Instructing Like Jesus

Luke 4:14-28

September 18, 2005 | Brian Bill

As we continue in our series called, “Basic Training,” we’re going back to the basics so that we can make an IMPACT in our world today.  Six years ago, when I first came to this church I preached through our IMPACT statement by focusing on some snapshots from the Book of Acts.  In this series we’re looking at the message of Jesus and how he modeled these six elements as found in the Gospels.  Last week we learned about the Great Commandment of loving God with everything we have and loving others as we love ourselves.  We demonstrate our love for God through the first four areas of our IMPACT statement:

  • Instruction
  • Ministry
  • Prayer
  • Adoration

And we demonstrate love for others by:

  • Caring
  • Telling

Please turn in your Bible to Luke 4:14-30.  Let’s set the scene by reading verse 14: “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.”  We know from the opening chapters in the Gospel of John that after performing His first miracle in Cana (John 2:1-11), Jesus spent about a year ministering in the south, in the area known as Judea, where he challenged Nicodemus to be born again (John 3:3).  Then, on his way back north, he ministered to the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), and then went to Galilee (John 4:43).  Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life in this area so He was very well-known and the news about Him “spread through the whole countryside.”  This literally means that “talk ran rapidly in every direction.”  

As Ron Ritchie points out, the ministry of Jesus was Spirit-empowered, widely-known, well-received, and synagogue-centered.  We see in verse 15 that He “taught in their synagogues.”  Jesus is known for many things – He was a miracle-worker, a preacher, a good man, etc. but He’s primarily known as a Teacher.  Almost every town had a synagogue.  A synagogue was known as a place for praise, prayer and preaching and came about after the Babylonian Captivity when the Jews returned to their land and needed places to congregate.  During the time of Jesus, the Temple was in Jerusalem and people headed there for special feast days, but each community, if it had at least 10 Jewish men, had a synagogue.  Similar to local churches, they provided a place for spiritual needs to be met on a weekly basis.  Philo, an ancient historian, referred to synagogues as “houses of instruction.”  

On the Sabbath, the service would very often begin with the singing of Psalms 145-150.  Then, the Shema would be recited, which we quoted last week from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  This was followed with a time of prayer.  Then a passage would be read from one of the first five books of the Bible, then a time of praise and more prayer.  Following that, an older man, or a visitor would be invited to read from one of the prophets and then preach from the text that was read.  At the end there would be more praising and prayer, capped off by a benediction from Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  This would be followed by lunch – and you thought our services were long!

Jesus grew up going to the synagogue every Sabbath.  Now He is back in his hometown of Nazareth, and true to form we read in verse 16 that “on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom….”  Let me make the obvious point that going to synagogue was part of His regular weekly schedule.  Because this was His habit, He didn’t get up in the morning and wonder if He should go, or allow anything else to get in the way of going, or not go if He was tired, or stay home because He didn’t like something in the service.  It was His custom to go, no matter what.   I love seeing how so many of you have made a commitment to attend services each week.  May your tribe increase!  

I get concerned when I talk to people who only come once-in-awhile and I hear them say things like, “I just have so much going on that I just can’t make it” or “I’m really dealing with some stuff and when I get it figured out, then I’ll come back” or “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.”  May I appeal to you to make church attendance your committed custom and a holy habit?  Simply put, you need time for praising, praying, preaching, and to simply be with God’s people.  If Jesus did it, shouldn’t we?  I’m reminded of Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” It’s easy to get out of the habit of going to church but it’s also easy to go when you’re in the habit of going.  And the first step back is to make today the beginning of a new habit.

This passage gives us four ways to become more impassioned about instruction.

1 – Read the Word

The first part of our basic training is to read the Word.  Jesus was the guest reader and preacher that day in the synagogue and so He stood up to read.  Let’s do that right now as a sign of respect and reverence for God’s Word as I read verses 17-19: “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.”  

Jesus was very familiar with Scripture.  Notice that He was able to “find the place” for the reading.  Unlike the couple in our drama, he knew where things were and what to read.  Later in this passage Jesus retells two stories from the Old Testament as part of His sermon.  Jesus assumes that believers will know the Bible and be reading it regularly.  On several occasions, He said things like, “have you not read?”  

Here are some practical practices you can do to read the Word on a regular basis.

  • Develop the habit of “hang time” with God.  You must plan this in order for it to happen.  It might be in the morning or at night but make sure to do it.
  • One of the additions we’ve made in the bulletin is to include a verse of the week so that we can focus on what God wants us to remember.  You might want to meditate on this passage every day.
  • Pastor Dick has prepared some Scripture selections for you to read during the week.  They’re on the insert in your bulletin.
  • Pick up a Bible reading plan from the Resource Table.  I use this helpful tool every day.  The good thing about this is you can begin any day – you don’t have to wait until the beginning of the year.
  • Put the “Route 66” brochure in your Bible right now and use it on a regular basis to help you get an overview of each book of the Bible.  That’s better than playing Bible balderdash!

