Sunday, November 01, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus in Galilee"

“Jesus in Galilee”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
November 1, 2009
Luke 4:14-44

Today, we are continuing our series on the Gospel of Luke – “Certain of Jesus.”  Luke wrote this to help people to grow in certainty about who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and what Jesus wants from us and for us.  Certain of Jesus.

Last week, we learned about Jesus’ miraculous baptism, His genealogy, and his testing in the wilderness–a test that He passed for us with flying colors.  Jesus is the Son of God.

Now, at the end of chapter 4, Luke tells us about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee–the northern territory of the nation of Israel.  “Jesus in Galilee.”

The passage is broken up into 2 parts.  I’m going to read both of them for you and then comment upon them together.

The first part (after a general statement about all of Galilee) focuses on Nazareth.  It runs from verse 16 through verse 30, and it tells the story of the time Jesus came back to His hometown and tried to preach a sermon and how people reacted to it.

It’s a sermon unlike any other that you and I will ever hear.

So verses 16 through 30 take place in Nazareth.
Verses 31 through 44 take place in Capernaum.

Both of these are cities in Galilee.

And I want you to notice how different the reactions are to Jesus in Capernaum versus Nazareth.

Same Jesus.  Same message.  Very different reactions.

Okay? Let’s read verses 14 through 44 and then pray.

[Scripture reading, prayer]

Did you notice how different the reactions were between Nazareth and Capernaum?!

How did Jesus play in Nazareth?  Not so good!  I’m glad that no one has ever responded to one of my sermons like that!  But then again, maybe mine aren’t very good.  Jesus preaches the best of all and gets run out of town.


It started out okay.  In verses 14 and 15, we read that everyone in all of Galilee was praising Him, at the start!

And even in Nazareth, they started out happy with their hometown boy (v.22).

Why did things go South?

We’ll talk about that in a second.

How did they respond in Capernaum to Jesus’ ministry?

Verse 42 says that they didn’t want him to leave!  They tried to keep Him there.

Same Jesus. Same message.  Very different responses.

Let’s look first at the Nazareth one.

Jesus has returned in the power of the Spirit from His testing in the wilderness.  Remember, it was the Spirit that took Him there and the Spirit that brings Him back.

And he heads home.  V.16

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

Synagogues weren’t temples, they were more like schools, local religious schools spread throughout the countryside. And there was religious instruction there on the Sabbath.

Jesus had the habit of visiting synagogues.

And now, back at His home synagogue, where He had probably heard over a thousand sermons on the Old Testament, He offers to preach one Himself.

The synagogue leader gives Him a scroll, and He picks out His text very much on purpose. Verse 17.

“The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. 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.’  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.”

Sitting down was the appropriate custom for a teacher at that time.  We stand up to preach, but they sat down to teach the Scriptures.

So, Jesus has announced and read His text–it’s from Isaiah chapter 61, and it’s about the Servant of the Lord–this mysterious Person that shows up in Isaiah doing God’s will, proclaiming God’s favor, and bringing in the Kingdom of God.

And here’s the riveting moment.  V.20

“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.’”

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Wow!  Isaiah 61 is coming true right here, right now?

This sounds good!

Verse 22, I think shows the range of reactions that come with Jesus’ pronouncement.

“All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn't this Joseph's son?’ they asked.”

The first part of that very seems to indicate that they were excited by Jesus’ words.  They sound good.  Jesus is a good speaker. He’s saying something that people want to hear.  How long have we waited for Isaiah 61 to be fulfilled?!

But the second part of that verse seems to show that they quickly grew skeptical.

“I mean, this is Jesus.  He used to play with our boys.

This is Joseph’s son, right?  The carpenter?”  Joseph is probably dead already by now.

“This is Jesus?  We know Jesus.  He’s a great kid, but he’s no ‘Servant of the Lord!’

If he’s the Messiah, I guess we don’t need the Messiah!”

We can just about see the quizzical looks on their faces. “What’s going on here?”

Here’s what’s going on here.  Jesus is saying that He is the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, the fulfillment of God’s promises, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

And they’re not going to believe it.

