Sunday, January 21, 2007

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Luke 4:16-30

It’s nice to go back home. The memories come flooding back. You see old friends. You reminisce with your family. You worship once again in your hometown. It’s good to be home.

Things were going well with Jesus when He visited His hometown. He even put a wrinkle in His visit at the synagogue—He got up to read. The portion of Scripture He read was a powerful one. And then He went to the teaching position. All eyes were fixed on Him, as it should be. Everything is going well when our eyes are fixed on Jesus.

He then spoke. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What a moment! Here Jesus comes back home and makes quite a statement. Everyone thought it was wonderful. You know how it is when a local boy returns home and makes everyone proud. “I used to walk to school with Him.” “We were best friends growing up.”

And as they kept talking about how wonderful it was to have Him back home, it began to sink in. “Isn’t this Joe’s son?” “Wasn’t He the carpenter’s apprentice who lived down the street?” “Yeah, He made the coffee table for our living room. We love it.”

And can you hear the wheels begin to turn in their minds? Wait a minute, the carpenter’s son… Why is He getting up and reading Scripture to us? Why is He presuming to take the place of teaching? And why on earth is He saying the Scripture He just read is fulfilled in Him? Why does He presume to insinuate we’re in need of those things spoken of in the Scripture reading He read? Who does He think He is?

Well Jesus sure knows about the wheels turning in their heads. He answers them: “Doubtless you will quote to Me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard You did at Capernaum, do here in Your hometown as well.”

Then He really stoked the fire: “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” “You remember what God did in Israel in the days of Elijah? There was a famine and yet even though there were many widows God sent him to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.”

“And what about all the lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha? God didn’t cleanse any of them, only Naaman the Syrian.”

Everything had been going so well. Now this. Jesus, warmly received, now being driven out of the synagogue and taken to a cliff to be thrown off. Everyone had been speaking well of Him, now they were filled with wrath at Him. Where did it all go wrong?

And how many times have you said that in your own life? Things were going well. You were high as a kite. But then things went south. Where did it all go wrong?

Your loved one was responding to medicine, improving, healing. Then suddenly they deteriorated and never recovered. What went wrong? Why wasn’t God performing miracles?

Your marriage was a picture of contentment. You were in love, you felt like the luckiest person in the world. Then the bills began piling up. Stresses at work got worse and you were unable to leave them at work. Your relationship with your spouse suddenly didn’t feel all that fresh and magical. Everything was going well. Where did it all go wrong?

And what about all those time we had glowing words about our Savior? We speak highly of Him. We share our willingness to follow Him, only to take His name in vain; if not in our words, in our actions. We complain if someone has made a mess and we’re left to clean it up. We get impatient if someone is a burden on our time and energy.

We talk a good game about God and being a Christian, but we’re no better than Abraham and Sarah who laughed at the ridiculous proposition of God that they would conceive of a child when they had long passed the age they could conceive. We question God like Zechariah did when the angel gave him the same promise that Abraham and Sarah were given. We are so often like Peter who put the things of men ahead of the things of God when we He rebuked Jesus for telling him that He would suffer and die.

Where did it all go wrong? Why do we treat God like the people of His hometown treated Jesus? We don’t like to think about it much but we carry around with us the Old Adam. Our sinful nature wins out at times when Jesus seems to be different from the kind of God we want Him to be.

Why weren’t the people of Nazareth able to throw Jesus off the cliff? He was outnumbered. He was at the edge. There was no way out for Him. The answer is simple, of course—He’s God. He can do anything. And so He passed right through them.

He knew what He had told His mother at the wedding of Cana: “My hour has not yet come.” And yet, what kind of God do we have? What kind of God is Jesus? One who is led from a place of prayer and meditation by soldiers to a mock trial of religious hypocrites only to then stand before a wicked king and a pagan governor and be sentenced to the brutal punishment of crucifixion.

This was Nazareth at the brow of the cliff all over again. Why didn’t Jesus just pass through them all? Why didn’t He do as He said He could and send armies of angels to wipe out these men who were forcing Him to be crucified? Because this now was His hour. This is why He came. We can’t say “where did it all go wrong” because in God’s infinite love and mercy this was His will. It was the desire to save us from our sins.

Yes, even those who in wrath, in a house of worship no less, dragged Jesus out to the edge of a cliff to throw Him down. Even those soldiers. Even the hypocritical religious leaders. Even Pilate and Herod. Even the disciples who scrammed when Jesus was delivered into the hands of the soldiers. Even you.

Where did it all go wrong? It always goes wrong with us when we act on our sinful nature. When we do as was described when Jesus had read the scripture and all eyes were fixed on Him, then everything is well. Not because everything will be easy or go the way we want it to. But we because we will see a God who comes to us in a way in which He is saving us: as a suffering Savior. As one who washes away our sins in Baptism. As the one who comes to us yet again physically with His Body and Blood in the very Supper we are about to partake of here at His altar.

We’d never imagine it, but in these things He gives to us the very gift of eternal life and the promise that we will reign with Him in heaven forever, feasting in His glorious presence. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Not sure if I did this right - I have not tried leaving a comment for a while. Anyway - good sermon!


rev.will said...

Hi Vona:

Thanks. I thought about making a crack such as "I have not tried writing a good sermon for a while", but in fact I always try to write a good sermon. And sometimes they actually come out okay! ;-)