In Your Ears

Luke 4:14-21  “In Your Ears”

14  Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a  report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to  teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to  Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath  day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet  Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was  written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to  bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives  and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim  the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to  the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in  your hearing.” NRSV

In the name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

WORDS

Words can accomplish much. In our  society today, words have come to be thought of as cheap, meaningless and yes,  even dirty. But the truth is, words are a gift from God—a gift that is powerful, transforming,  and capable of changing hearts and lives. In fact, we might wonder if the gift  of speech isn’t one of the ways in which we are created in God’s image. Of  course, so far as we know, we are not created, physically, in God’s image.  Theologians have said, throughout the ages, that it is our ability to think and  reason and create, that is a reflection of God. But what would be the value of  thinking and reasoning and creating without the ability, as well, to express our  thoughts and reasoning and creativity. As God’s Spirit moved over the face of  the watery chaos at creation, and spoke to create all that exists—so too, do we  have the gift of speech, so that we can speak and create, and transform. Presidents have done  better and worse at making speeches that have motivated our countrymen and drawn  us together around a single purpose. Military commanders have spoken and  inspired hundreds and thousands of soldiers to charge into battle against  overwhelming odds. Husbands and wives create new lives for themselves, by  saying, simply, “I do”, and “I will”, and “I love you”. When we fall into the  trap of thinking speech and words are meaningless and cheap—let us stop and  consider, how valuable are our words—and how we ought to raise, even our  everyday speech, to a higher level, and a higher purpose, that brings honor, not  just to ourselves, but which glorifies God, who created us, and gives us the  gift of speech.

JESUS IS  SPEAKING—“WORDS”

Today, we see Jesus standing in the  synagogue, and what is He up to, but speaking! We hear in Luke’s gospel, as we  hear throughout the gospels, that Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath, as  was his custom. We should note, Jesus didn’t sleep in on the Sabbath, nor did he  use the Sabbath as a travel day, or as a day for fishing, or for golf. On the  Sabbath, Jesus was in the synagogue—as was His custom. We  would do well to follow our Lord’s example, and be in the synagogue, on the  Sabbath. But Jesus was not just, “in the synagogue”, but filled with the power  of the Spirit, folks began to hear about his ministry, so he began to teach in  their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, his  hometown, where he had been brought up, He stood up to read, and the scroll of  the prophet Isaiah was given to him. And He read the passage,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to  proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the  oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And as meaningful as was this passage  in the collective memory of the Jewish people, as fervently as they yearned for  it to come true when the Messiah would come, setting the oppressed free, giving  sight to the blind, bringing good news to the poor, what surely caught them off  guard, were Jesus’ next words, as he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the  attendant, and sat down to preach—it was the custom for the rabbi to sit to  teach.

THE SCRIPTURES FULFILLED IN THE EARS  OF YOU!

And then, Luke tells us, the eyes of  all in the synagogue were upon him—waiting, expectantly for Jesus to say  something about when this would take place, when the Messiah would come to bring  these things to pass, when they could hope to receive healing, and freedom, and  good news. And rather than pointing to some point in the future when the  Spirit-anointed Messiah would come—Jesus says, “Today, this scripture has been  fulfilled, in your hearing.” Scholars tell us that the Greek has it a little  more descriptively, “as Jesus says, “Today has this scripture been fulfilled in  the ears of you.” Now, think about the difference between those two phrases.  We’re used to the more modern English, “today this scripture has been fulfilled  in your hearing.” But hearing is something we do. We may well be speaking “at” someone, but the question is, are they hearing what we’re saying? Spouses,  parents and children, employers and employees—often have the problem that in  spite of what’s being said, it’s not being heard. To hear, you must not only be  in the presence of the words being spoken, you must also listen to the words,  and try to understand, and comprehend what’s being said. The Greek New Testament  suggests that this Scripture is being fulfilled, simply by the words entering  your ears. Which suggests that the fulfillment of Scripture, the good news being  preached, people being set free and healed, has to do, not with us, and with  what we do—but with the Word of God merely coming to our ears! Which, while  contrary to what we normally think of as the communication process—requiring  both speaking, and hearing—points not to healing and release and salvation as a  communication process—but as an event. The Greek points out that when Jesus is  present, and when Jesus speaks His powerful Word—the Word of God—something  happens, in spite of us. Something happens, whether we’re ready or not.  Something happens, because Jesus is filled with the Spirit, and Jesus bears the  full creative power of the Triune God-head, in himself. So that, as much power  and creativity as we humans have in our words and speech, still, we are limited  by the communication process. But God’s Word, God’s Logos, God’s mind, will and  intent, are fully present in Jesus—and when Jesus is fully present, His words,  can create, and sustain, and transform and make new—in spite of  us.

