“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19; 3rd Sunday after Epiphany; 1/27/19

Grace…

Who, me?  You’re talkin to me?  Are you sure you’ve got the right person?  You’ve got to be talking to someone else.  You can’t possibly be talking to me! Can you?

Have you ever had that feeling, when you were in a class or a group of people and the teacher or leader of the group started talking and looked at you, and called on you for the very first time?  You were just hoping to blend into the surroundings like a chameleon, hoping not to get called on, hoping not to get involved, hoping to dream off into your own little dream-world and then this teacher, this leader spoke to you…spoke directly to you.  You tried to duck or deflect the question, or act like you didn’t hear it at first, but there it was and all eyes were on you.  You wished for a moment that you could hit the pause button, and scurry out of the class when no one was looking, and act like you were sick for the day, and have the eyes of that teacher go on someone else.

Sometimes we are tempted to think of the words in the Bible in much the same way.  Like it’s written for other people, so that other people would shape up.  So that they would see the light, not ourselves.   Like, I’m fine just the way I am.  I don’t need to change…it’s the others in this world. They need to straighten up, but, me, I’m fine!

Here we are in this third week after the Epiphany, in this time where we really remember God appearing to people, God showing Himself to people, God revealing Himself to people.  And today in our church we hear of Jesus coming to His own home town of Nazareth.  We hear of Him coming into the synagogue on a Sabbath, and taking the scroll of Isaiah and reading it, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind”  and then the Bible says,  “The eyes of all were fixed on Him, and He began to say to them, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  God appeared to His people in the synagogue, the church of Nazareth that day.  God’s Word was literally speaking to each of them personally!

What if Jesus was speaking to each of you personally today?  What would you say?  What would you do?  Would you try to avoid Him?  Try to duck away from Him?  Would you think that it was talking and applying just to other people?  Or would you take it personally?  That God was speaking to you, to bring you forgiveness, life, and salvation.  That God was bringing you a release from your captivity too.  That God was coming to proclaim to you liberty and freedom from the things that oppress you.  Because that’s exactly what God’s Word brings to each of us!

The Bible is not just a story about God and His people long ago.  It’s the truth of God, showing His love and mercy to people long ago, and how it applies to each of us today.  His Word in the Bible truly speaks to us, calling us into a relationship with Him, to trust Him, to follow Him, and to fix our eyes upon Him.  The Book of Hebrews says it this way, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from His sight…”

So today, we pray, forgive us Lord!  Have your way with us!  Forgive us for thinking at times that we don’t need any help, that we don’t need any change in our lives.  Forgive us for thinking that your Word in the Bible is just for the other people!  For we need You!  We all need you!  And God does forgive us!

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s  favor“.  There is good news for you! It’s God’s forgiveness for each of you!  Jesus has come to bring you liberty, recovery of sight, and to have release from your captivity that oppresses you.

So, what is it that captivates or oppresses you? Perhaps it is your worry that just dominates practically every thought.  You’re worried about this or that, and this worry just captivates you.  Maybe, along with those worries, you have fears and doubts that just hem you in.  Maybe they have even brought you to have a very gloomy attitude on life.  And you have had a persistent negative attitude, complaining about all of the troubles in your life.  We need God’s Word to remind us that the Lord is in charge.  He is reigning.  He is sovereign.  Jesus says, “All authority In heaven and earth has been given unto Me.”  And in another part says, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  Jesus comes to release you from that captivity to sin.

Perhaps you have developed a further bad habit that oppresses you.  Maybe alcohol or drugs have overtaken your life, so that it has become a terribly bad habit.  And it has caused problems with your health, or your relationships.  Jesus comes to release you from that captivity too.  Maybe it’s another bad habit like pornography that has overtaken your life.  Jesus has come to release you from that captivity as well.  He wants you to have liberty from the things, the sin that has oppressed you.

Maybe you say, it’s not me, but I know someone who is captivated by some sort of oppression, some sort of sin.  Maybe it’s someone you work with, or go to school with, or someone you know from your community, and maybe it’s someone in your own family.  Perhaps the Lord will use you as His instrument to help that person to be released from their captivity. Visit them, talk with them, pray with them.  Perhaps even point them to this passage in the Bible where Jesus said, He has come to release us from captivity.  And praise God if they see the error of their ways and change!

But, they may say, “Who are you, to try to help me with this?”  They may reject you.  They did the same with Jesus.  The people of the synagogue, in our text, looked at Jesus after He said these words, and said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Now, at first they marveled about Him.  They rejoiced about Him.

But, then Jesus went on to say that God was using Him to bring healing and forgiveness to all people, including the Gentiles, the outsiders.  He used the example of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament who went outside of Israel to bring health and healing to all people.  At this, the people of the synagogue were furious!  They were filled with wrath!  Even to the point that they drove Jesus out of town, and wanted to throw Him off of the cliff.  But, the Bible says, Jesus “passed through their midst and went away.”  His time had not yet come!

Jesus came to release them from their captivity to sin.  He said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  But they rejected Him, and His Word in Nazareth, His own hometown.  But, how about us, here in Muskegon, MI.  His Word is living and active today.   What captivity could He release you from?  For His Word is relevant to our lives.  He has come to us through His Word today to release us from our captivity to sin, to bring us liberty—forgiveness and hope for our lives.  He is speaking to each of us today, so that we would not say, “Who me?” But, instead would rejoice and give thanks in Him!

God grant it…