"Jesus' First Sermon"

A sermon based upon Luke 4:14-32

According to the Gospel of Luke: after his baptism and brief sojourn in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and “a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding region”. (Luke 4:14) In other words, he got a reputation. There was a “buzz” about Jesus; he had become, in very short order, “the talk of the town”.

At this point in Luke’s telling of the story, Jesus had not yet called any disciples. Instead, he was traveling from town to town, teaching in the synagogues of Galilee… and he was well received. (!) “Being glorified by all” is how Luke put it. (Luke 4:15)

35 years ago, after I was ordained here in this sanctuary – with the Rev. Jack Fitzgerald preaching the sermon, and the Rev. Bob Case (who was at that time the Moderator of the United Northern Association) officiating, and Vernie Nethercut (our Birthday Girl) as a church representative in the ceremony – Patty & I moved to my first official position as the Interim Minister at the International Protestant Church of Zurich (Switzerland).

That’s where I preached my first year’s worth of sermons. And frankly, so far as I could tell, no report about me ever went out to the surrounding country. I can certainly say I wasn’t being “glorified by all” -- perhaps not even by a few. (!) But then, why should I be? I’m no Jesus Christ! I’m just his humble servant.

Luke then takes us to Nazareth, where Jesus had been brought up… Back to his hometown church, so to speak.

I’ve done that, too…coming home to Alpena five years ago.

Jesus went to the synagogue, as was his custom, on the Sabbath day. (No surprise there.) And he stood up to read… He was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, in which Jesus found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”

Now, that’s all well and good if it is Isaiah he’s talking about. More than 500 years had passed since Isaiah had written those words. So, if it was a quote from Isaiah about Isaiah -- and was related to Isaiah’s day in Judean history -- the good people of Nazareth would have no problem listening to it… like poetry, like history. They might learn something from it about those days long ago when the great prophet Isaiah brought God’s Word.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me”, said Jesus, as he read from the scroll. “Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. [To bring good tidings to the afflicted.] He has sent me to [bind up the brokenhearted]; to proclaim release to the captives [and the opening of prisons to those who are bound]… and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed… to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of the Lord’s favor].” (Isaiah 61:1-2, page 641)

Those of you who were here two weeks ago already heard me quote those very same words from Isaiah -- words selected by Jesus himself to be read aloud (and commented upon) in his first worship service upon returning to his hometown, Nazareth.