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Bidor Gospel Centre 25 December 1999
Last days of millenium
Last Christmas celebration of the 1990s - celebrating the birth of a important person.
What's so important about this person?
Answer - because God has spoken through his own son: Jesus.
How has God spoken through Jesus? In what way did Jesus speak? Did he speak like an academician? An intellectual? A politician? A social worker? Or did he speak like a businessman?
What did Jesus say in that little corner of the world, so far away, so many years ago?
How come we are still celebrating Christmas to remember Jesus 2000 years later?
To find the answer, let me bring you to an important occasion when Jesus spoke to his own people. This occasion is recorded by his disciples in no less than 3 different parts of the Bible.
Show & read - OHP - Luke 4: 16 - 22.
(Jesus observed a practice.)
He spoke on a Sabbath day.
For thousands of years, the Sabbath was a day of worship and teaching for the Jewish people. Even today, Jewish people do not work on Saturdays which is their Sabbath day. A few years ago, a relative who stays in Santa Monica, California, told me that some of the Jews there don't even drive their cars on Sabbath days.
In other words the Sabbath was a day when it was compulsory for the Jews to rest and to pay full attention to the teaching of Scriptures. It was on such days that Jesus would teach the people and speak to them about himself.
He did not speak secretly during clandestine meetings. He didn't engage in hush-hush gossips with uneducated housewives. He spoke and taught on the most important day of the week for the Jewish community at that time. A day when people would come together to listen to God's teaching.
He spoke in the synagogue.
Not in dark secret, underground places, nor in back yard or alleys where nobody would see.
Likewise, throughout the gospels, it is recorded that Jesus spoke to people on hill tops, by the seaside and in other similar places where crowds of people would listen to him. The only time when Jesus couldn't go into a town publicly was when a leper, who was healed by Jesus of his leprosy, went everywhere telling everybody about Jesus that Jesus had to stay outside the town in a lonely place where people came to listen to him. (Mark2). Otherwise Jesus spoke in public most of the time.
Illustration: contrast with earlier encounters with mediums:
- Golden Boy @ Jln Ceylon KL
- Fortune teller @ Jln Hang Tuah KL
- Small Western Sky in a cave @ end of Petaling Street
(Jesus opened a prophecy.)
Jesus often referred to prophecies, written long before his time, in the Jewish scriptures. It would be very different if Jesus did not refer to these prophecies but, instead, only spoke philosophically. If Jesus went everywhere, including going to his hometown, Nazareth, just to talk about his own brand of humanistic philosophy or imaginative ideas, then tonight we would be wasting our time listening to what he is saying here.
No, Jesus didn't speak philosophically. Instead he spoke prophetically. He often pointed out to his disciples as well as to his enemies which prophecies recorded in the Old Testament would be fulfilled. For example tonight we see that Jesus was reading from the book of Isaiah chapter 61: 1, 2.
There were many occasions recorded in the Bible when Jesus mentioned prophecies given long ago by other prophets in the past. All these prophecies were inspired by God's spirit. They were not ordinary opinions or imaginations of mere human beings. Instead they told of what God will do in future.
(Explain significance of Isaiah's ministry, and the inspiration of his prophecy recorded in this text.) It wasn't any ordinary philosophy or opinion of human beings. It was a prophecy inspired by God.
Isaiah prophesied about a very special person who was to come to the Jews. This person had God's spirit, anointed by God - the Messiah.
Will bring good news to the poor, healing to the broken hearted, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed.
Will announce the time when God will save his people.
This prophecy was incredible. Here, Isaiah talked about a saviour who will do incredible things - the poor will hear good news, the broken hearted will be healed, the blind will see again and the oppressed people will be set free. Most incredible of all is that the time will come when God will save his own people from all the sufferings of this world!
Will such incredible things happen? Will such an incredible saviour appear to the people of this earth? What would Jesus say about this prophecy? This leads to the next point about Jesus' prophetic speaking in the synagogue ...
Who is this messiah? When will he come?
Oh! If only he were here already!
Will he save us from the oppression of the Roman Empire? Will this Messiah become our new king?
(Jesus offended a people.)
Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, sat down
Everyone stared at him...(for answers?)
He offended them all - "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
(TEV - this passage of scripture has come through today, as you heard it being read.)
Jesus spoke very directly and plainly here after he sat down - that he is that saviour, the messiah who was mentioned in Isaiah's prophecy ... years ago. He didn't beat about the bush. He didn't use mysterious words to let people know about himself. He didn't pretend to be polite and try to be modest about it.
Contrast with Chinese way of boasting indirectly - not admitting plainly about their success or wealth e.g. 'No-lah just a simple car...' (Mercedes Benz); or 'Oh, just earning enough for two meals a day ...' (big shop doing brisk business) etc.
Jesus didn't talk like that. He didn't pretend to be politely modest yet at the same time hoping that people will admire him. He spoke plainly.
He said (show OHP) "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
So tonight we have pondered over the occasion when Jesus visited his own home town to speak to his own people. We have noticed three important characteristics about the speech of this person Jesus .
Firstly we saw that he spoke publicly. Everyone knows that Jesus spoke in public. He spoke on Sabbaths when everybody rested from their work and their business met together for worship. He spoke in open places. He spoke in the Jewish synagogue - a public place of worship where practically the whole town would be present Sabbath days.
Secondly, we saw that he spoke prophetically. There were many occasions recorded in the Bible when Jesus mentioned prophecies given long ago by other prophets in the past. All these prophecies were inspired by God's spirit. They were also incredible prophecies - talking about impossible and unlikely things that have yet to happen. On top of that, these prophecies were impending - the Jews were still waiting to see them happen. And many of them came true in Jesus' life.
This morning I heard a fellow believer preach in church that there were 10 reasons why he believed in Jesus. - Mention the list of fulfilled prophecies from KCMC order of worship. Such were the prophetic speaking of this person Jesus.
Thirdly, we saw in tonight's story that Jesus spoke plainly. He didn't use smooth talking words to deceive his audience. He didn't bluff or cover up anything. He just told everyone plainly that he is the Saviour that was mentioned in all those prophecies. One of the most common expressions Jesus used when starting to speak was, 'Truly, truly I say to you ...' Another common saying of Jesus was 'I am...'.
What is our reaction to this person? Shall we believe what Jesus said tonight? Was Jesus really the Messiah, the Saviour which Isaiah prophesied?
Before we end, let us look at the last verse of the story again.
Show again last verse Luke 4:22 - Why did they remark like that? What did they mean? To see the answer let use look at another record of this story ...
Show Mark 6: 1 - 3.
The people were offended:
- not by his miracles - if Jesus had worked a miracle in that synagogue they would probably have applauded,
- not by his popularity - his friends and relatives and even neighbours would be proud of him - such a popular fellow. Crowds followed him everywhere he went.
- But by his speech - his public, prophetic and plain speech. When Jesus said "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.", they were offended.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, neighbours and relatives of Bidor: tonight will you be offended by this person Jesus just like the people of Nazareth?
Analogy for today at Christmas: we are not offended by many of the things Christians say and do ...
- not offended by - Santa Claus and carolling,
- not offended by shopping promotions and sales, Christmas trees and presents,
- not even by drunken parties and lavish meals.
- But by Jesus' words - spoken publicly, prophetically and plainly. Invite audience not to be offended, but instead to believe.