Jesus is saying that He is good news for needy people.  V.18 again.

“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.”

v.21 “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”


He brings good news.  He has been anointed to bring good news.  And He is the fulfilment of that good news!

He is, in a word, the Messiah.

This is quite a claim.

It doesn’t shock us because we already believe all these things about Him.

We know His backstory and the story of His birth and the story of His baptism and His family.  We know what He went through in the desert.

But the folks don’t.  And they aren’t going to believe Him.

Jesus claims to be good news for needy people.

Notice the four kinds of needy people in verse 18.

The Poor
The Prisoners
The Blind
The Oppressed

Those are descriptions of truly needy people, aren’t they?

The poor don’t have anything.
The prisoners don’t have freedom.
The blind don’t have sight.
The oppressed don’t have peace or joy.

I’m sure that these categories relate to the materially poor, the physically incarcerated, the physically blind, those oppressed by other humans.

But I also think that those categories point to the more ultimate, spiritual categories.

Poor in Spirit.
Enslaved and Jailed by Sin.
Blinded by Idolatry
Oppressed by Hate, Doom, and Demons

These point to our more ultimate neediness–spiritual neediness.

And Jesus says that the Spirit (who led Him into the desert to be tempted and now into the synagogue to preach) is upon Him, anointing Him to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor–the coming of the Kingdom of God!

Jesus is good news for needy people.

The real question is, “Do we see ourselves in these categories?”

Do we realize that we are poor?

I think that the poor in spirit, are those who realize that they are bankrupt spiritually on their own.  The poor in spirit are those who realize that they are spiritually needy.

Do you sing, “I need thee, O I need thee, every hour I need thee...”

There is good news for you in Jesus.

The spiritual prisoners are those who are enslaved and incarcerated by the power of sin.  Sin is powerful.

Everyone who is addicted to something knows that. And most of us are addicts of some kind or another.

Do you see yourself as imprisoned?

Jesus proclaims freedom for the prisoners.

The blind are those who cannot see, spiritually, the glory of the Lord and have been deceived by Satan and fallen into his traps.

Do you see yourself as blind?

Jesus brings sight to the blind.

The oppressed are those are beaten down by tormentors.  Maybe depression.  Maybe despondency.  Maybe demonic oppression. Maybe by your own sin.

Do you see yourself as oppressed?

Jesus brings release for the oppressed.

Jesus is good news for needy people.

But we have to see ourselves as needy!

I think that’s where the good folks of Nazareth went wrong.

They thought they were good folks!

Jesus knew their hearts. He knew how they felt about Him and how they were going to react to Him. So He put it into words.  V.23

“Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself!  [You see a problem here?  I think the problem is you!  You think you’re so great? Do a sign for us.]  Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'’ [News has spread of the miracles He’s already done, and there is more to come. But not here.]  ‘I tell you the truth,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”

And then He gets personal.  V.25

“I assure you that there were many widows in Israel [God’s nation!] in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them [Israelites], but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon [A Gentile!].  And there were many in Israel [God’s good people!] with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed–only Naaman the Syrian [also a Gentile].’

And then the townspeople got furious and tried to kill Him!

If He wasn’t the Son of God and it wasn’t His time yet to die, Jesus would have been killed right there on the spot.


I don’t think these Nazarenes wanted to think of themselves as needy.

Jesus was putting His divine finger on, not just their ethnocentricism, their racism, and their lack of love for Gentiles.  He was putting His finger on their pride.

He was basically saying that they were worse off than Phoenician widows and Syrian lepers!

Because they wouldn’t recognize it!

And they thought this was insulting.

This is why John wrote this in chapter 1 of his gospel, “[Jesus] came to that which was His own, but His own received Him not.”

These folks didn’t want to see themselves as needy like that.

And if they had needs, they weren’t going to look to Jesus to fill them!

And they turned into an angry mob.

We have to see ourselves as needy and see Jesus as the answer to our need.

In verse 31, Jesus took His message and His miracles to another Galilean city–Capernaum. 

“Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people.  They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.”

The Spirit is on Jesus. And He teaches like no one else does.

