Luke 4:14 - 21
I have to admit I looked when I realised that today was Bible Sunday my heart sank, wondering what I would talk to you about that was new, refreshing, riveting or even vaguely interesting. I could of course take the easy way out and just preach from the text for this morning but before I do just that I wondered if it might be good to see what the Bible means or should mean to Christians.
The Muslim faith and the encounter between Islam and Christianity is so much in the news, and we need to understand the difference between our faiths. The Bible and the Qur’an make an interesting start.
The Qur’an is at the heart of Islam. Muslims believe that every word of it was revealed by God to Muhammad, so it must be the Word of God.
The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic and is untranslatable into other languages. Of course it has been translated but they do not believe this is the Qur’an any more.
Christians have been known as people of the book, we too have a scripture which we believe to be the word of God. But the place occupied by the Qur’an within Islam is not the same as the Bible within Christianity. For Muslims this is the Word made Book, for Christians this is the word made flesh – Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is at the heart of our faith, and not the Bible. Our Bible comes from biblical authors who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, They were fully human which gives us the rich diversity in the book. Another difference is that the Bible has been translated into every known language on the planet – which is one of the glories of the Church.
The Qur’an is about itself, the Bible is about God and Jesus. In today’s gospel we hear how, Jesus reads aloud from the prophet Isaiah and then declares that this scripture has been fulfilled in him.
It is a hard text to get your head around as there is no dramatic story to break down, no wise parable to explain, no dramatic miracle that takes place that I can apply to us. This is a simple short story about Jesus' first sermon, one line and that was it.
Jesus understood his role here on earth and proclaimed it to his neighbours in his hometown of Nazareth. He has just been baptised, He is full of the Holy Spirit and understands for certain why He is here on earth and so he starts to tell the world ~ starting at home.
When you train for the ministry you have to have preaching practice. This means preaching to your peers and then they pull it to pieces. This morning Jesus would have failed the preaching test miserably. His sermon fell short of the required 15-20 minutes.
There was no witty start, no flash of brilliance, no historical input, in fact no brilliance at all. Jesus was a good Jew and on the Sabbath he goes to the Synagogue and participates in the service which was very common among men in those days. I am sure that he knew some if not all of the people in the synagogue that day; for this was the place he grew up in. He went to the front and is given a scroll of scripture to read - Isaiah.
‘The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lords favour.’ After reading the scroll, he sat down, looked out into the people and said; ‘Today these scriptures have been fulfilled in your hearing’
In other words, ‘Yes, that’s me folks, I am the person who is coming to do all these things that have been promised.’ Can you just imagine the reaction? The stunned silence, the beginning of the muttering.
Have you ever said something that you knew in your heart was true but no one around you believed you? Hindsight of 20/20 vision tells us that there are some great examples in history, people like Christopher Columbus, he believed he could get to India faster if he went west. People thought he would fall off the earth because it was flat but he proved them wrong.
Jesus, was baptised, full of the Spirit, hears his call loud and clear, makes his way home, then to the synagogue and begins to tell the people the truth.
The key to this passage of course is that Jesus was full of the Spirit and knew in His heart what he was doing was the thing he was called to do. He knew that when that scripture was read that was what His life was all about, and what He was sent to do on earth. He was sent to give the blind sight. He was here to release the oppressed, and not just those who were socially oppressed but all of us who fall victim to that thing we call sin. He was here to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, to proclaim that all are set free and that there is now a path to heaven. Jesus saw the path he had to follow and he started to walk.
So how do we relate to this story? We pray that in the Church and in our own lives the word made flesh, Jesus, may be central.
Jesus could not do it without the Holy Spirit and neither can we. All we have to do is the small parts, the little roles in life; So our challenge is to find our roles, find our calling, find what we are created for, and then to proclaim it and finally do it.