Third Sunday after the Epiphany [c] January 23, 2022
16 And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to 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.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And
they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.
In the Name of Jesus.
How does one make oneself know?
We do things to reveal who we are to others. The guy at the park wears a sweatshirt with his favorite team. At least I get to know of him that he likes football and maybe even that he’s from Pennsylvania, if a Steelers sweatshirt is any indication. But that’s not really knowing him, is it?
So how do you really find out about someone, get to know them?
One way is to speak in what we might say is universals. This way, we find out facts about the person and fit him into the form that fits those facts. That guy in the park with a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt, I could say certain things. I could say what color his skin is. But only a racist thinks that skin color defines a person. Only a racist would say that because a man’s skin is one color or another, you now know whether or not he has honorable character. It’s as Martin Luther King once gave us in that great quote that people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
So we know that we will not know a person by knowing some universals. What color is his skin? What is his last name? Where was he born? We can know all sort of things about a person, without knowing him.
So how do you really know someone? You could know all sorts of things about me—color of my skin, my weight, my height, city of my birth, whether or not I’ve had the mumps; knowing all this, would you know me?
We are a speaking people. Conversation. Words. By speaking to you words of hatred, I could let you know that I am no friend and not to be trusted. By telling you words of kindness, of willingness to be with you and help, I can let you know that I am a friend. By telling you a conflict I went through, a sickness maybe, a broken friendship maybe, I can tell you my pain, where I am weak and need a friend’s kind words of encouragement.
We’re a speaking, talking people, created to give words as gifts, knowing each other by what is spoken. So much so, that when someone is deaf, they still converse in words through sign language.
God made us this way. He created us to hear words, to speak words, to know each other by words. He, the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, even creates life by using words: “Let us,” said the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in their conversation with one another, “Let us make man in our image,” and then, “Male and female he created them.” [Gen. 1:26]
The conversing God who creates by words created us in his image, that we, created by the Word, would be people of the Word, people of conversation.
And [Jesus] rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” That doesn’t fully capture what Jesus said in the Greek. Our translation has softened it. In the Greek Jesus more literally said,
Today this Scripture is being made full into your ears.
Our Lord is telling those people in Nazareth that now, on this day, as he stands in front of them, he is not just giving information about himself, he’s not just giving them a bunch of principles or universals, but he is putting something into their ears—he is filling their ears up with the words.
What are the words? The words of Jesus. The words he had already given by the prophets in the Old Testament days, but now, on this day, he’s accomplishing those words into their ears. They are the words that he, Jesus, has been anointed by the Holy Spirit to proclaim. It’s the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins to all who are emptied out in spirit.
That is, if you are a sinner, Jesus is going to shove his words into your ears, and because those words are the Gospel, he is going to make your ears full of the forgiveness of sins.
The words are that Jesus has been sent to proclaim release to the captives. Are you captive to your fear because before God you’re a sinner? Are you captive to the temptations of the world, looking for your fulfillment in the words of the world? Are you captive to the devil; does he bring doubt into your conscience so that you question God grace for you?
We’re all captive. That’s our sinful flesh. And we cannot free ourselves from this captivity.
Jesus is sent to proclaim release to the captives. He puts words into our ears. He has his words preached in the Church, but those words do no good but that they strike our eardrums and, in that, Jesus is accomplishing all his gifts into our ears.
Today this Scripture is being made full into your ears,
says Jesus. Jesus does this to you and me. He makes himself known to us—his salvation, his grace.
He doesn’t want us just to know him by some sort of universals. God is all-powerful, God is all-knowing, God is all-present, and is infinite and eternal. All that is true. But it does the sinner no good. It is the hidden God—the God who can be known by nature, and by reason, and by the Law written on the heart. But it does the sinner no good. For the all-powerful, all-knowing, infinite God is still hidden. In all that, we still don’t know him in his grace.
Jesus makes himself known as a person to you and me. Not just by his universal characteristics, not just by his attributes—all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, forgiving, that is all true.
But I need to hear him say it. I need him to shove words into my ears. I need him to make those words full into my ears, to accomplish them in my ears, so that they cleanse my conscience and create in me a new heart.
So Jesus speaks, he draws us into his conversation. He gathers sinners, you and me and our families to his church to hear the preaching. Not because the pastor is particularly effective, he’s probably not. Not because the pastor is entertaining or motivating, who cares?
But because Jesus gave his Scriptures to be preached, and in that preaching, he is delivering himself and all his gifts to the sinner, accomplishing it into our ears.
Now you know Jesus. The one who speaks to you in his Gospel, who converses with you, who binds you to himself in the friendship and companionship of a sinner cleansed of all sin and holding tightly to his words, for they are words of life into your ears.
By those words into your ears, he is the crucified one brought to you and made yours.
By those words into your ears, your oppression is lifted, your captivity is over, for he was anointed go to the cross to atone for your sins and then to preach that cross into the ears of all those who are poor in spirit.
And by those words into your ears, into my ears, as Paul says in our text from 1 Corinthians 12, Jesus binds us together as members of his church, which is, Paul tells us, the Body of Christ. This gives us our vocations toward one another, to serve each other with the gifts God gives to each of us, to care for one another, and where one suffers, to be with him in his suffering, where another rejoices, to rejoice with that one.
Jesus gives his words into our ears, and then, by our mouths, he gives those words to our brothers and sisters in the Church as he gives us to build up one another in the Gospel, forgiving one another and rejoicing in all his gifts.
In the Name of Jesus.