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Scripture Is Fulfilled
Luke 4:4-21


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Third Sunday after the Epiphany—January 24, 2010

Grace to you and peace form God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Greek word “epiphany” means to “reveal,” to “make known.”  We still use the word epiphany in English.  When something suddenly becomes clear to us, we call that an “epiphany moment.”

During the season of Epiphany, we focus on such “epiphany moments” in the earthly life of our Lord, events which made clear, revealed, made known who he is, and the mission he came into our world to accomplish.

We began on the festival of Epiphany with the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus.  With their worship and precious gifts, this “epiphany moment” reveals him to be not just any child, but the King of Kings, God, come into our world in human flesh.  As the Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

On the First Sunday after the Epiphany, we commemorated the Baptism of Our Lord.  This “epiphany moment” reveals him to be one of the three Persons of the Triune God:  “Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

Last Sunday, on the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, we recalled Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine at Cana.  This “epiphany moment” made clear to the disciples that Jesus must be much more than just a great rabbi.  As John concludes, “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”

This morning, on the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, we look at another “epiphany moment,” in today’s Gospel Reading from the fourth chapter of Luke. 

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.”

The modern city of Nazareth has a population of over 50,000.  But, in ancient times, Nazareth was just a little village, a lot like the Kansas town where I grew up, and like many rural communities in South Dakota, Iowa, or Nebraska.  A small, close-knit community, with most of the people involved in agriculture.

Luke says, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”  When he was a child, Jesus’ family moved back from Bethlehem, where he was born, to Joseph and Mary’s hometown of Nazareth.  Jesus grew up there and lived quietly for some 30 years in this small town, working as a carpenter with his adoptive father Joseph.  When he was about 30, Jesus left Nazareth to begin his three years of public ministry, beginning with his baptism by his cousin, John the Baptist.

After his baptism he performed the miracle of turning water into wine at nearby Cana, and traveled around teaching in the other towns of Galilee.  As today Gospel Reading begins, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.  He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” 

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.”

No doubt the people back in Nazareth have heard all about the wonderful things being done by their hometown hero.  The synagogue was probably packed that Sabbath Day, because Jesus was coming home. 

“On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.  And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. . .  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.”

This is the oldest known description of synagogue worship.  Jesus had worshipped in this synagogue for some 30 years.  Now returning as a rabbi, he follows the traditional liturgical custom he learned as a child, standing to read the lesson, from Isaiah, and then sitting to preach a sermon on it, probably cross-legged on a platform at the front, in the traditional style of an Oriental teacher.

“The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

In this “epiphany moment,” Jesus declares to the startled crowd that he is much more than just the boy next door and carpenter they grew up with, much more than just the son of Mary and adopted son of Joseph, much more than just a local boy done good, much more than just a great teacher and rabbi.   In his sermon he announces that he himself is the long-awaited promised Messiah whom Isaiah prophesied.  “And he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

But, there were many misconceptions about what the Messiah would do when he came.  Many people, including Jesus’ own disciples, thought that the Messiah would be a great political figure, a revolutionary, who would liberate the Hebrew nation from their Roman oppressors.  And so in this “epiphany moment” Jesus also makes known the real mission of liberation which he came into our world to accomplish. 

“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.’”

Jesus is saying: “You are the poor, spiritually poor, poor, miserable sinners.  You are the prisoners, imprisoned by sin, destined for the punishment of death and damnation.  You are the blind, spiritually blind, you know not the way of salvation, you walk blindly in the ways of evil.  You are the oppressed, oppressed by Satan, and your own sin and wickedness.”

“You have only one hope: the Messiah Isaiah prophesies.  He will preach good news; he will proclaim freedom; he will show the blind the way; he will release the oppressed; he will proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor; he will be your Savior. Your wait is over; the Savior is here; I am he; Scripture is fulfilled.”

“I preach to you good news: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.’”

“I proclaim to you freedom: ‘If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’”

“I show you the way of salvation: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

“I release you from oppression: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. . . Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’”

All these blessings which Jesus brings are summed up in the phrase, “the year of the Lord’s favor.”  When someone has a 50-year anniversary, we call it a golden jubilee.  That word jubilee actually comes from the Hebrew Old Testament.  God commanded his people every 50 years to have a special year of celebration, which in Hebrew is “jubilee.”  During this jubilee year all debts were cancelled, all slaves freed, all prisoners released.

That was symbolic of what was to come.  The jubilee year of the Old Testament pointed forward to what the Messiah would accomplish.  For, the “year of the Lord’s favor” which Jesus ushers in is not just a year, but an era, the Messianic Age.  The “year of the Lord’s favor” is the entire time since the coming of Christ, the era we call “A.D.,” “Anno Domini,” “The Year of Our Lord.”

Every time you write out the date 2010, remember that we are right now—spiritually—in an unending year of jubilee.  Your debts to God are cancelled; you are free from your sin; you are released from your punishment.  “The year of the Lord’s favor” is now.  As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

In this “epiphany moment” at his hometown synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus reveals himself to be the Messiah and makes known the mission he came into our world to accomplish.  Today, here, in your hometown church, Christ still preaches to you the same good news: you are forgiven, you are free, you are released, now is the time of God’s favor, toward you.

In the Scriptures long ago, the Lord promised to send the Messiah.  His promise is come true; Jesus is your Savior; “Scripture Is Fulfilled.”

Amen.

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