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16. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and
recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
22. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?
23. And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.
24. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
25. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
26. But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
27. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
28. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
29. And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might casts him down headlong.
30. But he passing through the midst of them went his way…
A passage that begins with such good news of the gospel of the kingdom of God and ends with such tragic rejection of not only the good news, but of the messenger, himself. I want us to look at this story tonight. It is strange as we see that there are negative reactions to the gospel, despite the positive message of this good news. It is often difficult for us to understand people who push away the light of truth that comes in to the darkness of their lives. People who close their ears to the voices of truth that cry out to them. People who bite the hand that feed them, so to speak, that reach out to them in love to bear good tidings and to bring healing and blessings. It is always tragic to see people close that aside – turn that aside and close their hearts to what God is doing. The scripture is filled with people who rejected Christ and who rejected the prophets before him. We can almost hear his words that we will look at later in detail on in the book of Luke when he says to Jerusalem “How often would I have gathered you together, but you just would not, because you did not know the day of your visitation.” Tragedy of rejecting not only the good news of the gospel, but the greatest messenger who ever brought the good news.
I want us to look, first of all, at the contents of this great message of the gospel, the good news because it simply shows us what all the preaching of the word and the gospel of Jesus Christ can do, as Jesus outlined it here. He is quoting for the most part one of the great prophetic utterances of Isaiah from chapter 61, verses 1 and 2. Isaiah had prophecied of the time when the great servant of the Lord would come and say The spirit of the Lord God is upon me. And Jesus includes all of that prophecy except the last one. Isaiah goes on to finish to say that He is to declare the day of vengeance of our God. And Jesus here stops short of that one part of prophecy because He had not come to reveal the actual day of the Lord’s vengeance or great wrath upon the earth, and He stopped before He got to that point. He just simply read the part that had to do with the good news. Let’s look at, what it amounts to.
He shows us what anointed preaching and anointed ministry is all about. When I think about a theology of ministry or a pattern for ministry, well I cannot help but think of this passage because here is the greatest example and greatest pattern for anybody to try to go by who wants to minister God’s word and minister to the needs of people. First of all, the preaching of the good news and good tidings are directed toward the poor. It would appear that Jesus took a special interest in the poor and downtrodden and those whose lives were broken and those who were trampled upon by others. Because once he sent word to John the Baptist and said the poor have the gospel preached to them and there is no news in all the world that is any greater news to the poor than to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ that there is life, that there is hope beyond this world, that there is hope in this world, that there is deliverance, that there is provision that God has for people right here in this world, and no greater message for the poor could ever be than the gospel of Jesus Christ, because He said the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, glad tidings.
I think sometimes in taking aim at where to evangelize and what people to evangelize that sometimes we probably miss the main target and miss the most receptive people to the gospel…that is the poor. That is probably one of the reasons why when you do actual calculations of the actual records of what is going on in the church world today, including what we are doing in the Church of God, is that in those nations outside the United States where the church is growing much more rapidly than it is here, that the gospel is being presented in power and anointing to the masses of the people instead of being directed to the classes of the people. Here in this country it seems that we have targeted the classes so to speak. And once we do, we get away from the most receptive people to the gospel. I’m glad that when I was poor, and when all of us were really poor, the Lord came to us right where we were in the condition we were in and He called upon us. I thought about it as they sang this beautiful song tonight;. “Hear my humble cry, and while on others You are calling, do not pass me by.” That’s where he came to the meek and humble and to the lowly and He called upon us in that state we were in. He didn’t wait for us to pick ourselves up. He didn’t wait for us to meet any particular kind of specifications or qualifications. He just came to us right where we were and called us. That’s His nature. That’s why He came.
The gospel is also given He says, in the second place, that He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted. Can you think of any greater need in our land now than healing for brokenhearted people? I don’t know how some people bear the burdens they do. It is no wonder we see so many tragic deaths by suicide, or so many people who cannot cope with their brokenheartedness and their disappointments and their frustrations. If only they could realize fully that there is healing. There is healing for the broken life. There is healing for the broken heart. There is healing for the people who are broken physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. He is the Great Physician. He knows how to mend. He knows how to put broken pieces together, and even take away the scars. He knows how! Oh, hallelujah! You come to Him as a broken vessel and He can put your life together as it ought to be, and then it is sound and well. He sent me to heal the brokenhearted. He sent me to preach deliverance to the captives.
