February 3, 2019

Trusting the One God sends

Passage: Luke 4:14-21

Throughout the time that humanity has been aware of the existence of the One we know as the Lord God, God has called and sent several leaders for the people of this world.  Even before the time when God called Abram from the land of Ur, the Bible has recorded for us the life and times of people like Noah who was called by God and given the task of saving the created order from destruction.   God determined to restart the world, but he could not bring himself to destroy what was still good and so Noah and his family along with representatives of all species alive were gathered into an ark and saved from the flood.


The calling of Abram from the land of Ur marked a significant step in God’s personal involvement with the people of this world.  God chose to establish a relationship with Abram that would become the foundation for a people and a nation.   But to become that people and nation would require the commitment of Abram to God.  Abram not only heeded the call of God on his life, but he even allowed God to rename him and his wife symbolizing their commitment to be the leaders of a new nation.  And so, Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah.  They would travel to far lands and experience many things. They would see their family grow from one special child to become the father of one who would become the father of 12 from whom would come the tribes of the people known as Israel.


Another significant moment in the life of this nation of people came during the time when they had become slaves in the land of Egypt.  At that time there came one who had been saved from death as an infant, raised in the house of the Pharaoh and then made to be ruler in the land.  One day he witnessed the beating of a slave. Not knowing that these were his people, he killed the oppressor. He then fled.  During his exile, he encountered the God who had called Abraham and who had been the companion of the generations that succeeded him.  He was sent back to the people and they trusted that God had sent him.  They trusted him because he knew the name by which the people knew God – Yahweh, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob from whom all the people were descended.


The people were led to a Promised Land where they were able to settle and establish themselves in towns and villages.  God sent to them various leaders called judges and then prophets and kings.  Through successive generations they sought to guide the people encouraging them to remain faithful to the God who had created their nation and who had been their constant companion.   But as we well know from reading the history of this people in the Old Testament, things did not always go smoothly.  There ever existed tensions between the people and those God sent to guide them.  And whenever people’s personal ambitions came into conflict with the wisdom of God, the prophets suffered as the people rejected the place of God in their lives.

Trusting that God had truly sent those who exercised leadership was ever an issue – especially when a leader came from an unlikely place or background.  Jesus had shown himself to be a person with gifts for teaching and healing and those gifts were most welcomed by the people. In fact, those gifts would have been welcomed by any people – especially if people were feeling confused about God in general and their own relationship to God in particular.  The presence of a person whose teaching brought clarity about God and led people to feel encouraged about God’s willingness to truly love them and forgive them for the brokenness in their lives was a great gift. It brought a hope that the people had so long been missing.


But this Jesus was more than just another prophet, more than just another teacher or healer; this Jesus revealed himself to be the Messiah – the servant of the living God as revealed through the prophecies of Isaiah.  It was commonly known that the servant songs as found in the writings of the prophet spoke of the One who would be the ultimate Saviour of the people.  This servant would bring ultimate release to all who had suffered or were afflicted.  He would be the One to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. This was the One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest because the oil of holiness would have anointed him to this task.  And so Jesus declares before those gathered in the synagogue that day that he indeed is the One spoken of by Isaiah. They are among the first persons to hear that the Messiah has come.

And as much as they wanted to believe that indeed he was the Messiah; as much as they dearly longed for the coming of that person who could accomplish those things, they could not get past where they thought he came from.  This is Joseph’s son, the son of a carpenter from Nazareth.  Tradition told them that nothing of significance ever came from Nazareth and especially from the place of his birth – Bethlehem.  But the One whose very existence would mean new life and new hope for so many had his start in Nazareth and his birth in the place we could call in English – the house of bread.  Remember Jesus’ words as recorded in John: I am the Bread of Life! Born in a lowly stable, the One whose very body and soul would bring nourishment and healing – came from the house of bread to be the bread of life!


Quite the image and also quite unbelievable to those gathered in that place.  Jesus words about a prophet not being accepted in his own hometown has a ring of truth in that people often find it hard to believe that anyone of significance could ever come from their own town or village.  Extraordinary people must come from extraordinary places. But then it is recorded that the reaction of the people to Jesus’ words was that of rage and they sought to kill him.  Even though they found it hard to believe that he could be the Messiah, they were offended that Jesus would presume to equate himself with great prophets like Elijah or Elisha.  But it becomes clear that this incident did not deter Jesus from continuing the mission he had been entrusted with and for which he had born.  He went on to teach in many other synagogues and heal many others.  And while he never opened the scroll again to read those words, he did fulfil them through his ministry.

So the issue is whether or not the people were willing to trust the One God sent.  Could they accept that this person was indeed not just another prophet or teacher or healer but the Messiah who would bring ultimate wholeness to a broken people and restore them to a relationship with God that would bring them to the place where they could feel the love of God, the mercy of God and the forgiveness of God? To have the people experience wholeness in body, mind and spirit is the will and heart of God and the communication of that to people was the mission of Jesus.


Of course there’s more to it than that but it is a significant place to start – to start trusting in the One God sends!


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