Sermon: Jesus’ Surprise Announcement

Jesus’ Surprise Announcement in the Synagogue
Luke 4:14-21
RUMC January 31, 2015

            In 1790, there was a mutiny on His Majesty’s Ship, the HMS Bounty.  To escape the arms of justice, the mutineers sailed some 8000 miles across the South Pacific Ocean to a deserted place called Pitcairn Island.  At the time, there were a total of nine mutineer sailors along with eighteen Pacific Islanders who were involved in the rebellion.  When the mutineers finally got to Pitcairn Island, they rammed the ship onto the sand, and they removed all the things of value that they could salvage.  Finally they burnt the ship to escape detection from the British Royal Navy, who was out on patrol for looking for the Bounty.

Once the mutineers were settled on the island, they began to distill alcohol and it wasn’t long before the little colony was plunged into debauchery and vice.  After a turbulent 10 years, the only survivors that remained on the island were one sailor and a handful of natives and their children, who were half English and half Pacific Islander.  As the story is told, the one and only surviving sailor found a Bible in a chest salvaged from the Bounty.  With nothing else to do, he began to read it.  He in turn taught it to others and the end result was that his own life and the lives of those on that little island were changed by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now eight years after the time the old sailor found the bible in the sea chest, which was about 1808, the American ship, the USS Topaz, stopped at what they thought was a deserted island.  To the amazement of the captain and the crew, Pitcairn had become a prosperous island.  There was no jail, no whiskey, no crime and no laziness.  And it was reported that all the inhabitants on the island had a strong faith in the Lord Jesus.

What happened on Pitcairn so long ago is an excellent example of what God can do with the lives of broken people.  The early settlers on Pitcairn were guilty of many grievous sins, but the Lord saved them and transformed them by his grace.

Jesus said he would come to help the poor.  That is to help men, women, and children who are entangled in the things of this life see the truth of god’s way.

My text is Luke 4: 14-21. 

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and 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 bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
This is the Word of God.  Thanks be to God.

In today’s gospel, Jesus was in the beginning phases of his ministry.  Already he had a reputation as a dynamic religious leader.  He got people’s attention when he was baptized by John.  Then he disappeared for a time in the desert to be tempted by the devil, only to emerge, 50 days later, in Galilee with a small band of followers.  And after what we would consider a successful preaching tour, Jesus finally came home.  Verse 16.  And he came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue.

In the first century, the synagogue did not have a minister as we would know it.  But what they had was a synagogue ruler whose job was to preside over the service.  In the worship service itself, there was the invocation.  Then a priest and levite read from the law.  This was followed by five laymen who also read passages from the first 5 books of the Bible.

After this, the synagogue ruler would invite any of the distinguished visitors or rabbi’s to read from the prophets and preach.  Since Jesus had recently gained a reputation as a preacher and since he grew up in that synagogue, had his bar mitzvah there, of course it was fitting that he would be asked to take a prominent part in the service.

Verse 17 tells us.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.  As Jesus unrolled it, he found the place where it was written and read in the Hebrew language.

Ruach, adonoi, Elohim alee,ya ar mishach
Adoni oti kabsah anoyim, shetini shin
Namid phet alun anyol machiesch la nosh va reer
Leave ma ca re era she voim deroer releaf so reem
Pa ca ko heem
Recray shenar, ratson, radonoi, veyong nar keem
Elohaynew, leneehem kuhl avzalim


The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners
and recover of sight to the blind
to release the oppressed.  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

             After Jesus read this passage of scripture from Isaiah, he rolled up the scrolls and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  In a Christian worship service, the minister, like myself, stands.  But in the synagogue, the preacher or rabbi sat.  The first thing that Jesus said after he wat was “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And so Jesus ministry to the needy continues to this very day.

Jesus said he came to preach the gospel to the poor, to those who did not have anything and to those who were sorrowful for their sins.  Jesus said he came to bring deliverance to the captives.  To release people from any type of bondage and when we give our lives to Him, there is transformation.  Jesus said he came to bring recovery of sight to the blind, both physical and spiritual.  John Newton the author of “Amazing Grace” wrote, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”  It is that type of thing that Jesus does in the heart of the believer.

Jesus came with good news for the world’s trouble people.  He came for those desperate people on Pitcairn Island with their all their vices.  They accepted the message and lives were changed.

Jesus said he came to preach the gospel to the poor, to those who are truly sorrowful for their sin, who are downtrodden or underprivileged.  .

Jesus said he came to bring deliverance to the captives.  To release his children who may suffer from any type of physical, psychological or political bondage.

Jesus said he came to bring recovery of sight to the blind.  To give physical and spiritual light to those who sought it.  John Newton, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace wrote that he was blind, but now he could see by the grace of God.

Jesus said he came to set free those who struggle.  To include the depressed, those who battle codependence and abuse, he will provide strength.

Jesus said he came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.  To let the world know his Father was willing to be reconciled to them.  These are all the things that Jesus came to do.

With the Lord, we receive hope and dignity.
We receive freedom from bondage.
We recognize God’s perspective and new life.
In Christ, we receive freedom from forces holding us down.

            We need to receive before we can do.  What can we do?  Share the gospel with others.  Help others to be free to really live.  Perform acts of mercy.  Celebrate God’s grace to disheartened people.

Who are the people God desires you to care for?  How might you do so?

Earlier, I mentioned that it was a mutineer, an old seaman living in gross immorality, who found a Bible gathering dust in a sea chest.  As he read it, he confessed his sins and became a Christian.  Everyone else on the island followed his example and became a believer.  The island that once was a sewer of moral filth was now a safe haven of godliness.

Eventually Queen Vitoria heard about this little colony of believers and sent missionaries to help them with their new found faith.  If you were to sail to Pitcairn Island today, you would find an island that has not changed too much in the last 200 years.

There are currently 56 people who still live on the island.  There are few luxuries and according to recent books I’ve read, the people are friendly and the majority have a strong faith in God.