way. And it made them very angry.
Grace means God has no obligations—and grace means God has no restrictions. And Jesus reminds them of this great truth through two OT stories—the widow of Zarephath and of Naaman the Syrian.
God sends Elijah to the widow in Zarephath, to a woman in a land of idolatry, rather than to the widows of Israel. God has no restrictions. And the story of Naaman makes exactly the same point. He’s highly decorated and powerful, but he has a problem—he’s a leper. So he comes to Elisha, who tells him to wash in the river and miraculously he was healed. And Jesus tells them there were many lepers in Naaman’s day, but healing only came to Naaman. The captain of the enemies of God’s people—he receives the grace of God.
Grace means God is obligated to no one. He is restricted by nothing. He is free to save whoever he wills.
Grace means GOD is the one who has free-will.
“And when they heard these things, all were filled with wrath.”
Grace will either make you angry or lead you to worship. It’s always one of the two. Does it not amaze you today that you should be in Christ when people you know and you love think so little of him?
And why is that? Because you’re a better person who made better choices?
Do you not stand in amazement at God’s grace in your life?
Let grace lead you to worship.