JESUS’ WORDS—WELCOME OR  OFFENSIVE?

Which, for those faithful Jewish  worshipers in the synagogue that day in Nazareth, caught them off-guard. So much  so, that when Jesus said that in Him, in His presence, in His speaking, was this  Scripture fulfilled—the immediate response was that everyone—Luke says everyone  was speaking well of him and they were amazed at his words. While I might be  making too much of this, it does seem to me that this immediate response, was  the natural response—who wouldn’t, upon having these life-giving, creative words  of Jesus fall on your ears, receive them positively, and speak well of Him, and  be amazed at his words. The Word of God, and the Words of Jesus have that  effect. And when we are open, these words will elicit a faithful response. It  seemed to be after that initial response, that the congregants thought twice  about Jesus and what he’d said. It was after that initial positive response,  that their human, negative, skeptical thinking got in the way, and they began to  ask, “now, isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph—whom we know all too well?” And  soon after that, Luke tells us that all in the synagogue were filled with rage,  and led Jesus out to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that  they might hurl him off the cliff! But Jesus passed through the midst of them  and went on his way.

You see, the words of Jesus are  powerful, and do the will and the work of God, when they fall on open ears. As  with the people of Israel in our first lesson, hearing the Law of God read by  Ezra the priest upon their return to Jerusalem after years of exile—the proper  response is to bow one’s head and worship the Lord with faces to the ground,  because this day—the day of the proclamation of the Word is holy. That was the  first response of those in the synagogue in Nazareth—as the words of Jesus fell  on their ears, and they spoke well of him and were amazed at his gracious words.  It was when they began to sift His words through the steel traps of their minds  and the sieve of their sinful humanity that they turned on Jesus, and wanted to  pitch him off a cliff! One way or the other, as the Scriptures tell us, God’s  word will not return to him empty. There will be a response, one way or the  other.

 

THE WORD—IN THE EARS OF  YOU!

Which leads us to consider the Word of  God, the words of Jesus, being proclaimed to us, here this morning. The reason  we come to the synagogue on the Sabbath, is to be in Jesus’ presence, to hear  Jesus read the Word, and to have the life-giving, life-transforming words of  Jesus fall on our ears. Jesus promises—the word that is proclaimed in our midst  will be fulfilled—will come true, in our hearing. Which means that today, we  will be released; today, we will be set free; today, we will receive sight, and  insight. The good news is that we don’t have to do anything—but have our ears  open to receive His words. The powerful, Spirit-filled words of Jesus will do,  in us, what God wants them to do. Let us not, then, cover our ears. Let us not  have our ears filled with doubts and questions and distractions. Let us not hear  these words of Jesus, and then be asking, “well, who is this Jesus, anyway—is  not this Joseph’s son, whom we know?” Let us not be sitting here, hearing the  words of Jesus, while we’re plotting how to shut him up, quiet him down,  marginalize him in our congregation, keep him out of our homes and household  situations. Let us allow God’s Word free reign, in our ears—to do what it will  do! To transform us as it will! To change our hearts and lives—by God’s grace,  and the power of the Words of the Lord!

In the name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

A  Message from Rev. Dr. David M. Wendel, Columbus, Ohio brought to you by  Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park  Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On  Project

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