Luke 4:14-21 (EHV) 14Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through all the surrounding area. 15He was teaching in their synagogues and being honored by everyone. 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, who came to release us from the power of Satan and the prison house of sin, dear Christian friends, “How are you?” Such a simple, often-uttered phrase, isn’t it? How many times have you spoken it today just here at church? How many times have you been asked that question just this morning? How did you respond? How did others answer when you asked them? Let me guess, “Good.” That is the answer, isn’t it? What else do you say when someone asks you, “How are you?”
(By the way, if any of you asked me or my children that question this morning and you received the answer, “good”, please let me know. I have been teaching them since they were young that is not an acceptable answer to that question because it is generic and indicates no thought was given to the reply.)
Is “good” really the only answer to the question, “How are you?” Is it even accurate?
Last week I had a cold and would have been lying if I had told you I was “good”. I have visited people pre- and post-surgery and they told me they were “good”. I doubt that was a truthful answer. “Nervous”, “anxious”, “sore” probably would have been better answers.
Sometimes, we respond with “good” because we know it could be worse or because we don’t want to burden the person asking by telling them of all our aches and pains or we don’t want to sound boastful if we tell them of all the wonderful things going on in our lives or we just don’t have time to give out any more information.
But if we ask the question, we should be ready for any one of those answers or something else someone might offer. And if we get asked the question, let’s be honest. Perhaps, it will lead to an opportunity to tell about Jesus.
Like you, as was his custom, Jesus went to the local place of worship in order to hear God’s Word and pray and be encouraged by the faithful. Do you think Jesus walked in and asked the parishioners in the Nazareth synagogue this Sabbath day, “How are you?”
He might have, but he didn’t need to! He knows all things and knew how they were so he didn’t have to ask them. Instead, he tells them how they were. And the answer wasn’t “good”.
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
What is the first thing you notice, besides that this seemed to be a very short time of worship? The people used the Scriptures in worship and Jesus knew his Scriptures. He opened the Isaiah scroll to one of the places which clearly spoke about him as the Messiah, the one the people were waiting expectantly for, because they had been taught about all the awesome things he would do.
With the Spirit of the Lord on him, publicly shown through his baptism, just as the Spirit of the Lord is on these young boys baptized here today, Jesus was able to do his God-given work.
He was anointed…to preach good news to the poor. While those who are poor financially need Jesus to do his work of preaching good news, the poor is probably a reference to the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3). The good news for them— for us— is that we are made rich by the work of Jesus as the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians (8:9): “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus’ work was to win for us the treasures of heaven and lavish us with the wealth of God’s love.
He was sent…to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed. While he miraculously could and did open real prison doors of iron (Ac 16) and heal the visually blind (Jn 9), these words are probably best understood as describing those who are spiritually imprisoned and spiritually blind. By nature, Satan had us all locked up in his lair, lacking any chance to escape on our own. By nature, none of us could see to find a way out of the dungeon of damnation. Miraculously, Jesus came and broke down the bars that imprisoned us, crushed the chains that captured us and disarmed the devil who deceived us. Miraculously, he opened our eyes through the gift of faith so we could see him as our rescuer and see that the only way out of the prison of our sins was to believe in him to rescue us.
Jesus was to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. For the Old Testament people, who first heard these words through the Prophet Isaiah, as we heard them today in our first lesson, it was an obvious connection to a special celebration held every 50 years called the Year of Jubilee in which property was returned, slaves were released and debts were rescinded (Lv 25). For us, we are constantly living in the year of the Lord’s favor because the property of perfection which Adam and Eve lost for all of us has been returned to us with the promise of heaven, we have been released from our slavery to Satan and the debt of our sins has been erased through the life, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Co 6:2).
After Jesus read these words from the scroll, the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus has accomplished the work God promised he would do!
This Epiphany season, we have been following the sermon series entitled, WHERE IN THE WORLD IS GOD? If you ask it of others or others ask it of you, the answer you are given today is that HE IS RELEASING YOU!
So, “how are you?” Good? Not without Jesus! Without him, you would still be imprisoned under the control of Satan. Without him, you would still be held captive by your sins and destined to die eternally for them. Without him, you would still be eager to follow the ways of the world, thus bringing down the wrath of God upon you.
“How are you…with Jesus?” Good? Yes, but so much better than that! Through your baptism, just like these young boys baptized today, Jesus has released you from your sins. Through his comfort, he has released you from the hopeless grief that unbelievers face when loved ones die trusting in Jesus. Through his love, he has released you from the depression that comes upon people who face loneliness, loss of job, or lack of success. Through his peace, he has released you from the despair that comes from the evil surrounding us each day. Through his power, he has released you from the fear that comes from your own ignorance and insecurity. Through his Word, he has released you from the condemnation that you deserve, but has been removed by his amazing grace.
Where in the world is God? He is right here, releasing you!
So, how are you? Blessed! Forgiven! Saved!