The Acceptable Year of the Lord (Sermon Notes)

This weekend I spoke as part of our Advent Series.  Here are some notes:

Luke 4: 16-30

So 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 to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:        “ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,       Because He has anointed Me      To preach the gospel to the poor;      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,      To proclaim liberty to the captives      And recovery of sight to the blind,      To set at liberty those who are oppressed;       To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

  Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 
He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath,in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way

So, here we are in the third Sunday of Advent, the midpoint in the time leading up to Christmas.   The church is decorated, Christmas music is in the air, wrapped gifts are starting to show up under trees.
We’ve made quite a spectacle out of this little holiday of ours.  We do up our houses nice with pretty lights and decorations, get the tree set up (no, we are not having that conversation today)  start stocking up on the gifts, make our wishlist on Amazon and post it on Twitter, go see a Christmas show somewhere, watch great Christmas movies…

“Black Friday” was out of control this year.  There were stores opening up at 9pm on Thanksgiving!  Everybody trying to get that extra dollar.  People standing in line to get a great deal on a new flatscreen or laptop or an iPhone.  Then came Cyber week – get your Nook and your Kindle Fire and everything else you need at 60% off! 
Retailer are crazy this year.  They are so desperate for your money because they have had such a bad year, that they will do anything to get it.  Because people are cutting back.  Christmas is expensive! 

And you know what?  That’s all good.  I’m not gonna lie: I’m hoping to score some good stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s our culture, it’s who we’ve become.  You work hard all year; I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little indulgence.  Just don’t for a minute think that’s Christmas. 

Jonathan Dodson, pastor of Austin CityLife Church, which is a member of the Acts29 Network writes this about Christmas:In Christmas, God poured out His deepest wealth to those of neediest poverty. He brought the Gospel to the poor.”
Think about that for a minute.  We talk all the time about how God sent the savior not as a king, but as a carpenter.  How He came not born into wealth, but poverty.   Born in a manger. No room at the inn.
But do we stop to think about what that means?  Or how profoundly this weaves itself into the Gospels themselves?

When Jesus is grown, and ready to take on the mantle of the Christ that God the Father has laid upon him, he goes into the desert for forty days of fasting and prayer.  Then what does he do?  He goes into his home region of Galilee and begins to teach.  Luke says “He returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee…”  And word of his teaching spreads.  And he finally makes it home to Nazareth.  He enters the synagogue on the Sabbath and is asked to read the Scripture.  In Judaism, there is a daily Torah reading called a portion, and on the Sabbath, the entire week’s portion is read at service.  Sometimes Scripture is read from the prophets as well.   Jesus is given the book (actually a scroll) from Isaiah, and begins to read a messianic prophecy.  He then stops in the middle of the reading (and we’ll get back to that) and begins teaching.

He certainly had a flair for the dramatic.  Everyone would have known the text of that passage by heart, and would have known that he stopped in the middle of a sentence.  And that just wasn’t done.  The commandment in Deuteronomy is to neither add to the Word nor take away from it.  So he stops, and you can almost imagine Him pausing.  Luke says “every eye was on him.”  He had closed the scroll and gave it back to the attendant.  He was not going to read anymore.  What would he say?  What would he do?  He had a reputation already for being a profound teacher.  What would happen?  And he simply says “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Now, they try to run him out of town.  Actually, Luke tells us they took him to a cliff with the intention to throw him off, but he gets away and leaves town.

Why? That’s quite a bomb he drop.  He came to preach the gospel to the poor. To those who needed it. To those who needed hope.  To those who were marginalized, shunned, left out of society.  And from that moment, he begins to do exactly that work.  He goes to Capernaum and cast a demon out of a possessed man. 

You’ve seen those guys.  They walk around, muttering to themselves, yelling at people… unwashed, unkempt… scary.  People stay out of their way.  Even the church, I’m sad to say, largely ignores them.  

Jesus walks right up to this guy and commands that demon out of him.  No fear, no hesitation. No doubt.  He looks that demon in the eye and says “Just shut up and get out of here.” 

Why do you think those people were so mad at him?  Was it because he blasphemed, called himself the Messiah?  Or was it because he called them out on their complacency?  Was it because he said to them “you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing?”  The Old Testament was full of rules on how the poor were supposed to be treated:

  • ·         The community was supposed to give to the poor until there was no more need (Deut 15:8-10)
  • ·         Tithes went to the poor (Deut 14:28-29)
  • ·         The poor were to be given tools and grain so they could do for themselves (Deut 15: 12-15)
  • ·         The poor were to be given land so they could farm (Lev 25)
  • ·         Ignoring the poor is the same as idolatry and adultery (Amos 2)
  • ·         All debts must be cancelled every fifty years (Lev 25)

Israel wasn’t doing these things.  2 Chronicles tells us  that the exile, the Babylonian captivity was punishment for ignoring the Sabbath and Jubilee years because of Israel’s greed.

Jesus continues this theme in His ministry every day.  He feeds the 5000.  He heals the sick and the blind; he goes out of his way to identify himself with those who are shunned by society, with the outcast, with the forgotten.  In Matthew 25, he says “what you do to the least of these, you do to me.” 

The same requirement for ministry applies itself to the church.  Christ’s own greatest commandment is to love God above all things, and love one another as yourself.   When do you see Jesus healing a rich man?  He does tell a rich man in Luke 18 that it is “…easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”  That’s not to say that wealth is a sin.  Wealth can be a tremendous blessing from God.  But wealth tends to harden the heart.  It tends to blind us to need.  In fact, Jesus had told the man “…If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor.”  There you go.  That’s Jesus’ idea of perfection.

If it seems like I’m beating a dead horse, then maybe I am.  Maybe your heart is hard.  But if there is a twitch in your heart, a squirm in your spirit, or a desire on your tongue to say “Yes!” to what I’m saying, then that’s the point.  This isn’t a rebuke; this is encouragement. This congregation has done more this year to serve the community than any year I can remember. But don’t stop there.  If you feel a pull on your heart, then go do something about it!

James 1: 22-27
                But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. 
Why is this so important?  Because this is the time of Grace.  We need to give grace, in order to receive grace.  Remember the story of Jesus in Nazareth.  Remember I said that he didn’t read the entire scripture.  That he cut it off.  What did he cut off?  Let’s look at Isaiah 61: 1-2

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,    because the LORD has anointed me    to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,    to proclaim freedom for the captives    and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor    and the day of vengeance of our God

Christ’s mission was twofold: to proclaim the year (or season) of the Lord’s favor, but also to proclaim the time of His vengeance.  We are living in the acceptable year of the Lord, in the time of favor, in the time of grace.  The day of the Lord’s vengeance is coming, when Christ returns.   But God, in his infinite mercy and love for us, as a sign of His unquenchable grace and favor, has extended the year of His favor for over 2000 years!  He desires none to perish, that all may hear the gospel and receive His son. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:2 “Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.”

Enjoy your Christmas… I mean that.  I pray God blesses you tremendously.  Do not feel guilty at all for anything you get; it’s a sign that someone loves you. A gift is the giver’s blessing. 

But don’t be forgetful.  Be mindful of the blessings. And bless others.  And be blessed. Ask for favor in the season of favor.  Ask for grace in the time of grace. And give more than you receive.


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