Jesus’ First Sermon

Our text today is Luke 4:14-21: In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus comes to Nazareth, the town where he grew up, to the synagogue where he worshipped, and to people who know him. He reads from the Prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Luke 4:18-19

Those words from Isaiah and Jesus’ comment on them are the first recorded sermon delivered by Jesus. He is describing the nature of his ministry. He is setting his priorities and the direction of his work. He is telling us his vision for the reshaping of relationships – good news to the poor, release to the captive, sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, declaring God’s favour.

Let me ask you a question, Why was Jesus’ first sermon from Isaiah 61? Why did he say that the very core of his ministry was to be to the poor, the lame and the outcast of Jewish society? Why? Because that is the core for whom Jesus was and is.

In his first sermon, Jesus did not imply that he was going to be a king like King David with lots of power. He didn’t imply he was going to be a king like King Solomon with lots of wealth. He didn’t imply that he was going to be a military leader like Joshua. Rather, Jesus chose Isaiah 61 and said, “I am going to be a servant. I am going to take care of and heal the poor, the blind, the lame and the maimed.”

Think about it: Jesus brings good news to the poor, captive, blind, and oppressed. These aren’t the powerful, they are the outcasts, the ones we’ve been trained to feel sorry for as we pass them by at every street corner in Melbourne CBD. These are the ones who come to our church from time to time looking for a cup of coffee. We feel sorry for them but do not admire them. Yet Jesus says he comes for them.

In this first sermon of Jesus, we cannot avoid the conclusion that perhaps one of the chief powers of Jesus is to declare that God sees all of us – not just those the world sees, but everyone. Because the very fact that Jesus’ sermon is all about what God will do for the least of those in the world tells us that God gives special attention to those whom the world doesn‘t want to see. God loves us enough to see us, God loves us enough to forgive us, God loves us enough to challenge us, and God loves us enough to send us out to see and love others – especially those the world does not see. To do that is to share in the peculiar power that drives Jesus to preach such a powerful and inclusive sermon.

God sees all, loves all, and intends and promises to redeem all. Good news for those who heard it then and for those who hear it today. Jesus has been anointed to create a new community that breaks down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor. In him, everyone shall see God’s blessings and salvation.

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