The story is told of a South Sea Islander who proudly displayed his Bible to a G.I. during WWII.  A missionary had given him this Bible some time before.  The soldier looked at the Bible with disdain and arrogance on his face and said, “Oh, we’ve outgrown that sort of thing.”  The native smiled back and said, “Well, it’s a good thing we haven’t, because if it weren’t for this book, you would be our evening meal!”  This means that we can benefit when others read the Bible as well.

2 – Feed From the Word

It’s important to both read and feed from the Bible

First, we must read the Bible. Second, we must feed from the Bible.  After presenting the Word of God, Jesus then preached the Word.  It’s important to both read and feed from the Bible.  We need information and application if we hope to experience transformation.  Let’s dig in and see what kind of meal the Messiah has for us this morning.  Let’s go back to verse 18 for a moment.  In his reading, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2.  This was a well-known passage that everyone believed referred to the mission of the Messiah.  Let’s look at the four phrases that Jesus quotes.  Jesus came…

  • To preach good news to the poor.  In the Bible, this word “poor” refers to both those in material and spiritual poverty.  This comes from a verb which means “to shrink back” or “to cower” and was used of someone in total destitution who put one hand out and with the other covered his face to hide the shame.  To those who are spiritually bankrupt, Jesus brings good news.  Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 
  • To proclaim freedom for the prisoners.  Israel knew what it was like to be in captivity.  God says that everyone is spiritually enslaved to sin.  In John 8:34, Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Charles Wesley captures this in his hymn, “He breaks the power of canceled sin; He sets the prisoner free.”
  • To proclaim recovery of sight for the blind.  While Jesus healed those who were physically blind, our spiritual blindness keeps us from the light of the Lord.  In Acts 26:18, Paul quotes the mission he was given by the Messiah: “… to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God…”
  • To release the oppressed.  This word means to be “broken in pieces” or to be “downtrodden” and is actually a quote from Isaiah 58:6.  When Jesus looks at us He sees us for how we really are.  This is captured by Matthew 9:36: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

These four metaphors describe the mess we are in.  And until we admit it, we will never be saved or set free.  Verse 19 says, “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” This phrase was understood to refer to the year of Jubilee, which happened every 50 years.  Leviticus 25 says that slaves were to be freed, land returned, and debts cancelled.  Isn’t it cool that Jesus is the Lord’s Jubilee?  Good news is preached to the poor, spiritual prisoners are set free, the blind are given sight and the broken are put back together.  This is the age of salvation.  Look at verses 20-21: “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  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.’  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.” 

Jerry Shirley describes a three-step method of Bible Study that is very helpful and will enable us to feed off the Word of God.

1. Observation: What do I see?  Let’s practice this step by making some observations about verses 20-21:

Jesus sat down

Eyes of everyone were fastened on him

Jesus makes a bold statement about fulfilling Scripture right then and there

Everyone spoke well of him

People were amazed at His gracious words

People wondered how someone they knew could speak like this

Another example of observation is to go back to verse 18 and notice that all three members of the Trinity are mentioned here: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.”

2. Interpretation: What does it mean?  

  • Content – raw material.  For example, Jesus is declaring that a prophecy that is 700 years old in the past is being fulfilled in the present.  This was staggering news to a people who had waited so long.
  • Context – what is before and after.  We’ve already learned that this takes place about one year into his ministry.
  • Comparison – what do other passages say?  One teenager told me that as she was studying up in “The Edge” last Sunday that a light bulb went on for her when the class was asked to compare the Great Commandment of loving God and loving others with the 10 Commandments.  She said that she never noticed before that the first 5 commandments correspond with loving God and the last 5 relate to loving others.  She was thrilled that she had made that discovery.
  • Culture – consider the time in which the text was written.  For instance, the “gracious” words of Jesus would stand out because according to Matthew 23 the teachers of the law were harsh, overbearing, judgmental, and hypocritical.
  • Consultation – secondary resources.  Look at commentaries, atlases, etc.  It was Amy Carmichael who said, “Never let the good books take the place of the Bible.  Drink from the well, not from the streams that flow from the well.”

3. Application: What does it mean to me?  When making observations about a text, keep the acrostic S.P.E.C.S. in mind:

  • Sin to confess
  • Promise to claim
  • Example to follow
  • Command to obey
  • Stumbling block to avoid

Here are some practical steps you can take to help feed on the Word.

