* * * *
“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? And He said unto them. Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, Physician, heal Thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Thy country. And He said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when the great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synogogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. But He passing through the midst of them went His way”—Luke 4:14-30.
* * * *
In this portion of Scripture we have the account of the Lord’s return visit to the city of Nazareth after He laid aside His carpenter’s apron and His artisan’s tools, and went forth, first to be baptized by John in the Jordan, to be sealed by the Holy Spirit for His specific work, and then to go through His temptation in the wilderness. After a short stay in Jerusalem, He returned to His own hometown. The people had heard a great deal about Him. They had heard of marvelous signs and wonders following His ministry in other places, and they were in great expectation, hoping to see something remarkable done by Him when He appeared among them. We are told that He entered into the synagogue, as His custom was. There is something about that which might speak to everyone of us. The Lord Jesus grew up in that city of Nazareth. When He dwelt there, as a young man, it was His custom to attend the services in the place where the Word of God was read and expounded, and where the people gathered together for prayer. I fancy there must have been many things about the synagogue service which often offended His spirit. Many of those who participated must have greatly misunderstood the real meaning of the Word of God. But to Him the synagogue represented the authority of God in that city. So it was His custom to wend His way there from sabbath to sabbath.
I think some christian people need to have their consciences exercised more than they are, in regard to gathering together with God’s people, where the Word of God is appreciated and where they come together to sing His praises and to pray. A man said to me once, “If I could find a perfect Church I would attend there.” I replied; “My dear friend, don’t. If you find a perfect Church don’t join it, because if you did it would be imperfect the moment you got into it.” There is no such thing as a perfect Church, but we can thank God for the places where people meet to hear the Word of God, and to join in praise and prayer. We need to remember the words, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.” We need to do this “so much the more as we see the day approaching!”
Jesus could always be depended upon, as a Boy and as a Youth, to be in His place in the synagogue, as divine service was being carried on. So the people knew that He would be there on this given sabbath day, and they gathered to hear Him. He was evidently accustomed to participate publicly in the service. As soon as He entered, we read, “There was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” It would seem as though it was an ordinary thing for Him, when He attended the synagogue service, to take the sacred scroll, and to turn from one passage to another and expound them to the people. So now, as He entered on this particular sabbath-day, the one who had charge of the scrolls turned to Him and inquired what portion of the Scriptures He would like to read. He asked for the Book of the prophet Esaias, and He turned to this particular section and He read, “For the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” and He closed the Book. There might not be any special significance in that. He reads His text, He rolls up the scroll, and He is now about to expound it. But the remarkable fact is this: He broke off His reading in the middle of a sentence. He stopped at a comma. If you will turn to this passage in Isaiah 61:1, 2, you will find that it reads as follows: “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.” The Lord Jesus did not read those last words. Why? Because He had not come to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God. He had come to do all that is written of Him in the other part of the passage.
He had come to preach the gospel to the poor. Oh, I like that! It is a striking fact that in every land where the gospel has gone it has been largely the poor who have rejoiced in its message. You remember, it is written, “He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.” “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” The trouble is that when men have an abundance of this world’s goods they are so taken up with them that they are not concerned about spiritual riches. But it is the poor, the needy, the struggling, who love to hear the gospel message. When Jesus was here, the common people “heard Him gladly.” It was the rulers, the self-righteous leaders, who had no sense of their sinfulness, and no realization of their need, and who could not appreciate Jesus. They had no concern about His message. But the poor—they loved to listen to Him. Thank God, though nineteen centuries have gone by since He left this scene, the gospel still is preached to the poor. If the time ever comes when we are not interested in the poor, and do not care for the poor, and draw away from the needy, “The Glory is Departed” will be written over the doors of the church.
We read of the poor in this world rich in faith. Those who do not have earthly wealth are rich often in spiritual things in a way that others who are in better circumstances are not. You remember that little poem:
“In the heart of London city
’Midst the dwelling of the poor,
These bright golden words were uttered,
‘I have Christ, what want I more?’
He who heard them ran to fetch her
Something from the world’s great store.
‘It was needless,’ died she saying,
‘I have Christ, what want I more?’”
Christ is a substitute for everything, but nothing is a substitute for Christ. Jesus was always interested in the poor, and He is interested in the poor today. He came to preach the gospel to the poor, and He says, “The Lord has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted.” In that He expresses His Deity, for it is God only who can heal broken hearts. No man can do it. The best man you ever knew couldn’t heal a broken heart. It would not be of any use to send your broken-hearted friends to the most spiritual ministers of Christ, and saying, “These men will be able to make you whole again.” We have no ability to heal broken hearts, but we can point people to One who can. How many broken-hearted men there are! Dr. Joseph Parker, one-time minister of the London City Temple, was once addressing young preachers, and he said to them, “Young gentlemen, always preach to broken hearts, and you will never lack for an audience.” There are so many of them everywhere. Hearts are bleeding and broken all around us. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, and if you who read these words are broken-hearted people, let me say to you, you wrong your own souls if you do not bring your burdens to the feet of Jesus. An old chorus says,
“You’ve carried your burden,
You’ve carried it long!
