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Ipoh Garden Baptist Church, Combined Worship, 19Nov2006
What's so important about the words of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Answer - because he is the Son of God, and God has spoken through his words. Hebrews 1: 1 - 2 says "God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, 1:2 in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world . . . "
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?
And Christmas is only about a month away. Why do we still celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Christ so many years later?
This morning our scripture passage brings us face to face with 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. In Mark 6: 1 - 3, Matthew 13: 53 - 58, and a longer account in Luke 4: 16 - 22. After reading all these gospel accounts, you may be disappointed that our Lord Jesus didn't speak like a university professor, nor did he speak eloquently and powerfully like a politician, nor was he like a cunning businessman. Instead we can observe that our Lord Jesus has spoken with three special characteristics.
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. More than ten 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. Traditionally, the Jews would first appoint someone to read publicly a passage from the Law of Moses. Then another reader would be asked to read a passage from the prophetic books. After there will be explanations and discussions by the men present in the synagogue.
For example, in Acts 13: 14 - 16, we find that the apostle Paul, during his first missionary journey, starting from Antioch in Syria, passed through the island of Cyprus and stopped at the city of Antioch in Pisidia. It was the sabbath day, and Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue of that city. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, Paul was invited by the officials of the synagogues to speak to the congregation. And we can read in that passage that the apostle spoke publicly to all of them about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Similarly, it was on such an important day of public worship that the Lord Jesus would teach the people and speak to them about himself.
Our Lord 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.
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
When our Lord Jesus spoke, he often referred to prophecies, written long before his time, in the Old Testament 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 philosophy or imaginative ideas, then this morning we might 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. In this morning's scripture reading, there is something very significant which our Lord Jesus carried out in the syagogue in his home town of Nazareth which is not recorded in Mark 6 nor Matthew 13. Instead it is recorded for us in Luke 4: 16 - 22, we see that Jesus stood up to read out to everybody a passage from the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah chapter 61: 1, 2. (Read aloud)
"The spirit of the LORD is upon me,
because He has chosen me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind
to set free those who are oppressed
to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD . . ."
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.
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 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 this morning 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 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. They didn't know that the prophecies came true in Jesus' life.
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 this morning? Was Jesus really the Messiah, the Saviour which Isaiah prophesied?
Before we end, let us look at one particular verse of this story again.
Show Mark 6: 2, 3
"And many who heard him were astonished, saying, ďWhere did he get these ideas? And what is this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these miracles that are done through his hands?
Isnít this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And arenít his sisters here with us?Ē
And they took offense at him."
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 Ipoh Garden: this morning will you be offended by this person? Will you be angry with Jesus Christ, just like the people of Nazareth? Will you want to quarrel with him because he has said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."?
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.)