3rd Sunday after the Epiphany - Series C
27 January 2019
But who can endure His coming?
Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities and stretch forth the hand of Your majesty to heal and defend us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
It was on a Sabbath. That Jesus arrived in Nazareth. As was His practice, He entered the synagogue. Now the synagogue worship service was divided up into three parts. In the worship section prayers were offered.
The reading of the Scriptures consisted of lessons from the Law, usually read verse by verse by seven persons, and lessons from the prophets were read three verses at a time.
Teaching formed the third part of the service. “Jesus rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
On that day, Jesus was both reader and preacher. Quoting from the prophet Isaiah Jesus proclaims that a new day has dawned. He is the one anointed by God and because He alone was anointed, only He can deliver on what the prophet had predicted.
The folk in Nazareth missed it. True. All spoke well of Him. They marveled at the gracious words that were coming from His mouth. "This is Joseph's son is it not?" But he couldn’t be the Christ! We remember him…as…Joseph's son. “Do in your hometown what we heard that you did in Capernaum.” Yet, no prophet is truly favored, welcomed, accepted. Especially in the neighborhood where he went to school.
One might think that Jesus would be welcomed in Nazareth. Yet they turned down the messenger because they rejected the message; which involved preaching and proclaiming the year of the Lord's welcome.
Jesus is the Father's address to the world. He was rejected in Nazareth and is often dismissed today for some of the very same reasons. They were seeking a political king. Who would break the yoke of Rome. And who among us have, at one time or the other, been swayed by a politician’s promises?
They were seeking pleasure and security; freedom from want and freedom from worry. Why blame them? Who doesn’t want freedom? Who doesn’t want liberty, autonomy, independence? But at what cost?
And at what price? In this American culture there are many who desire, “rigor without submission. This offers confession without execution. Orthodoxy without obedience”. Making promises to obey. But doing nothing. 
The Father sent Jesus in fulfillment of His promise. The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD'S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Jesus came with power and compassion, which were seen in His healing signs. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ ” (Luke 4:23) Certainly Jesus would heal one of His own!
Of course, Jesus has the power to heal. Yet we must never presume that He must. Paul writes of his own physical affliction. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).
A thorn in the flesh. Such vivid imagery.
The sharp end of a thorn pierces the soft skin of life and lodges beneath the surface.
Every step is a reminder of the thorn in the flesh.
The disease in the body.
The sadness in the heart.
The sister in the rehab center.
The Dad moving out.
The D on the report card.
The craving to be one of the cool crowd.
The tears in the middle of the night.
All thorns in the flesh.
“Take it away,” you’ve pleaded. Not once, twice, or even three times. You’ve out-prayed Paul. He prayed a sprint; you’ve prayed the Boston Marathon. This wound oozes pain, and you see no sign of tweezers coming from heaven. But what you hear is this: “My grace is all you need.”
God’s grace is not a gentle shower washing away the problem. It is a raging, roaring river - whose current knocks you off your feet - and carries you into the presence of God. 
Whenever we recite the creed we confess, “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate…” which simply means Jesus became a man to rescue and redeem you. “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17; Isaiah 53:4)
Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them, His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.
To the poor – those in utter spiritual destitution – Christ preaches the good news of God’s mercy, which frees us. To the prisoners of war - under Satan’s control - He proclaims release. To the oppressed – those broken in pieces by sin and shame - He proclaims freedom. To all - in spiritual bondage, blindness, poverty and oppression - He announces the arrival of a new era in human history. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1) The Father now regards with favor and grants His blessings in abundance as Jesus has entered time and space to save you.
These mercies are witnessed above all in Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. Jesus predicted the cleansing death and resurrection of the temple of His body. The disciples (and many from Nazareth no doubt!) would later believe these words after the resurrection. It is only the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which makes the passion, and death of Jesus makes any sense.
Without the empty tomb, the cross makes no sense. Without the empty tomb the sufferings of Jesus, appear to be failure. Without the empty tomb, the entire earthly ministry of Jesus becomes only an exercise in futility.
The solution to the problem of brokenness is the cross. Where the price of disobedience was paid. Where a submissive and compliant Son demonstrated perfect obedience to His Father. That great exchange – God’s mercy and forgiveness purchased at the cost of His own Son! “For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Since Christ has fulfilled the demands of the Law, believers in Christ are now free from the curse of the Law as a means of finding favor with God.
Jesus today proclaims liberty. These words are fulfilled in your hearing. As He speaks this word from the cross into your ears this day – “It is finished!” The Father is satisfied. Christ has come to set you free to proclaim liberty and freedom for you. Not as some might define freedom - but as He has established it - at the cross and into your life. As the Son has set you free, you truly are free indeed!
Words – 1,545
Passive Sentences – 10%
Reading Level – 5.4
Image: Luther’s Seal © Higher Things
 Collect for Epiphany 3, Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
 BOBO’s in Paradise The New Upper Class and How They Got There, David Brooks © 2001, Simon & Schuster - The thesis is that during the late 1970s a new establishment arose that represented a fusion between the bourgeois world of capitalist enterprise and the hippie values of the bohemian counterculture. He refers to these individuals as bobos, a portmanteau word for "bourgeois bohemians".
“This bobo reconciliation I talk about is really a product of the information age, what they're creating, because in this economy, ideas and information are as important to creating wealth as natural resources and finance capital. So the people who thrive are the ones who can take ideas and emotions and turn them into products. So they really do have one foot in the world of Bohemia, which are ideas, emotions, creativity, and one foot in the world of the bourgeoisie, which is the world of the marketplace. And that's what's reconciled this 150-year-old culture war between the Bohemians and the bourgeoisie.”
 Children of the Heavenly Father, stanza three, Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis