Jesus Is Our Unexpected Messiah
4th Sunday after the Epiphany
Jesus Is Our Unexpected Messiah
1. With unexpected power
2. With unexpected purpose
3. For unexpected people
Text: Luke 4:20-32
For five years we wait. We study and study and study some more. We train. We practice. Then it is finally time—time for your first public sermon. After four years of studying language and Scripture in college, after the first semester of studying more Scripture at the Seminary, after a semester of studying preaching and a semester of practicing preaching to your classmates—after all this, finally Seminary students are allowed to preach a sermon to real people in a real congregation.
As if it isn’t nerve-wracking enough to preach the Word of God in public for memory for the very first time, I had some added pressure. I preached my first sermon at my home congregation. Four services with a congregation of over 1,000 people that had known me since I was throwing Cheerios from the back pew. Meanwhile, my father is the pastor of the church watching my every move. The entire front two rows were filled with my family and Becky’s family. Five of the Seminary professors attend that church and were present on that day. And, it just so happened that Congressman Mark Neumann was there that day, too.
Thankfully it is a very loving congregation. I could have stood up there and preached about the Super Bowl and they might have still liked it. I was also thankful for a big, enclosed pulpit so they couldn’t see my knees knocking the entire time. It’s not so easy to preach in your home congregation!
Last week we heard that Jesus had the same opportunity. Shortly after he began his public ministry he made a visit to his hometown of Nazareth in Galilee. On one Sabbath Jesus went to his home synagogue for worship and was invited to speak to the congregation. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He opened to chapter 61 and read the first two verses. God was promising to send someone to bring riches to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.
The last two verses last Sunday are the first two verses of the gospel this Sunday: “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.’”
This message from Jesus and the rumors of what he had been doing surprised his hometown people: “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.” Wasn’t this the same man they once saw running around in Joseph’s carpentry shop? Was this the same man who once left his parents to teach in the temple as a 12-year-old boy? How could he say such things? How could he do such things? The people in his hometown were amazed that Jesus would have such power and they were amazed that he would speak with such authority. Even in the next town of Capernaum we are told that, “They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.”
Sometimes we are amazed at the things that Jesus says as well. “What do you mean you are always with us? What do you mean you work all things for our good? Aren’t you the same Jesus that lets bad things happen in my life? Aren’t you the same Jesus that has let me suffer for so long? Aren’t you the same Jesus that watches as I fall into sin day after day?”
But you see, Jesus is Our Unexpected Messiah and he has unexpected power. The Jews were only looking with their eyes and seeing the carpenter’s son who used to play tag around town but now had some big rumors surrounding him. They weren’t listening to what Jesus was saying and believing in his power as the promised Messiah. They didn’t understand that this carpenter’s son was really God’s Son and that his greatest power would be found in winning salvation.
In the same way today we sometimes look at Jesus far too much with our physical eyes rather than our spiritual eyes of faith. We look for signs of Jesus in the world and we are unimpressed and underwhelmed with what we see. But we aren’t listening to what Jesus says. We are failing to understand that Jesus’ true power was hidden at the cross as he was taking away all our sin. It was hidden in a tomb where he suffered a death we deserved. His power will be revealed finally and for good on Judgment Day. Jesus is Our Unexpected Messiah who displays his unexpected power in saving us from sin and coming back to judge all people. That’s real power.
As Jesus was delivering this synagogue sermon to his hometown congregation, he immediately knew that they were amazed and perplexed. He also knew their motivation for wanting to hear and see him. So he addressed these thoughts with a proverb. Verse 23: “Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”’”
This proverb Jesus quoted would be used when asking for evidence. “Physician, heal yourself! Show me some proof that you are a good doctor, so heal yourself first!” The Son of God knew what was in the hearts of the hometown crowd. They wanted to see Jesus show some of this supposed power. They heard about some of the healings that had happened in Capernaum and now they wanted to see it in their hometown too.
But you see, Jesus is Our Unexpected Messiah and he also has an unexpected purpose. His purpose was not to come to Israel to flash grand displays of power. His purpose was not to heal every disease, cure every sickness, and fill every wallet. His purpose was not to be a great worldly king like the good old days of Israel past.
