A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on January 24, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Jesus Was Anointed to Bring Forgiveness, Freedom, and Favor from God Luke 4:14-21People crave good news.  Maybe that’s because there’s so much bad news.  We’re not living in a Leave-It-to-Beaver era anymore.  On the other hand if you think about it, the news back then wasn’t that great either.  Remember bomb shelters, riots in the streets, and assassinations?  Oh, yeah, and then there were all those scientists saying we were heading for another ice age.  Why is it, that a by-gone scary time is today’s nostalgia?  Maybe it’s because we can see how it all turned out.  We survived, and there were many blessings along the way.   What about today?  Are things really that much worse than they were 50 years ago?  On the side of “yes”, we do see an increase in wickedness, unbelief, and earthquakes, as Jesus warned about.  On the side of “no”, all those bad things were happening in the old days too.  We just didn’t have 24/7 news, and families did a better job of their secrets secret.  Also, on the side that there are many positives today, thanks to the internet more people than ever are hearing the Gospel.  In addition the percentage of those, who are informed and able to make good decisions may very well be increasing – again thanks to the internet and other world-wide news sources.   However, while God still has the whole world in His hands, what about our personal lives?  For example we’re hearing all these horrible stories coming out of Haiti.  It’s hard not to ask, “Why, Lord, did you allow this?”  Or, how do we know that a cancer or financial ruin isn’t going to hit our family someday.  This is just being realistic, and so like I said at the start, people crave good news.  This morning our text offers us the best news ever.  God anointed Jesus to bring us His forgiveness, freedom, and favor. We read, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.  He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom – Luke 4:14-16.”  This was early in Jesus’ ministry.  Up to this point He had been baptized.  After that He went by Himself into the wilderness where He was tempted for 40 days and nights in order to keep the Law for us.  Next Jesus spent several months in and around Jerusalem preaching and teaching and performing miracles.  Finally He made it back to Galilee and eventually to His home town, Nazareth. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus attended services like He always did.  By the way, do you understand why Jesus did that?  Jesus’ righteousness includes worshiping God with other believers, and His love includes setting a good example, even if he wasn’t hearing anything new.  Anyway reading on in our text, “And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor – Luke 4:17-18.”  In those days the Elders would take turns reading one of the lessons and then explaining and applying it.  Everyone in Nazareth wanted to hear what Jesus might have to say.  So, He read from Isaiah 61, He sat down, because the custom was to stand while reading a text and to sit down when talking about it.  And then Jesus said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled – I am the one the Holy Spirit has anointed to preach good news to the poor.” That word “poor” needs to be understood in its context.  Poor here isn’t necessarily financially poor.  Rather poor is having nothing we can offer God in order to pay for our past.  For example, suppose a husband, who loves his wife, falls into the sin of looking at internet porn.  We might rightly ask, if he loves his wife, why would he disrespect her in that way?  But let’s say he does, and now his sin turns into an addiction.  She finds out about it.  He feels ashamed, and she feels grossed out and betrayed.  How does that husband win back his wife’s love and respect like when they were first married?  That would be pretty difficult, wouldn’t it.   Every sin we commit against God is like that.  Every sin we commit whether in thought, word, or actions angers the One we love.  It makes us feel ashamed before Him, and yet there’s nothing we can do to undo our past.  As a result it can become harder and harder to believe God still loves us, especially when we’re surrounded by bad news.  Anyway, feeling that shame and hopelessness is what it means to be spiritually poor.  But now here’s the good news!  In Christ we have total forgiveness.  In Christ we are fully reconciled to our Heavenly Father and there’s not even trace in Him of thinking, “I know what you did!”  Rather, because we have peace with the Father through Christ, He is determined to do good things for us.  The most important He’s already done.  He called us to faith through our baptism or through hearing the Word.  And now having called us to faith, He is determined to keep us in faith, and so, God is always maintaining just the right balance of discipline and blessings in our life.  The discipline teaches us to rely on Him, and the blessings show His love.   Of course, we may not always appreciate God’s balance.  We would rather have less discipline and more blessings.  Nevertheless, God is ever working to purify our faith and make it stronger; and then at the right time He will rescue us and give us blessings on top of blessings, because He is our Heavenly Father and we are His dear children.    Reading on in our text, “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 – Luke 4:18-19."  This good news is really just more details of the first good news that God’s anointed has made us spiritually and eternally rich.  Anyway, the word freedom here isn’t the kind our Constitution guarantees.  Likewise the word “prisoners” isn’t about people in jail.  In Isaiah’s day, they didn’t have even jails.  They’d put a criminal into a dry well, until his sentence was carried out.  For rape or murder it was death by stoning.  For robbery or assault it was a whipping, or restitution and a fine, and then being sold into slavery if he couldn’t pay it.    Imagine being a prisoner in those days, sitting in a dry well and waiting for your punishment.  That is a picture of how people without Christ live their whole lives.  They are prisoners of Satan waiting for sufferings, death, and hell.  They are also blinded by him from seeing right from wrong, or how to find peace with God.  And so, people without Christ often bounce back and forth between giving up on themselves and self-righteous pride, both of which make them more miserable and guilty before God.         The Lord’s anointed has freed us from all that.  We are not just waiting to die!  We are looking forward to eternal life.  Also while we are here, through the Gospel each day God gives us new strength to overcome temptation.  He also opens our eyes to see His blessings and what’s truly important, so that our time here may be joyfully well-spent.In our text there’s one more piece of good news.  We read, “He has anointed me to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." In the Old Testament, every 50 years was called the year of the Lord’s favor.  The number 50, I suspect, was pointing ahead to Pentecost which means 50.  50 days after the Lord paid for all of our sins, He poured out His Holy Spirit on us.  Anyway, every 50th year all debts were cancelled, slaves were freed, and all land was returned to the family that it was first given to when the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land.  That would be weird if we could do that today.  Imagine telling all the foreign countries we owe that we don’t have to pay them back, and all the property they bought here – it’s ours again.   In Old Testament Israel this was a picture that God would restore everything that sin had ruined.  They would receive all of His favor in body and soul, especially when He would make a new earth in a new universe where there would never again be any bad news.  There’s one more word in our text we need to look at – anointed.  In Hebrew it’s Messiah.  In Greek it’s Christ.  Jesus is the Lord’s Messiah or Christ.  This means He is the Savior God has chosen for all people.  Also because the Christ is God’s Son, His good news isn’t wishful thinking.  His good news is reality.   We really are children of God through Him.  We really can know what truth is and what lies on the other side of the grave.  What is more our sins and our doubts and even our ingratitude cannot change God’s determination to bless us.  I don’t say this so that we can take God’s amazing grace for granted, anymore than it’s safe to stay ignorant of world news and assume everything will work out.  Just the opposite – because Jesus brings Good News, let’s live each day in that joy.  Also with the strength His good news gives us, let’s share His good news with others.  And because Satan is doing everything he can to stir up sin and misery, including what’s happening in Haiti, let’s be the Lord’s hands and feet and mouth to help others.    So, how’s this for a fair and balanced look at the news?  God, our heavenly father is in control, and every piece of bad news we hear is another opportunity God is giving us to serve Him by doing something about it.  And what can we as individuals do about all the spiritual and physical needs we see everywhere?  That depends on where we’re each at in our life.  But we call all pray, we call encourage, and especially we call keep sharing the greatness news ever – that God’s Anointed brings us God’s forgiveness, freedom, and favor.  Amen. 

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