  • Memorize Scripture.  Everyone who goes through our membership class is able to quote five passages of Scripture by the time the class is over.  I talked to someone this week who told me that his spiritual life is back on track in large part because he is memorizing Scripture again.  
  • Meditate on Scripture.  This means to continually go over a passage in your mind.
  • Join a small group so that you can study the main passage that is preached on Sundays.

Let’s not be like those Jesus referred to in Mark 12:24: “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”  We must read the Word, we must feed off the Word, and thirdly, we must heed the Word.  

3 – Heed the Word

Mark Twain, not exactly a die-hard Christian, wrote these words: “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me the most are those I do understand.”  Showing again how well Jesus knew the Bible, He recounted two examples from the Old Testament to make the point that though His listeners were God’s chosen people, they weren’t any better than anyone else.  And until they recognized that they were poor, enslaved, blind and broken, they couldn’t be saved.  They understood His point and they didn’t like it.

They found comfort in His Words, but as He continued preaching, their comfort turned to conviction, and when that happened, they wanted to get rid of Him

The first example He gives is from 1 Kings 17 when Elijah went to a pagan widow and ministered to her needs.  She knew that she was poor, enslaved, blind and broken and God healed her.  The second example is from 2 Kings 5 when Elisha cleansed an enemy of Israel from leprosy.  Unbelief back then kept God from ministering to Israel and the same thing was happening now.  The people initially were very excited to hear a message from Jesus.  They found comfort in His Words, but as He continued preaching, their comfort turned to conviction, and when that happened, they wanted to get rid of Him.  

Their initial amazement turned to intense animosity.  They got the message.  God will save an outcast Gentile widow and a Syrian leper who both admit their spiritual destitution before He’ll save the arrogant Israelites.  Notice their reaction in verses 28: “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.”  The word “furious” means that they were “breathing hard with indignation and wrath.”  How dare Jesus say that they are just like those Gentiles, or even worse?  John MacArthur writes, “Salvation is available to those who confess spiritual poverty, spiritual bondage, spiritual darkness, and spiritual defeat.”  They weren’t willing to do this.

Not wanting to hear anymore, verse 29 tells us, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.”  As soon as Jesus exposed them for what they were, they rose up to destroy Him.  We do this sometimes don’t we?  When we don’t want to hear truth, we just turn it off, or stop reading our Bibles, or stop coming to church, or stay away from our Christian friends.  We think if we can just get rid of the messenger, then the message won’t bother us so much.  I love verse 30: “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” I don’t know if it was His stare or if he just immobilized them or what He did, but He was able to just walk away because it wasn’t His time to die.  Maybe it was similar to what happened in John 18:6: “When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”  This shows the amazing power of the written Word and the awesome power of the Living Word of God.

Listen to these words of Jesus in John 8:37: “I know you are Abraham’s descendants.  Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.”  Do you have room for the Word?  Are you reading, feeding, and heeding?  Here are two statements that I sometimes hear people make:

  • “I know what the Bible says, but…”  If you ever hear yourself say this, you should be worried.  James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”
  • “I know it’s wrong but God will forgive me so I’ll just do it anyway.”  Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” 

4 – Need the Word

There’s one final point from this passage.  We’re to read, feed and heed but we won’t do any of this until we admit that we need the Word.  Those crowded into the synagogue that Sabbath were really saying that they didn’t need the Word of God.  And because they had no need they didn’t want to read, feed, or heed.  I was struck on Friday morning when we gathered to pray for victims of Katrina and I listened to a prayer from a woman who prayed for Christians who no longer had their Bibles.  She was weeping at the thought of not having the Word of God.  An official in Baton Rouge said on Fox News that Bibles were the second most asked-for item after food and water.  And the Bible was one of the few books many of the evacuees had among their possessions.

I wonder how many of us would really care if we lost our Bibles.  Like we heard in the drama, maybe ours in the trunk of our car or someplace else, but essentially it’s lost because we never read it anymore.  And then my mind went to Amos 8:11-12: “The days are coming, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I will send a famine through the land-not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.  Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.”

Allow me to suggest two action steps.

1. Guard against “familiarity fatigue.” Its way too easy to not take the Bible seriously when you are saturated with it.  Read it again as if for the first time.  Admit you need it.  And keep it fresh by not only reading, but feeding from it and heeding what you read.

2.  Receive Jesus before it’s too late.  If you reject Him today you may not get another opportunity.  Commentators believe this was the last time Jesus was in Nazareth.  Jesus is speaking gracious words now but the next time He comes it will be in judgment.  In fact, Jesus left off the second part of Isaiah 61:2: “To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God…”  Find His favor now or face the fire of his wrath later.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?