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Scripture: Luke 4:14-30 (cf. 21-30); Psalms 71:1-6; I Corinthians 13:1-13
THEME: Stopping the Son of God - Epiphany 4 C
Proposition: Luke shares how those early Nazarenes were able to stop the Son of God - 1. Through their small mindedness 2. Through their attempt to keep Jesus in a box 3. Through their doubt and mistrust
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world.
Good morning! The great 20th century poet, Khalil Gibran wrote “It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” Most of us enjoy either hearing or telling a great story. Since the time of Adam and Eve, humans have shared stories. Stories can hold great power. Stories can inspire us, challenge us, bring out our deepest emotions and transform our worlds. Stories can change our lives.
My father was a pretty good story teller. Each night around our supper table he would share with us some stories. Usually, they had something to do with what happened that day at work. Sometimes it was a story that someone had shared with him. More often than not, each of his stories would have a hook. That is to say that they were more than just stories, they were stories that he used to teach, to inspire and to challenge us.
More than anything I think he wanted us to seize the opportunities that life had for each of us. He would tell us these very personal stories about the struggles of his childhood, not to make us feel guilty or feel sorry for him. He would share those stories so that we would be inspired to reach out and take full advantage of all the wonderful opportunities and chances that that existed around us. He was trying to provide for us the means to have a better, richer and more fulfilling life than he or mom had experienced.
Now, years later I find myself trying to do the same thing. You and I live in an amazing world. All around us are opportunities and prospect that can lead us to experience life to its fullest. We live in a time of great blessings and favor. We live on the cusp of a great revival.
My passion for sharing some stories revolves around my desire for people to experience The LORD in new and refreshing ways. I want everyone to enjoy the tremendous blessings and favor that The LORD has for them through His Word and the infilling of His Holy Spirit. I fundamentally believe that the best lived life is one that is dedicated to experiencing the LORD, the Bible and the fullness of His Holy Spirit in their lives.
I don't want people to live a life void of experiencing a rich and deep prayer life. I don't want them to miss what it means to passionately study and meditate on God's Word. I don't want people to miss the fervor of true praise and worship. I don't want people to miss out on the supernatural touch of The LORD in their lives.
When all is said and done ( as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13), the main thing in this life is love; love for The LORD foremost and love for one another. Everything else simply fades away. Only faith, hope and love remain and the greatest of these is love. And there is no greater love than being in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Luke chapter 4:14-30, Luke shares that Jesus is among his family and friends in Nazareth. They have all gathered at the synagogue for worship. His fellow Nazarenes have come to hear him speak. Jesus' growing reputation for being a miracle worker had no doubt made him a local celebrity. The other Gospel writers let us know that by this time, Jesus had already preformed many healings, including raising someone from the dead and casting out demons (Mark 5, Matthew 12).
Luke 4:22 shares with us that his fellow Nazarenes were both amazed and astonished at his teaching. "They spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming out of his mouth."
It was right at that moment that Luke shares a rather strange turn of events. The longer Jesus spoke the more the crowd became agitated, restless and upset. So upset that by the time Jesus was finished with his sermon, the people were determined to get rid of the young Nazarene by throwing him off a cliff (v. 28-29). In a matter of minutes Jesus went from "gracious words" to "they rose up and drove him out of 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."
What in the world happened? What caused this group of Nazarenes to turn so violently on Jesus? What caused them to miss out on Jesus being able to bring healing and wholeness to the people of Nazareth?
Following this passage, Luke shares the story of how Jesus went to Capernaum ( 20 miles away) where they fell in love with Him. In Capernaum, Jesus was able to heal people, cast out demons and transform lives. All the things that Jesus had said that He had been anointed by the Holy Spirit to do back in verse 18, He was able to do in Capernaum.
This was not true among His fellow Nazarenes. So, exactly what and how did those early Nazarenes stop Jesus? How were they able to take God's Only Son and stop him from preaching, from healing and from being redemption to their town.
For what they did here in this passage serves as a lesson of warning to all of us this morning. If those early Nazarenes were able to stop Jesus by their attitudes and their actions we must be careful that we don't fall to the same temptation.
1. They were able to stop Jesus by being small (narrow) minded
A. It didn't take long while Jesus was preaching and teaching for someone to start whispering and asking questions - "Hey, isn't he just Joseph's son?" Isn't he just the son of a common stone mason/carpenter? Who does Jesus think he is telling us what to do? Why, we have known him and his family all of his life. Who does He think He is to preach to us this way?
Those people began to become very small thinkers. Thinking small can be fatal. Being narrow minded can be deadly to one's spiritual walk.
There is an old story concerning a bunch of fleas. It seems that they were hanging around on a blanket, just jumping up and down having a blast. And then someone came up and put a jar over them.
Not knowing what happened they still keep jumping, but after hitting their heads a few times — they got the message and stopped jumping so high. Though they still jumped they stopped an inch from the top of the jar.
