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WE ARE A FICKLE PEOPLE

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
25 JANUARY 1998

FRANK L. HOFFMAN, PASTOR
<flh@all-creatures.org>

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES:

Leviticus 19:18
2 Kings 5:10-13
Luke 4:14-32

John 4:45

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The Bible lesson before us this morning is from Luke's Gospel (4:14-32), and takes place immediately following Jesus' temptation by the devil in the wilderness when He returns home to Galilee.

It is a study of the conditional love that most people seem to have, and how quickly and easily we change our minds.

Thus, we might say, "We are a fickle people."

Please turn in your Bible to Luke 4:14 and we'll begin.

14    Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

15    He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

There is excitement in the air.

"Something new is happening in our communities."

"Isn't what Jesus is saying, wonderful?"

In their praise of Jesus, they also seem to be fulfilling the commandment, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

And these people are from the surrounding communities in Galilee; think of how much more this praise and love should be expressed when Jesus returns to His own home town of Nazareth.

16    He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.

17    The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:


18    "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,


19    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."


20    Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,


21    and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."


22    All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked.

The people recognize Jesus, and even though they express some surprise at hearing His words, they really seem to be reacting in the same way as the people in the surrounding communities.

But Jesus knew the true intent of their hearts and minds; thus,

23    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.'"

Jesus sensed that what they really wanted was to be entertained; they weren't seeking to be in the presence of the Lord.

They didn't want to know about how the Scriptures were being fulfilled in their presence.

They didn't want to know about the good news.

They wanted to see some of Jesus' miracles; they wanted to see some of His "magic".

They only wanted to be entertained, they didn't want to hear the truth.

They didn't want to hear the truth, because the truth often hurts.

The truth of God's Word pierces to the very depth of our soul and spirit.

It's convicting.

It challenges us to change our former way of thinking and living.

The truth calls upon us to really and truly walk with God.

But most people don't want to change their ways.

They like their way of life.

So they react by fighting against the truth.

They blame and fight with the messenger.

They will do anything but accept the truth of God's Word.

But inside they really know the truth, for the same Holy Spirit who goes with the messenger, also prompts us to hear the truth.

It's just as we read last week (John 6:45), "'And they will all be taught by God.'  Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me."

The problem is that most people don't want to really listen to what is being said, and they definitely don't want to learn the lesson that is being taught.

Nevertheless, Jesus continues to speak forth the truth.

24    "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

And Jesus knows that once He speaks forth His message of truth, they will stop praising Him, and won't want to hear Him any longer.

They'll want Him out of their sight, or even something more.

But knowing this, He still continues to try to teach them, for perhaps within the group are some, or even one, who will listen and learn.

25    I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.

26    Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.

Jesus wants the people to understand that because of the hardness of heart and sinful nature of the Israelites at that time, God considered this Phoenician widow to be more righteous and loving than them, and deserving of His help.

It was a graphic example to the Israelites of God's call for them to repent.

And Jesus is telling the people of His hometown that they, too, and the rest of the nation, also, need to change their ways.

The people of Nazareth wanted to see some blind person regain their sight, or to see a demon cast out of some depressed person; they didn't want to be told they needed to repent.

So Jesus continues.

27    And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed - only Naaman the Syrian."

And again the same message; this enemy soldier, this Syrian commander was considered more righteous than the Israelites.

And Elisha wouldn't even go out to meet Naaman, but sent out his servant with the message that he should wash himself in the Jordan River seven times (2 Kings 5:10).

And Naaman also wanted to see some great miracle performed on him, and he got angry, but his servant convinced him to do as Elisha's message said (v. 11-13).

The message of Elisha was that he couldn't heal him, but that God does the healing.

We seek the dramatic, when God's ways are most often the easiest and simplest.

We think we have to complicate God's ways, when all we have to do is accept them as they are presented to us.

But this, too, involves accepting the truth.

So how do the people of Nazareth, who marveled at what Jesus first said and praised Him, now react to these new words?

28    All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

29    They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.


30    But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

So much for listening and learning from God through His Word.

And the people probably never realized that the way Jesus walked right through the crowd was, in a way, a miracle performed in their sight.

31    Then he [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people.

32    They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.
(NIV)

Is the story just going to repeat itself?

Were some of these people in Jerusalem three years later when Jesus made His triumphal entry?

Were they some of the people who shouted, "Hosanna"?

And were they some of the people in Jerusalem five days later who shouted, "Crucify Him"?

We are a fickle people.

We say we want God to be in our life.

But we don't always want to listen to what He is teaching us.

We don't want to hear the truth.

So, if God won't tell us what we want to hear, we'll listen to someone else.

We'll read the horoscope, even if it's just for fun, but we really like it when it tells us something we want to hear.

We may even seek out a "channeler" in some spiritual realm other than God's, or try to listen to some mysterious space traveler hiding behind a comet.

Today, more than ever, God is calling us to be more loving and compassionate, and to stop our fickle behavior.

He wants us to be consistent in all our ways.

He is calling us to seek Him with all our heart and soul and mind and body, and with everything we have in this world, and to put Him first in our lives.

He wants us to become more sensitive to the "very goodness" of everything He created.

He wants us to consider all life as precious in our sight as He considers it in His.

He wants us to help make this world a place that is free from any form of cruelty.

He wants us to fill this world with His unconditional love and compassion.

He wants us to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, that others would change their ways and repent, and seek His face and His truth.

He wants us to be with Him forever and ever.

But will we listen and learn?

I pray so!

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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