I want to tell you that we should never, never lose confidence and faith in what the gospel of Jesus Christ can form. I teach several courses in preaching. Some of them preaching from certain books of the Bible, and this is one of the things that I hope I get across in every one of those course, and that is there is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we preach the Word, there is power to deliver and set people free from the bondage of sin and the captivity that sin brings. You can go with all kinds of plans and ideas, but when it comes to dealing with sin, the anointed preaching of the Word of God is the most powerful weapon to loose people and to set them free that there is, because God works in the Word and God works in the anointing preaching of the Word. You don’t have to fear, nor doubt nor worry when the Word of God goes forth, it is powerful and quick, alive, sharper than any two-edged sword. God knows how to deliver and set free through the power of the Word of God. We need to tell tonight people who are captives. There are so many who are enslaved and captive to so many things, they bound their lives, the evidence of the chains that bind them that testify that bondage to the power of sin and evil in this world. And Jesus said I’ve come to preach deliverance to these captives, to walk right in and break them loose from the prison houses of sin and despair and disappointment and failures. Thank God for the delivering power of the gospel!
I’ve seen it when nothing could do anything. The Word of God reached somebody’s heart and changed it and transformed it. In places where I’ve been pastor, I’ve seen it when all the talking and all the pleading and all the working with people who were bound with alcohol and strong drink or whatever, was of no avail until a person got under the influence of the preaching of the Word of God and they were delivered. Somehow God opened up their hearts and minds and they reached out to embrace our lovely Lord Jesus Christ who could deliver them from that bondage.
He said I’m also coming in this mission and in this preaching of the good news to bring the recovering of sight to the blind. When He uses the word ‘recovering’ that sort of gives us the indication that he may be talking to some who were one time could see, but now they’ve lost it and the sight needed to be recovered. I find in this passage that not only is it referring to people who are blinded by sin and who are in the darkness and in some cases physical blindness, but He’s talking about people who one time knew the light and now it’s gone and their sight is gone and they need to get it recovered. Then He began to zero in on where some of the very religious people who were hearing him, where they really lived in their own experience.
One of the richest experiences of my life was to be a pastor at one church where there was a retired minister who became a close friend to me and my family. He was blind. In southern Illinois, his name was Dalton Short. In his youth he was a coal miner. He got saved. God called him to preach. He was disfigured in his face. He had a cleft palate. He had a speech impediment. You never could quite understand him clearly, and when he started to face the fact about trying to start out to preach, he just kind of rebelled. He just felt like he could not do it. He didn’t think people would listen to him. So he went back into the mines. One day as he was driving a sledge hammer on a big spike a sliver of steel broke loose and flew up and hit him and pierced through one eye and went through and cut the nerve in the other eye blinding him. He came out of there and became willing to try to preach the gospel and God healed him. He could see. But then he had the same kind of thing to happen to him. He wrestled with it and said “How can I go and preach the gospel like I am?” And he went back into the mines. One day he was way back where they call the face, where they are drilling and putting in dynamite to shoot the coal loose from the walls. God said to him, “You will serve Me. You will obey Me.” And just like that, his eyesight went and he was never able to see any more in his life. But he came out seeing better than a lot of people have ever seen with 20/20 vision. He got 20/20 vision from the Word of God. He won a lot of people to God. He pastured churches. He did all kinds of things in the state of Illinois. He taught me so many things about how to be with a blind person.
Most of us feel very uncomfortable around a handicapped person, or a person who is blind. We don’t know how to act or what to do. He taught me simple little things like going up to get in a car – putting his hand on the handle and he opens the door and he knows which way the car is headed if he opens the door. If you open the door and say ‘Get in,” he doesn’t know whether to try to sit down this way or this way. But if he opens the door, he knows how to get in the car. Doesn’t that make sense? Well I didn’t know that! All kinds of things he taught me. We got to where we could just go anywhere, go in any restaurant, go in a dime store. He loved to just go. He didn’t get to go much. I’d say ‘Look at this!” And he’d look at trinkets and stuff in the dime store, he would feel of it and he was just amazed. He would get up and sing. He could play the guitar well and he would sit there and play the guitar, I would play the piano and we’d play together and he would sing. He had a lot of songs. Most of his songs had something about seeing. “I’m holding to the unseen hand.” One of his favorites was “Face to Face with Christ, My Saviour.” I want to tell you, he may not have seen a lot of things in this world, but the Lord had delivered him from that spiritual blindness and he could see into another world. And he left this world shouting glory and giving praise to God and they called on me and I had the honor to go and minister at his funeral.
