Trusting Jesus Utterly
Trusting Jesus Utterly
Do we trust Jesus?
Do we trust the promises of God that are revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Our reading from Luke features Jesus reading scripture in the synagogue. After he finishes reading, Jesus declares that “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Do we trust in Jesus enough to believe this to be true?
Scripture: Luke 4: 14-21
Trusting Jesus Utterly
Ripley’s Believe it or not! Seeing is believing!
This slogan sums up much of the world. I won’t believe it unless I can see it with my own two eyes, feel it with my own fingers, hear it with my ears, smell it, taste it. If I can’t perceive it, it didn’t happen.
I’ve begun to do some pre-season training for rugby. The team is motivating one another by updating on our workouts. At the outset an individual shared about how they’d been to the gym. Pictures came the response, or it didn’t happen.
We are full of doubt and in some cases mistrust. Perhaps that doubt, and mistrust is well founded. We’ve been fooled before and don’t wish to be fooled again. The result is that we require proof. We are not willing to take things on faith. Even we who are people of faith sometimes have difficulty taking things on good faith. We want tangible evidence.
How odd it must have been that day in Nazareth when Jesus read from Isaiah. Then after rolling up the scroll Jesus proclaimed, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
While I have no doubt that Jesus taught and read with authority, I wonder if everyone present did a double take. Were the captives suddenly released, did the blind suddenly recover their sight and the oppressed set free?
It seems unlikely, as throughout the gospels Jesus is going about healing people, including restoring sight to the blind.
What exactly is Jesus on about?
Have the words of the passage really been fulfilled?
It is a question for us to consider and take seriously.
Scott Hoezee writes, “If it was hard for those people gathered at the synagogue in Nazareth to believe that Isaiah 61 was being fulfilled, we today now have a couple millennia more of hard data to deal with, most of which is more than enough to cause us to doubt the kingdom’s presence in the world. We’ve seen way too many wars, way too much persecution, way too much genocide, way too much corruption to believe easily that the kingdom has come in Christ Jesus or that the world is, even now, being ruled by the one who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
“Yet the words of Jesus hang in there: it is all being fulfilled. It’s the agony, perhaps, of “the already and the not yet.” It’s that most startling of all theological developments that God inaugurates a hidden kingdom instead of a grandly visible one but that we get to participate in that kingdom’s renewal of all things even when the world around us seems calculated to knock the stuffing out of our hopes for that kingdom.” (reference)
And here we are, a part of that kingdom, doing the subversive work of God. But if we are here and we are doing the work of God’s kingdom, then just how was it that Jesus could proclaim that this scripture is fulfilled?
Jesus was declaring nothing short of the kingdom of God. The coming of God’s kingdom is good news to the poor, it sets us free, allowing us to recover sight.
We should note that the passage Jesus quotes from Isaiah starts in the first person and quickly moves to the plural. When it makes this shift, it includes a radical call of good news in a shared public life and a strong desire for justice.
We might ask, who is Jesus proclaiming good news to and what does it mean?
If Jesus proclaims good news to the poor, what about those who are not poor? Is the message of Jesus bad news for some people? Does it mean that those who have amassed wealth may lose it or need to share it? What if they don’t want to? Asking these questions forces us to take a second look at this passage and realize just how radical it is. Consider that the verses that follow what was read this morning has the crowd which is gathered in Nazareth get riled up and take Jesus to a cliff where they attempt to throw him off it. Clearly the words that Jesus spoke struck a nerve. And well they should.
Jesus proclaims the coming of the kingdom, here at the beginning of his ministry. He then goes out and demonstrates what the values of God’s kingdom are. Jesus does this when he teaches, when he heals, when he offers radical hospitality. The kingdom has come, but it is a kingdom within a kingdom. God’s kingdom requires that the world be remade with values based on hope, love and mercy. That the grace of God evident in Jesus Christ be shared with all people.
Yes, scripture was fulfilled that day, but it is a process. We don’t just snap our fingers and find the world changed. It is a process that requires changed human hearts.
Karoline Lewis shares about her experience in the Holy Land, “There is a plaque attached to the outside façade of the chapel that is built around the rock where Jesus hosted this last meal for his disciples. The plaque’s inscription is based on Luke 5:5, the calling of the first disciples in Luke, “Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’” And so the plaque reads, “The deeds and miracles of Jesus are not actions of the past. Jesus is waiting for those still prepared to take risks at his word because they trust his power utterly.” (reference)
Do we trust in the power of Jesus utterly? Are we willing to place our trust, our faith in the stories of this book? Do we trust its good news and the grace of God which it teaches us? When we look at this passage from Luke, that is the question that is before us. Are we willing to trust and place faith in that which we cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell?
My own experience has said to me, yes. Yes, the goodness and grace of God is real. I do not require empirical proof because I have felt God’s presence in my life. I have seen God at work in this community of faith. It happened yesterday during the funeral of Maria Nowee. It is happening now as we worship together. We will witness it once again tomorrow as we celebrate the life of Henk.
I have seen God at work in our community. Through acts which are simple, so small you might miss them. And I have seen God at work through acts which are grand and make a statement about God’s goodness.
Will you risk all for the living Christ who compels and calls us to action? Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.