Oh, bring it to Jesus—
He’s loving and strong
He’ll take it away
And your sorrows shall cease,
He’ll send you rejoicing,
With His heavenly peace.”
Then He came to preach deliverance to the captives, not exactly to open all prison doors and let people out of jails and penitentiaries, but to deliver men from the captivity of sin and free those who are bound in chains of habit which they could not break. He is doing that today. He is freeing men from the power of sensuality, from unclean living, from evil tempers and vile dispositions, that bind folks as chains bind men in prison-cells. And He came to give the recovery of sight to the blind. When He was here on earth He touched the blind and His glory shone through their darkened lids, and lighted them forever. Though we may not see Him now by the natural eye, and He is not perhaps working the same kind of miracles which He did when He was here on earth, those who are blind spiritually, those who have had the understanding darkened, and have not been able to comprehend spiritual realities, when they come to Him the scales fall from their eyes, and He gives them light, and they are able to say with that delivered man of old, “There are many things I do not know or understand, but one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” Oh, what a wonderful thing it is when Jesus touches blind eyes!
Then “He came to set at liberty those that are bruised.” We have been bruised by Satan. The very humanity in which we live has been bruised by the fall, but He came to set at liberty them that are bruised, to enable the lame to walk, and the dead to live and to rejoice in His saving grace.
He closed with the words, “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” The acceptable year of the Lord—what is that? It is the time when God is looking in grace upon poor sinners. It is the time when the gospel is going out to lost men and women. He says, “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.”
Does some one say in his heart, “Oh I would like to be a Christian, I would like to know the healing power of Jesus, but I’m afraid the time has not come yet. I do not feel the proper moving of the Spirit. I am not certain that I would be welcome. I must await God’s time?” That is an illusion of the enemy. God’s time is now. It is He Himself who says it. “Now is the accepted time.” “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” There is no reason why any anxious soul should go on in sin for another hour, because God is waiting to be gracious. This is the acceptable year since Jesus came to reveal the Father’s heart, since He came to die on the cross for our sins. God sent the message out to the world that all may come and find peace in Him. This is still the acceptable time. It will not last forever. It has lasted now for nearly two thousand years, since Jesus came and read this Scripture. He said He came to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. He did not read, “And the day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus did not read that because the time had not come for the vengeance of our God to begin, and it has not come yet. But listen to me! It may come soon! It may not be long now ere the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” Then the day of vengeance of our Lord will begin for this poor world. Then the book of doom will be opened, the trumpets of judgment will be sounded, and then the vials of wrath will be poured out upon this guilty world. This whole dispensation of the grace of God in which we live, the Lord Jesus puts into a comma. That is why He did not read on to “the day of vengeance of our God.” I plead with you to avail yourselves of the grace of God before He arises in judgment to shake terribly this world and shut the door. Today the door is wide open, and He says, “Whosoever will may come.”
Our Lord Jesus read this scripture and then He closed the Book. He rolled up the Scroll and gave it again to the minister, and He sat down. He rose up to read the Word and sat down to teach it. And He began to say unto them, “This day is the scripture fulfilled.” That is, He applied the scripture to Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me”— upon Jesus. It was He who had come in actual fulfilment of this Old Testament prophecy. In the Old Testament, in the Book of the prophet Isaiah we have this wonderful prediction of the Messiah who is coming. The Lord Jesus Christ took these same words and read them, and He applied them to Himself, to the amazement of His hearers. To apply them to Himself is one thing and to prove it quite another, but He proved it by what He did. He did the very thing that these words said He would do, and He has been doing it all through the centuries since. Millions have tested Him for themselves. They have come to Him. They have come with their sins. They have come to be delivered from their chains of evil habits, and they have put their trust in Him, and they have found He is able to do what He said He would do.
As He declared, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” We are told that all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” They had never heard anything like this before. None of the Scribes ever said anything like this. None of them ever dared to apply such a prophecy to themselves. He was actually the son of the blessed Virgin Mary, but so far as they knew He was the son of Joseph, who had taken His mother under his protective care. So they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He knew what they were thinking. And He said unto them, “Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, “Physician, heal Thyself; whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Thy country.” But He added, “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” He knew the unbelief that controlled their hearts, so that they had no desire to turn to God in repentance. So He used two illustrations saying, “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Naaman the Syrian was a Gentile, and that stirred them. They did not like His speaking in this way. As though God was just as much interested in needy Gentiles as in Jews! Yes, He is just as much interested in all the needy, for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” He is the same Lord over all.
When Jesus presented these two instances of God’s grace going out to the needy Gentiles they were filled with wrath and they rose up and they thrust Him out of their city.
A few years ago I went along the path they took, and I could visualize the synagogue and the crowd rushing around Jesus and saying, “We do not care anything about what You say. Out You go!” They crowded Him out unto the cliff at the edge of the city, and their object was to cast Him down headlong! “But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way.” How did He escape? Was it a miracle? I think it was. He simply passed through and they could not see where He had gone, so they were unable to cast Him over the cliff. His hour had not come. He had come into this world to die on Calvary’s cross, and no power of men or of the devil could put Him to death until that hour when He was to yield Himself a ransom for sinners, upon the tree. Till then all their power was in vain.