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The Rev. Jonathan Redfearn: “All the Rage” (Luke 4)

December 31, 2010

Here is an excellent message by the Rev. Jonathan Redfearn of Jesmond Parish Church in the United Kingdom, titled All the Rage.  In a way this sermon, based on Luke 4, speaks to the season of Christmastide, when one might say Jesus is “all the rage.”  But I think Rev. Redfearn might say (and justifiably so) that the world of our time does not really mean that, any more than the people of Nazareth did in the passage from Luke.  After all, that would mean that people would have to “admit our need of the saving Lord,” as the sermon points out:

Admit our need of the Saving Lord (v14-21)

That Jesus is the saving Lord becomes clear in his sermon that day in Nazareth. V16:

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.

Now when Jesus enters Nazareth, he’s the local hero returning home. Luke tells us in v14&15 that he’s become famous throughout Galilee because of his preaching and healing. Everyone was speaking about him so at the synagogue everyone wants to hear from him. V17:

17  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Having read the reading, he rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the attendant and sits down, taking his position for the sermon. And every eye is fastened on Jesus, every ear straining to hear what this famous preacher has to say. The atmosphere is electric. And what does he say? V 21:

Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

And those eight words of Jesus were absolute dynamite. Why? Because he’s making an amazing claim! He’s claiming to be the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, in passages like Isaiah 61, the one who would come and rescue his people. Jesus is saying that he’s the one who fulfils Isaiah 61. Now Luke’s already given us clues that Jesus is the Messiah. He’s said that Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit (v14). And so v16: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Jesus is God’s Messiah. He is the Spirit anointed rescuer that God has sent into the world. He is God the Son. He’s claiming that he’s the one who’s been sent to do all that Isaiah said the Messiah would in v18-19:

18 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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Some people think that Jesus was simply interested in helping the poor, the weak and the oppressed, that these verses prove it and that’s what Christians are to be involved in today. Well Christians today are to have a deep concern for social injustice, both here and in such very poverty stricken places as South Sudan. Jesus himself was deeply concerned about the poor, he helped the weak, and Luke is concerned to show Jesus in this light. But Jesus was also concerned for rich people like Zacchaeus. So that’s not the full or even the foremost story of Jesus’ mission. These verses aren’t encouraging us to think of Jesus as a political revolutionary. No something far more profound is going on.

And it’s the context that helps us to understand what Jesus is really claiming. Luke 4 v14-30 comes between two passages which teach us about the spiritual battle Jesus was engaged in. His battle with Satan in the desert and his victory over an evil spirit. It’s in the spiritual dimension that Jesus has come to claim the victory first and foremost. All these descriptions of oppression and captivity from Isaiah 61 are first and foremost to be applied spiritually. So although Jesus is concerned for the oppressed and the poor, as we should be, his greater concern is for us spiritually. Notice how Isaiah describes us. We are spiritual paupers. We are destitute, in rags, having nothing in our hands to bring. Perhaps some of us still think we can offer some riches, some good deeds. But the Bible tells us that even our good deeds are like filthy rags. We are spiritual prisoners. We are chained to sin, like a condemned criminal. There’s no way out. We can never pay off the debt we owe God. We’re spiritually blind. And we’re oppressed. Captive to sin and the devil who keeps us locked up and on a short tether. That’s our natural position. That’s what we’re like. And until we admit our need before God we’ll never see what Jesus offers. He brings us spiritual riches, spiritual freedom, spiritual sight, spiritual victory. That’s why the coming of Jesus is such good news. It’s the year of the Lord’s favour. That is all the debts have now been cancelled through the work of Jesus. It will lead him to the cross, but here in Luke 4 the journey is begun. The Spirit of God is upon me to preach good news, he says. If you’ve not already done so will you admit your need of the saving Lord and believe the good news? And if you have will you tell others of him? We too are to be primarily concerned for people spiritually – for changed minds, hearts and lives through faith in Christ.

Many of us know the truth of all this. But I wonder if sometimes familiarity with these truths breeds, if not contempt, then certainly a “shrug of the shoulders” type of apathy. We can fail to see the incredible truths that are spoken of here because we’ve grown accustomed to them. Perhaps you’ve grown a little cold with the things of God. Perhaps you feel in a bit of a rut spiritually or you feel worn down with the struggles of life, that it’s been a while since you felt the joy of being a Christian. You maybe feel you’ve just slightly lost that first love. Well reflect again on the staggering truths of these verses and thank God for Jesus. We were blind, but now we see. We were enslaved but now we’re free. We were poor but now we’re rich. And Jesus achieved this not through a glorious victory in battle, not through a triumphant social revolution, but on a cross, bloody, naked and alone. We must never forget who we once were and what we were like. Remember what Jesus has done for you and what it cost him. And share this amazing news with others – it’s not to be kept private.

Remember too that Jesus wants us to be also concerned about material as well as spiritual poverty, about social injustice. Did you know that one billion people live on a dollar a day? The poverty, hunger, disease, lack of schooling, water and housing is a reproach to our generation. As is modern day slavery such as sex trafficking. Whether we’re willing to do anything about injustice and people’s physical need is a test of the genuineness of our worship. Jesus here also quotes from Isaiah 58:6:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

It’s also a test of the very genuineness of our faith in Christ. Yes we’re rescued by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We can contribute nothing to our salvation. But as Calvin put it: We are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is never alone. Are we on board with Jesus’ mission statement as a whole? To help turn the world upside down – not by violent protests – but with the gospel? The need is so evident.