I want to tell you that Jesus came to take away the worst kind of darkness of all, to roll back spiritual blindness and to heal and to bring out the true light into the hearts of people so they could see God and His truth and His love and His wondrous grace.
He goes on, he has sent me to bring liberty to the bruised, the people who are battered and bruised and abused and oppressed. Oh, what the gospel can do for people who have been trodden underfoot and who have been battered and who have been bruised and hurt. I dare say that if some way we could pull the door of our hearts open and could reveal what was inside like Bennie Triplett’s song used to say ‘How About Your Heart?”, I dare say we could see scars in everybody’s heart of some bruising you took, some hurt you suffered and experienced. I think we all could probably testify of that. But at the same time, I think we could all shout ‘Glory’ because the healing mercy of God has healed and bound up the brokenness and healed the bruising and the wounded hearts because Jesus Himself who lived and ministered with a broken heart, He knows how to treat people who have been bruised. He was bruised for our iniquities and the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed! Hallelujah! You don’t have to carry the scars of being bruised or being hurt. You don’t have to carry that load around with you. He lifts it. Hallelujah! He lifts it and sets us free. Oh praise God forevermore. Hallelujah!
And then finally He says “I’ve come to present the acceptable year of the Lord,” meaning I’ve come to give you the right opportunity for you to accept the message. And with those words He closed the book and sat down. I want you to just see briefly the reaction. Hard to comprehend. First of all, some wondered at His words and they just didn’t understand how He could talk like this. So they began to ask questions. Isn’t this the son of Joseph? How can He do this? And Jesus answered and said, a prophet in his own country, among his own people does not have any honor. He doesn’t seem to receive honor. People never expect much out of him. He comes from the home town and they know him, about his life and his upbringing and his parents and so on. So He went on to give two examples. Two examples of the fact that people don’t know when they have got it really good of God’s grace and love about them. He said for example in the time of Elijah when there was great famine for three and a half years, he said there were many widows in Israel. But Elijah was not sent to a one of the widows of Israel, but he went over to Zeraphath to a widow of Sidon and she fed him. When he told her to make me a cake, well, she obeyed him and she fed him until the famine was passed. Here was somebody who recognized the prophet of God and helped to take care of him, leaving the impression that nobody in Israel so close to this wilderness prophet would ever have accepted him and his word and tended to his needs. I want to tell you it’s a tragic thing when you’ve got the light and you close your eyes to it, when you have bread but you won’t eat it, when you have joy but you don’t partake of it. It’s a tragic thing when God moves toward you and it’s right there by you close and you don’t reach out and accept it.
And He said here’s another example. There were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha. But He only helped bring healing to one man, not a man of Israel, in this one occasion, but he was a man of Syria, Naaman of Syria. Now you can imagine what was happening in the minds of the people. Because He had said ‘This day this is fulfilled in Me, this day this whole work of the gospel of the good news is brought to you and is fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet said. And through their rejection and their questions, not so much about the message but about the messenger, they began to back away. And they responded not only with questions, but then they responded with wrath. They took Him out to the edge of the city intending to throw Him off a high cliff and get rid of Him. We don’t understand that. We can’t quite comprehend the terrible rejection of Jesus in Nazareth. When He comes to bring life and they want to give Him death. When He comes to bring healing and they want to destroy Him. We can’t quite understand that. And yet, it shows us the pattern of rejection that comes from the hearts of all people who are exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and who do not want to accept it in its fullness.
Yes, there are negative reactions to the gospel that still go on, but oh thank God for the positive reactions of faith that people have had down through the ages and continue to have and who believe on Him and rise up, not rejecting the gospel, not rejecting His messengers that come, not rejecting the Holy Spirit that comes, but embracing the whole message and what God is sending our way. As for me, I want it all. Don’t you?
The Bible talks about that Jesus was made poor so that He could make us rich. He was wounded so that He could heal our wounds. He died to deliver us. Lift up your heart to Him to thank Him. When you were poor and He came with the good news. When you were bruised and battered and He came with healing. I want you to testify in your own mind recalling those times when the Lord came to you with healing and deliverance, giving you sight and giving you strength. Will you take just a moment and let’s worship God in that way.
Tragedy of rejecting not only the good news of the gospel, but the greatest messenger who ever brought the good news.
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