© 2016 by Charles D. Jones

Preachers

February 22, 2019

While going to Baylor University in the mid 1970's and then living in Waco, Texas, until 2015, I've heard more than my share of preacher boys and even a few preacher girls preach their first sermon. Some of those experiences were quite remarkable, while some were downright scary.

 

In chapter 4 of the gospel of Luke, we can read about Jesus' first recorded sermon. It occurred after his temptation in the wilderness. Returning tired and hungry to his boyhood home of Nazareth, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and read from the scroll that contained the words of the prophet Isaiah. As translated by the New International Version, this is what he read:

 

The spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom
    for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

 

When he finished, he rolled up the scroll and sat down. It was short and sweet, just like all sermons should be. But all in all, his first sermon didn't go that well, as Jesus was promptly run out of Nazareth. In fact, the crowd was so incensed they even wanted to push him over a cliff at the edge of town. That was certainly not such a welcome reception for the 30-year-old homeboy. 

 

One of the issues might have been that Jesus made a slight omission to Isaiah's prophesy. He left out Isaiah's last line which was, "and the day of vengeance of our God." Jesus simply leaves the listeners with "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." That's a big difference for the crowd who may have been hoping for some Godly vengeance against their Roman occupiers. By stopping before the end, Jesus seems to be playing fast and loose with the Old Testament (before it was the Old Testament, of course). What happened to God's vengeance? In his hunger and fatigue, did he just forget to read Isaiah's last line? Probably not. He was perfect, right? 

 

Maybe Jesus was showing his listeners that God's word is alive and dynamic, subject to a new interpretation by one anointed to preach the good news. Maybe he was dramatically declaring that the God of vengeance was no more, or never was. That's what I think. I also think Jesus was being remarkable, like some of the preacher boys and girls I've known.

Please reload