Everyone else quoted authorities. Jesus spoke as an authority.

And He began to back up His message with demonstrations of power.

V. 18 is beginning to be fulfilled.

Jesus is good news for needy people.

Good news for the demon-possessed.

Verses 33-36 and again in verses 41.

Jesus confronts these evil spirits. And they always lose.

They try to control Him by saying His name. Doesn’t work.

He controls them. And He doesn’t need their testimony to prove that He’s the Messiah!

He uses His kingdom authority to start bringing that freedom to those who were imprisoned by demon possession.

Good news for the sick.

First with Simon’s mother-in-law. She had high fever and there was no ibuprofen.

Jesus bends down and “rebukes” the fever.  As if the fever was a person, it’s rebuked.

And she feels so good that she gets up and starts to serve others with the health that’s been regained!

Jesus is good news for the sick!

These miracles are tangible demonstrations of the Spirit’s power that is working through Jesus.

They are a taste of the good news of the Kingdom that Jesus is bringing to the neediest of the needy.

And the folks in Capernaum receive it!  V.42

“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place [I assume, to pray]. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.  But he said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’  And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.”

Now, I don’t imagine that the folks in Capernaum understood all of what He was saying and that their response was one of total faith.

Maybe they just like the miracles.

But their response was much better than those in Nazareth who didn’t receive Jesus at all.

They were seeing, at least in part, that He was Who He said He was–the fulfillment of Isaiah 61.

Good news for needy people.

Now, how do we apply this passage to our lives?

I can think of several things.

First, we can be glad that God has love for Gentiles.

The Nazarenes didn’t love Gentiles, but Jesus loves to tell stories about how God met the needs of Gentiles, non-Jews.

This is good news for us because most of us here are not Jewish.  We’re all on the outside. We’re all widows of Zarephath and Naamans of Syria!

I’m sure that the good Jewish folks in Nazareth never expected Isaiah 61 to apply to Gentiles like you and me.

But Jesus is good news for needy people in Western Pennyslvania, too.

We can be glad that God has love for Gentiles.

Second, we have to recognize our need.

Jesus came for needy people.  Elsewhere He says, “The healthy people don’t need a doctor. I have come for the sick.”

We need to humble ourselves and recognize our need.

That goes for the person who is not yet a Christ-follower and for the person who has been following Christ by faith the longest.

Are you poor, imprisoned, blind, oppressed?

Jesus is good news for you.

Jesus lives a perfect life and then died on the Cross for our sins to bring the good news of the Kingdom to all who trust in Him.

But we have to admit our need.

It matters how we respond to Him.

Whether we want Him to stay or to go away.

Jesus came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

But those who did receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become [dependent!] children of God.

Not only do we have to recognize our neediness, we have to recognize that Jesus is the answer to our neediness.

And third, we need to turn to Him while we still can.

Why do I say that?

Because Jesus left off a part of the verse.

When Jesus read Isaiah 61, He stopped in the middle of the verse.

Listen to Isaiah 61, verse 2.

The Spirit has sent me to “to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor...and the day of vengeance of our God...”

Jesus left that part off. Why?

Not because He didn’t believe it.

But because it wasn’t time for that yet.

Right now Jesus was emphasizing the first part with His first coming.

Jesus had come to bring good news to the needy.

But He will come again and bring bad news to the bad.

He will bring vengeance when He returns.

We need to turn to Him while we still can.

Are you a faith-follower of Jesus Christ?

If you are not yet a faith-follower of Jesus Christ, I urge you to turn to Him today.

Trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of eternal life.

He did everything on the Cross, everything needed for your hope and salvation.

Repent of your sins and put your trust in Him.

Don’t be like Nazareth, rejecting Him once again.

Receive Him and be His child.

If you are His child, don’t stop being needy.

Every day sing, “I need thee, O, I need thee, every hour I need thee!”

Admit your poverty, your imprisonments, your blindnesses, your oppressions and see Jesus bring hope and change and transformation piece by piece bit by bit in your life.

Because Jesus is good news for needy people like you and me.

Previous Messages In This Series: