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The Good News Can Get You Killed
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Text: Luke 4:21-30

I. Introduction - Cheering for the Wrong Team
  •  Illustration about football season in Philadelphia – Giants fans and Redskin fans in the Eagles’ stadium.
  •  Installed a jail in the stadium.
  •  What would be even worse is Philadelphia native at the Eagles’ game, routing for the Giants! That could really get you killed!
  •  Luke 4:21-30
  •  Prayer
  A. Today’s story ends with Jesus getting run out of town.
    1. The people were not just a little bit upset – they were irate!
    2. They had murderous rage in their eyes.
  B. This is clearly an early foreshadowing of Jesus’ death.
  C. Luke wants us to get the point early in the story and he then reminds us throughout that Jesus was rejected and ultimately the crowds do succeed in killing him.
II. Why so angry?
  A. As you read this story this morning, aren’t you asking yourself, “why so angry?”
  B. What could Jesus have said that would set them off like this?
  C. There are a lot of stories that end with the preacher getting thrown out of the church and kicked to the curb.
  D. And in this case, this is the first time Luke tells us that Jesus interpreted the scripture in front of the synagogue.
  E. So, first time in the pulpit, he reads the assigned text for the day, and wow…what a reaction.
    1. To their credit, at least the people weren’t sleeping.
    2. I’ve been in churches where you feel like you could say anything and no one would get upset.
    3. At least these folks got his point!
  F. But what was his point?
III. Amazed and Enraged
  A. Notice that in the space of a few verses these congregants go from “amazed” to “enraged”
  B. Amazed
    1. In verse 22 Luke writes, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
      a. What gracious words?
      b. Let’s quickly remind ourselves.
    2. Verses 16-20
      a. The people thought, Hey, this is good news.
      b. He’s reading our verse!
      c. This is like reading Revelation 14:6-13 in an Adventist gathering.
      d. People would immediately recognize this verse as powerfully good news, affirming their place in God’s plan and the promising future that God had in mind for them.
      e. No doubt Jesus interpreted these words to indicate that all God’s plans from the very beginning would ultimately be fulfilled.
      f. Debts (also known as sins) would be forgiven so debt prisoners could go free, blind people will see, the lame will walk.
      g. The Year of the Lord’s Favor is here – this is Jubilee.
      h. Jubilee is Good News for Israel.
 
    3. And so, the people are amazed!
    4. But perhaps, as Jesus detects their unbridled approval of his words, he is thinking to himself,
      a. “Judging from their enthusiasm, they are clearly not getting the point. Let me press it home.”
  C. Enraged
    1. And when he does, the people become enraged.
    2. It begins in verse 23
      a. Jesus quotes two proverbs, predicting what might be going through his listeners' minds.
      b. Then he shares two stories from the prophets that the people would be well acquainted with.
      c. Stories from the illustrious careers of Elijah and Elisha.
    3. The Widow of Zarephath
    4. Naaman’s healing
    5. Both of these stories indicate that the grace and mercy of God did not come to the chosen people of Israel, but broke through those boundaries and landed on unacceptable people – Gentiles.
    6. Now the people can see what they missed earlier in the sermon.
      a. When Jesus quoted Isaiah 61, he didn’t finish the quotation.
      b. If you go to Isaiah 61:1-2 the passage doesn’t end as Jesus leaves it, with “…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
      c. It actually ends, “…and the day of vengeance of our God.”
        1) But Jesus leaves that part off.
    7. Perhaps the people didn’t notice it before but now that he’s sharing these stories of God’s boundless grace, they realize it.
      a. Wait, those people are not supposed to be the heros of the story, they’re the recipients of God’s vengeance.
      b. Something is wrong here!
      c. Jesus is changing the script
      d. Jesus is in his hometown rooting for the visiting team.
    8. And they are enraged
  D. Perhaps the most infuriating part is that the people have been handed their own story.
    1. Jesus does not come to them preaching a different story
    2. These are Israel’s respected narratives.
    3. This IS Israel’s story.
    4. And from within their own story they have been shown the bankruptcy of their religion.
  E. And so, Luke reports that the people throw him out of the synagogue.
    1. Perhaps they rush to the front of the room, grab him and, as an angry mob, they force him through the doors and out into the town square and then through the town to the edge of town to throw him out of the town gates.
    2. Just as they’re reaching the edge of town one of them notices the cliffs just outside the gates and shouts, “Over there…the cliffs!”
    3. And just as they are reaching the cliffs Jesus, miraculously, escapes.
  F. Now that’s a rough Sabbath!
  G. Later in Luke’s story – in Acts – the message of the gospel really takes off among the Gentiles.
    1. Don’t miss Luke’s point…
      a. Jesus does not welcome the Gentiles because he is rejected in Israel.
      b. Jesus is rejected in Israel because he welcomed the Gentiles.
      c. Make no mistake, Jesus’ primary mission is to Israel, but Luke in particular will never let us forget that the stories of the Gospel going to the ends of the earth, that we read about in his second volume, called Acts, has its roots in the early teachings of Jesus.
IV. Good News, Bad News
  A. What is obvious in this story is that what is profoundly good news to some, is very bad news to others.
    1. Good news for the poor is often bad news for the rich.
    2. The good news that Jesus is Lord is bad news for Caesar.
  B. And the point today is this: Jesus had a message of good news for the outcasts and rejects of the world.
  C. And good news for the outsiders is bad news for the entitled and arrogant insiders.
    1. We insiders (yes, WE insiders) don’t want those people crashing our party!
    2. Let me speak for myself:
      a. As an insider – who has been an insider all my life in every possible way…
        1) Let me count the ways.
          a) Born in America
          b) To middle class parents
          c) Of Western European descent
          d) Highly educated
          e) Raised in the church
      b. I find the open welcome of God disturbing at times.
      c. Can’t heaven just be populated by “nice” people.
        1) You know, nice, middle class, religious people.
        2) But Jesus, in story after story, demonstrates that the outsiders are the invitees to the party.
  D. In teaching as he did in the synagogue that morning, Jesus extended the good news beyond Israel to the whole world.
    1. This teaching, which we call “the gospel,” brings a violent reaction.
V. Conclusion
  A. We shouldn’t have too much trouble finding ourselves in this text.
  B. We are the ones who like to know who’s in and who’s out, who’s saved and who’s lost, who’s welcome and who’s not.
  C. We are in the middle of the season that the church calls, Epiphany
    1. The word comes from the Greek word, epiphania, or manifestation.
  D. In this season we celebrate how Jesus is made known – manifested in the world as God’s Messiah
  E. But today we are also revealing something else…
    1. …something else is being manifested in our midst…
  F. …that we, like the congregation in Nazareth, are those who like to draw lines in the sand,
    1. to demarcate who’s in and who’s out.
  G. We, like they, are a people with a persistent, “us-them” mindset.
    1. It’s a worldview that has plagued us from that time until today.
  H. But this is Hollywood!
  I. If ever there was a place where the boundless love and grace of God could be manifest – certainly it is here.
    1. And when I say, “boundless”, I hope you hear, “boundary-less”
      a. Without limits
      c. Without restrictions
      d. As Paul would later say about the Fruit of the Spirit, “There is no law against such things.”
  J. My prayer and my expectation is that in Hollywood, we would not run Jesus out of the church at the suggestion that maybe we aren’t the only ones God loves
    1. That we aren’t the only ones favored by God
    2. That we aren’t the only ones with truth to share
    3. A vision that drives my life is that around the world, from Iraq, Iran and Syria to Israel to Thailand to Northern Ireland and the US of A, that Jesus would be welcomed in our pulpits to teach that God’s grace extends to whoever we consider to be an outsider.
      a. That YHWH is the God of the Muslims
      b. And Allah is the God of the Christians.
  K. But what if it started here, with me?
    1. That God’s special favor comes to whoever I consider to be an outsider in my little club:
      a. The poor and homeless
      b. The gay and lesbian community
      c. The mentally ill
  L. What if I could, taking the lead from my Master, Jesus?
    1. Live from love rather than fear
    2. Drop my judgments and open my arms in acceptance
  M. That would be crazy!

Submitted by Ryan J. Bell. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for
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