In the same way Jesus’ purpose is not to shoot lightning bolts from heaven to defeat all of our worldly enemies. His purpose is not to cure every painful sickness, disease, or cancer we have. His purpose is not to make sure we are living comfortably in a beach condo sipping umbrella drinks for the rest of our lives.
Jesus is Our Unexpected Messiah with unexpected purpose. He came to do something far more important, and certainly unexpected. He came to die for sinners. He came to make sure that we could enjoy something far better than worldly health and oceanfront property and pinna coladas. He came to tear down the wall of sin that separates us from God so that we could live with him in an eternal paradise called heaven. That we certainly do not deserve and that we certainly do not expect. That’s why Jesus is Our Unexpected Messiah.
As Jesus continued this synagogue sermon in his hometown of Nazareth the people only became more amazed and perplexed. They also became more angry as Jesus said this: “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel 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, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Jesus was making another unexpected point. In the past when the Israelites rejected God, the Lord went to other people. In Elijah’s time he went to the house of a heathen woman in Zarephath and she became a believer. You heard that story in the first lesson today. In Elisha’s time many people had leprosy but it was the enemy heathen general Naaman that God healed and brought to faith. Jesus’ point was that since they were not accepting him as God’s Son and the Messiah in his hometown, his message was going to be preached to other nations and other people. You see, Jesus is Our Unexpected Messiah also because he came for unexpected people.
Enough was enough with this sermon. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 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. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” The Jews didn’t want to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and they didn’t want to believe that the Messiah would be for other people besides their own people. They were so infuriated with the thought of God saving other people that they wanted to kill Jesus instantly. Imagine that! But Jesus again showed unexpected power and walked right through the crowd and went to the next town.
Today these words are a great blessing to you and to me. As the Lord unexpectedly shared his grace with gentiles like the widow of Zarephath or general Naaman in the past, so the Lord has unexpectedly shared his mercy with gentiles today—us!
There is nothing that widow did that she would deserve Elijah coming to her house to provide physical and spiritual food for her. There was nothing Naaman, an enemy of Israel, did that he would deserve Elisha providing physical and spiritual healing for him. And so today there is nothing we have done that would deserve or earn God’s gracious providing for all our physical and spiritual needs.
The Jews were furious when they heard the unexpected news that the Messiah would be for all people. But we are joyous when we hear that same unexpected news. Praise God! Jesus is Our Unexpected Messiah who came for unexpected people—us!
My wife’s home church growing up in Milwaukee is an old, historic German Lutheran Church that is about 90 years old. When the congregation was founded it was filled with white German Lutherans. But over the decades that area of Milwaukee changed drastically. Now that area of Milwaukee is a mostly black community filled with crime and project housing. Slowly but surely the congregation of many hundred members dwindled down to one or two hundred members as the old guard passed on to heaven and those left behind had little interest in reaching out to the community. After all, who wants “that kind of people” in “this kind of church?”
Praise God that we have an Unexpected Messiah who continues to be patient and loving to his people! He has shown his unexpected power once again as that congregation has been blessed lately with a new, younger pastor and a renewed love for the Lord and their neighbors. Over the last few years the congregation has made a very conscientious effort to use their school to reach out to the community (like we do) and to take advantage of every opportunity to welcome everyone from the community. Why? Because Jesus has an unexpected purpose. Jesus didn’t come to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. He came to be our Savior. And, he came for unexpected people—everyone. With renewed hearts and minds focused on our Savior who came for all people, Mt. Lebanon in Milwaukee is once again a growing and active church—this time with mixed cultures and races.
As we at Christ the King continue to reach out with our church and school and as we continue to push forward with new goals and plans, God grant that we remember our Unexpected Messiah. He has unexpected power, always blessing in ways we could never imagine. He has an unexpected purpose—he came to save miserable sinners like us to take us to heaven. And he came for unexpected people—not just Jews, not just us, but for all people including those that don’t look like us. God be with us and bless us as we praise our Unexpected Messiah and share our Unexpected Messiah. God continue to bless us in unexpected ways, for Jesus’ sake.
Posted on February 3, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Capernaum, Church, Galilee, Jesus, Luke, Luke 4, Messiah, Mt. Lebanon, Nazareth, Power, Prophet, Purpose, Seminary, Sermons, Unexpected, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.