Jesus’ first sermon in the synagogue was a rejected one. As you read the words, one would think those in attendance would have embraced Jesus’ words and rejoiced in their hearing:

    “So 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 to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. 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 has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:16-22)

The year of the Lord was Jubilee. Jesus’ life and ministry embodied the grace and forgiveness found in Jubilee, not just financially or economically, but also physically and spiritually (Wiersbe, Vol 1, pg 184). Jesus read from the Prophet Isaiah to tell His hometown that He was the long-awaited Messiah. He also said He had come to minister to all peoples, not just the Jews.

Jesus’ short sermon was, as John describes Him, “full of grace and truth.” We all love grace, for it is unmerited favor that we received. Most of us do not like truth, if its penetrating glare illuminates our sinful lives. We do as the Nazarenes did; we reject it and its herald. Warren Wiersbe explains:

    Our Lord’s message of grace was a blow to the proud Jewish exclusivism of the congregation, and they would not repent. Imagine this hometown Boy saying that Jews had to be saved by grace just like the pagan Gentiles! The congregation was so angry, they took action to kill Jesus! St. Augustine said, “They love truth when it enlightens them, but hate truth when it accuses them.” That applies well to many congregations today, people want “gracious words” (Luke 4:22) but who don’t want to face the truth (see John 1:17).

In light of the shootings, some brave souls have ventured out into the public to proclaim the root of our societal problems is our sinfulness, only to be shouted down and mocked (see: People are either too fearful to admit the truth, or are too comfortable living a lie. We have become the nation of which Isaiah prophesied:

    “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.” (Isaiah 59:14-15)

That may sound like bad news, but it can be overcome by good news, the gospel news. I as much as anyone desire gracious words, but I’ve learned that grace without truth is mere sugar water; it tastes good but has no nutritional value. And while we do need truth, truth alone can be like a sledgehammer. It needs the tempering of grace.

Jesus is the exact balance of grace and truth and we must model our lives after Him. In perilous times truth must be proclaimed, but with it grace must always abound. Our task before us is daunting, but in the hardest of times, we can proclaim, as did the Apostle Paul writing from prison:

    “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

The greatest gift we can give to anyone is the gift of Christ, a gift full of grace and truth. Jesus can heal this land; it’s up to us to share Him.

In Christ
Ps. 37:4

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    Copyright © 2012 David Jeffers


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