May we turn the world upside down again with the Gospel as did those early Christians!

Admit our need of the Saving Lord (v14-21)
That Jesus is the saving Lord becomes clear in his sermon that day in Nazareth. V16:

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.

Now when Jesus enters Nazareth, he’s the local hero returning home. Luke tells us in v14&15 that he’s become famous throughout Galilee because of his preaching and healing. Everyone was speaking about him so at the synagogue everyone wants to hear from him. V17:

17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18“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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Having read the reading, he rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the attendant and sits down, taking his position for the sermon. And every eye is fastened on Jesus, every ear straining to hear what this famous preacher has to say. The atmosphere is electric. And what does he say? V21:

Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

And those eight words of Jesus were absolute dynamite. Why? Because he’s making an amazing claim! He’s claiming to be the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, in passages like Isaiah 61, the one who would come and rescue his people. Jesus is saying that he’s the one who fulfils Isaiah 61. Now Luke’s already given us clues that Jesus is the Messiah. He’s said that Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit (v14). And so v16: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Jesus is God’s Messiah. He is the Spirit anointed rescuer that God has sent into the world. He is God the Son. He’s claiming that he’s the one who’s been sent to do all that Isaiah said the Messiah would in v18-19:

18The 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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Some people think that Jesus was simply interested in helping the poor, the weak and the oppressed, that these verses prove it and that’s what Christians are to be involved in today. Well Christians today are to have a deep concern for social injustice, both here and in such very poverty stricken places as South Sudan. Jesus himself was deeply concerned about the poor, he helped the weak, and Luke is concerned to show Jesus in this light. But Jesus was also concerned for rich people like Zacchaeus. So that’s not the full or even the foremost story of Jesus’ mission. These verses aren’t encouraging us to think of Jesus as a political revolutionary. No something far more profound is going on.

And it’s the context that helps us to understand what Jesus is really claiming. Luke 4 v14-30 comes between two passages which teach us about the spiritual battle Jesus was engaged in. His battle with Satan in the desert and his victory over an evil spirit. It’s in the spiritual dimension that Jesus has come to claim the victory first and foremost. All these descriptions of oppression and captivity from Isaiah 61 are first and foremost to be applied spiritually. So although Jesus is concerned for the oppressed and the poor, as we should be, his greater concern is for us spiritually. Notice how Isaiah describes us. We are spiritual paupers. We are destitute, in rags, having nothing in our hands to bring. Perhaps some of us still think we can offer some riches, some good deeds. But the Bible tells us that even our good deeds are like filthy rags. We are spiritual prisoners. We are chained to sin, like a condemned criminal. There’s no way out. We can never pay off the debt we owe God. We’re spiritually blind. And we’re oppressed. Captive to sin and the devil who keeps us locked up and on a short tether. That’s our natural position. That’s what we’re like. And until we admit our need before God we’ll never see what Jesus offers. He brings us spiritual riches, spiritual freedom, spiritual sight, spiritual victory. That’s why the coming of Jesus is such good news. It’s the year of the Lord’s favour. That is all the debts have now been cancelled through the work of Jesus. It will lead him to the cross, but here in Luke 4 the journey is begun. The Spirit of God is upon me to preach good news, he says. If you’ve not already done so will you admit your need of the saving Lord and believe the good news? And if you have will you tell others of him? We too are to be primarily concerned for people spiritually – for changed minds, hearts and lives through faith in Christ.

Many of us know the truth of all this. But I wonder if sometimes familiarity with these truths breeds, if not contempt, then certainly a “shrug of the shoulders” type of apathy. We can fail to see the incredible truths that are spoken of here because we’ve grown accustomed to them. Perhaps you’ve grown a little cold with the things of God. Perhaps you feel in a bit of a rut spiritually or you feel worn down with the struggles of life, that it’s been a while since you felt the joy of being a Christian. You maybe feel you’ve just slightly lost that first love. Well reflect again on the staggering truths of these verses and thank God for Jesus. We were blind, but now we see. We were enslaved but now we’re free. We were poor but now we’re rich. And Jesus achieved this not through a glorious victory in battle, not through a triumphant social revolution, but on a cross, bloody, naked and alone. We must never forget who we once were and what we were like. Remember what Jesus has done for you and what it cost him. And share this amazing news with others – it’s not to be kept private.

Remember too that Jesus wants us to be also concerned about material as well as spiritual poverty, about social injustice. Did you know that one billion people live on a dollar a day? The poverty, hunger, disease, lack of schooling, water and housing is a reproach to our generation. As is modern day slavery such as sex trafficking. Whether we’re willing to do anything about injustice and people’s physical need is a test of the genuineness of our worship. Jesus here also quotes from Isaiah 58:6:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

It’s also a test of the very genuineness of our faith in Christ. Yes we’re rescued by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We can contribute nothing to our salvation. But as Calvin put it: We are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is never alone. Are we on board with Jesus’ mission statement as a whole? To help turn the world upside down – not by violent protests – but with the gospel? The need is so evident.

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