After an hour the person removed the jar lid, but the fleas never knew the difference, because they had fixed into their minds an imaginary ceiling. Though they could now jump higher, they never did because of the imaginary barrier that they had placed in their own minds.1
Small mindedness has caused a great many people to miss out on the greatness of others:
Gary Cooper stated that he was happy that he did not get the star role in GONE WITH THE WIND. He thought that both Clark Gable and Gone with the Wind would never amount to anything. He believed they both would go down as colossal failures.
Beethoven's first music teacher told the young man that he had no talent at all and that he would grow up to be a nobody.
Thomas Edison's parents were encouraged to keep young Edison at home. His teacher sent a note home that said: Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.
Walt Disney was fired by his newspaper editor who declared that Disney would always be a failure. He believed that Disney had no creative ability at all.
As we all know, each of those people were amazing successes. Each were able to accomplish so much for themselves and for all of our world. Where would we be without Beethoven, Edison or Disney? Gone with the Wind is still the #1 movie of all time.3 Small mindedness kept those around those people unable to see their truth worth and value. Small mindedness kept them from being able to see and experience intelligence and brilliance.
This morning, the same small mindedness can destroy our spiritual journey. It is one thing to walk the narrow road and quite another to be narrow or small minded. Luke shares that this group of Nazarenes missed out because of their inability to receive Jesus as the Son of God. They suffered from small mindedness.
This morning, we must understand and believe that the LORD has blessings, favor and anointings for our communities and for our church. We must understand that the LORD wants to promote and work through us to be a congregation of redemption, renewal and restoration. We must understand that the LORD wants each of us to be the recipient of many miracles and blessings beyond our comprehensions.
The Devil will attempt to lie to us and tell us the exact opposite as he did those early Nazarenes. He will lie and tell us that nothing can happen here - we are just a small town, a small community or even a small church. He will do all he can to keep us small minded and narrow minded in our faith and walk with Jesus.
However, I believe that the same Jesus that visited those first Nazarenes in Nazareth wants to visit us. I am convinced that the LORD is simply looking for places that will allow His Holy Spirit to be poured out. I believe that The LORD is looking for places to pour out His favor, blessings and anointings. I believe that Jesus through His Holy Spirit wants to more miracles than we could ever imagine. The only question we have to answer this morning is. "Will we allow our minds to believe in Jesus?" "Will we allow Jesus to be Jesus?" "Will we believe that Jesus wants to work through us and our families." "Will we be open to Jesus?"
[ Take a moment right now and commit to Jesus that you are open and ready for Him. That whatever He has for you and whatever He asks you to do you will wholeheartedly accept and do. ]
II. Those early Nazarenes stopped Jesus by attempting to put Jesus in a box
Those Nazarenes got upset with Jesus because Jesus started talking about doing great things with other people. They did not want to be reminded of a time when The LORD went outside His own people and meet the needs of others. That is what part of the stories of Elijah and Elisha are all about. The LORD went outside of His "Jewish" box and healed and transformed the lives of others.
These Nazarenes did not want Jesus to go anywhere but to their family and friends. If Jesus was going to speak and perform some miracles then it would be best if he just did them around his home town. Why did he need to go anywhere else? Especially, to areas like Capernaum which at that time was filled with non-Jews and non-believers.
Jesus tells them that He has been anointed to preach the Good News to everyone. Like His Heavenly Father back in the time of the prophets, Jesus was not going to allow His fellow Nazarenes to put him in a box.
Even today, people try to limit the LORD. They try to put the Lord in a box. True Godly worship must include this style of music and this order of service. We must do church the way we have always done church. We have to fit everything into a certain type of spiritual box. We can only reach out to our special group of family and friends. We can only read a certain version of the Bible.2
However, as we read the rest of Jesus' story and the story Early Church we see something vastly different. The Early Church understood they could not put The LORD in a box. They understood that when they tried to put The LORD in a box, He simply walked away. We are not to be consumers of The LORD, but channels in which His Holy Spirit can flow.
The Gospel of Acts reveals to us that The LORD must be in control and that His Holy Spirit moves among various people in different ways. In the Gospel of Acts, you see people being saved and sanctified in many different manners. You see people worshipping different ways. You see The LORD moving in the hearts and minds of people very diversely. The LORD works with individuals and congregations very uniquely. He knows what each people group needs and provides for those needs. The LORD doesn't put us in a box and neither He allow Himself to be put into a box.
The only thing you see common in the Early Church is the stories of people reaching out to others. You see people tearing apart their own little boxes and discarding them to allow the Holy Spirit to grow His church. You see people allowing the LORD to enlarge their hearts and minds to be in tune with the moving of His Holy Spirit. They do not want to be left behind. They don't want to serve a god in which they can control. Instead they want The LORD to control their lives.
The Devil lies to us by tempting us to be small minded and possess box thinking. He lies to us about not needing to add to our group of family and friends. He lies to us by telling us that as long as we are taking care of our small group all is well. He lies to us by tempting us to put our LORD in a box.
Whether it is the way we worship, the way we reach out or the way we look at The LORD, we must always allow the LORD to tear apart our little boxes. Jesus wanted to do amazing things with those first Nazarenes but they would not allow him to tear apart their little box thinking.
[ Take a moment right now and mentally, emotionally and spiritually tear up any box you have placed Jesus. Ask the LORD to enlarge your mind, your heart and your soul. ]
III. They were able to stop Jesus with their doubt and mistrust
When it really got down to it, these ancient Nazarenes did not believe in Jesus nor did they trust him. They couldn't put their confidence in Jesus as a speaker, as a teacher or as their leader. They could only see Jesus as someone trying to miss up their lives. They saw Jesus as someone who wanted to change them and their way of thinking. They saw Jesus as a simple minded carpenter/stone mason who should keep his opinions to himself. They did not want him in control of their worship or their lives.
They just decided that Jesus couldn't be who He said He was. They did not believe that He was God's Son. They chose in their hearts to doubt him, mistrust him and in the end reject him. And then they decided that Jesus should be destroyed. Together, they decided that they had to get rid of Jesus. They weren't happy enough to not listen to Jesus, they got so angry they wanted him dead.
In Matthew chapter 13 we have Matthew's story of what happened that day. In Matthew 13:58 we read these words:
"And Jesus did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief."
Here Jesus was among family and friends and yet, He found Himself unable to help them because of their doubt, mistrust and unbelief. They allowed their small mindedness, their boxed mentality and their mistrust and doubt to rob them of experiencing all kinds of healings, transformations and a revival.
If there ever was a place I believe that Jesus wanted to heal, to cleanse and to bring His Holy Spirit it was his home town. He knew these people intimately. He had been in their homes and had meals with them. He loved these people; they were part of his family and friends. No doubt, many of them had something in their homes that had been made by either Jesus or Joseph.
Jesus' heart must have been crushed for his fellow Nazarenes to doubt him and reject him. It just lets us know that no matter how close Jesus wants to be in our lives, you and I can reject Him. We have the ability to stop Jesus from bring about blessings, anointings, healings and revivals. But we do so are our own peril.
Inside the door of the Lubeck Cathedral in Germany (built in 1173 AD) someone wrote the following inscription. We don't know who wrote it but listen to the words:
Ye call Me Master and obey me not,
Ye call Me Light and see Me not,
Ye call Me Way and walk not,
Ye call Me Life and desire Me not,
Ye call Me wise and follow Me not,
Ye call Me fair and love Me not,
Ye call Me rich and ask Me not,
Ye call Me eternal and seek Me not,
Ye call Me gracious and trust Me not,
Ye call Me noble and serve Me not,
Ye call Me mighty and honor Me not,
Ye call Me just and fear Me not,
If I condemn you, blame me not”.
Those are serious and grave words. They are words that could have been written on that synagogue back in Nazareth. We never want those words written about us or about our community or church.
This morning, in our passage Luke shares with us that we have the ability to stop Jesus. 1. We can stop Him with our small mindedness,
2. We can stop Him with our boxed in thinking
3. And we can stop Him with our doubt and mistrust.
In doing so we cheat ourselves of great miracles, blessings and a revival.
However, we can be like those in Capernaum who received Jesus and allowed Jesus to bring healing, transformation and revival. For when you read the rest of chapter four you are amazed at all the wonderful things Jesus was able to do for those who lived in this city.
A few months ago I had the wonderful opportunity to go and spend some time at the Abbey of Gethsemane in New Haven, Ky. I came across a little prayer on trust written by Thomas Merton. As we close this morning let's read his words and apply them to our lives.
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."4
This morning as we close let us rejoice in our faith and sing #437 - TRUST AND OBEY.
1 Adapted from http://www.lesandhelga.com/sermons/2013/020313.htm
2 This one is perhaps the saddest. There are people who will fight for the KJV of the Bible and tell people that this is what Jesus and his disciples used. However, they fail to realize that the KJV did not even come about until 1600 years after Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Before that people relied on scripture being written in Aramaic, then Greek, then Latin and German. The truth be told the only reason we have the KJV is that King Henry VIII was fighting with the Catholic Church at the time and wanted his own English version of the Bible. That is not to downplay the KJV but it is to say we cannot allow ourselves to put The LORD in a certain box. Today, over 800 words in the KJV no longer have the same meaning. The LORD has graciously given us many newer versions of the Bible that will lead us to deeper and richer truths. For a wonderful chart see http://www.abbeychristian.com/product/336081/
1 Gone with the Wind
$1,757,788,200 adjusted for inflation