INI + AMEN.
What do you want ringing in your ears when you come to church? Why do you come to church week in and week out? What do you come to church to hear? There’s always expectations when it comes to what you’re going to end up hearing at church. This is even the case, and may be especially the case, among life-long church goers. We have our expectations about what we will hear on a Sunday morning. Maybe we even have things that we think should be heard on a Sunday, especially for those people. As sinners that’s the way it goes. Sinners always want to hear what they want to hear. They ignore God’s Word for a different word, a “better” word. Sinners always think that there are better words than the Word of Jesus. Sinners continually have “itching ears,” and this happens even in the Church. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 4, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Tim 4 NKJV) Because of this we fervently pray the first petition (“Hallowed be Thy Name”) because, as we learn in the Catechism, “Anyone who teaches contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!” (SC III)
(3. We want to hear all sorts of things.)
So, what do you want to hear on a Sunday? What have you come to hear from Jesus? We all want something from Jesus. We want to hear all sorts of things. But it’s all a matter of what Jesus you have because whatever sort of Jesus you have will affect what you want to hear from Him. Is it a “do a good turn daily” sort of Jesus? A Jesus who, you know, saves you and all that, but now is more concerned about you being nice to those around you. Do you want to hear from the “now what” Jesus? You know, you’re saved so now what? I need rules and laws from Jesus for how to live my life, you know, beyond what Jesus has already given in the Law: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” that is, have complete “fear, love, and trust in God above all things” and, of course, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” that is, actually love and forgive those around you, especially those who’ve wronged you; do good to them not because God commands you to, which He certainly does, but do it because you actually love them and actually want to do them good, because you truly want the best for them. Maybe it’s a “feel good” Jesus. You want Jesus to tell you things that will make you feel good, or a Jesus who will give you all sorts of blessings so that you feel good. There’s any number of other Jesuses out there. The people at the synagogue in Luke 4 wanted to hear something from Jesus. Luke doesn’t tell us what it was, but we do know this: “They were all amazed at the gracious words that came out of His mouth.”
(2. Jesus wants us to hear something different.)
You see, Jesus wants you to hear something different. He wants you to hear something besides what self-help books can tell, something beyond what the world wants to hear, something that sinners would never choose to hear, something that is different from anything else in all the world. There are mountains and mountains of books out there, but with Jesus there’s no top 10 ways to have a better marriage, no 5 steps to a better you. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some practical advise that we can glean from the Scriptures: chiefly, forgive one another, put your neighbor first in all things. “Pray without ceasing.” “Prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving should be made for everyone.” But these things aren’t the main point of the Scriptures. Today, Jesus reads for us and preaches to us what or rather Who is at the center of the Scriptures. “He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; for this reason He anointed Me: to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to preach release to the bound, sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, that is, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears.'” The Bible is all about Jesus. That’s what Jesus preaches. If you want the Scriptures to be about you, then of course Jesus’ Word seems a bit off. It’s no wonder they were asking “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” The Scriptures tell us what Jesus has done “for us men and for our salvation” as we confess in the Creed, that He’s come to die and rise for us, that He’s come to save us from our sins. That’s what we’re to learn from the Scriptures: that we are sinners, that Jesus saves us, or, as Jesus reads it from Isaiah, that He “releases the bound”, “gives sight to the blind”, “sets the oppressed free.”
(1. This hearing delivers the goods.)
Now, how does Jesus do this? He does it through the Word, His Word! That’s where it is! That’s where Jesus does it! That’s where He is! No other Jesus will do. In fact, there is no other Jesus except the one He proclaims. The Holy Spirit was upon Him to preach this very thing: that He would set people free, set you free. Jesus saves you from the other Jesuses you may want by being the Jesus you need, a Jesus who dies and rises for you, a Jesus who lives and reigns forever for you, a Jesus who will return for you. And this Jesus, the true and real Jesus of the Gospels sets you free. You are truly free, actually free. He’s come not to burden you, give you a list of things to do, but He gives you freedom from all that. His Word delivers that freedom. In reading Isaiah, it’s as if Jesus were saying, “You are free! I’ve set you free. Your sins that burden you? They are wiped out by My blood, and I deliver the Word of pardon through the Absolution that your pastor speaks. I sent Him to do it. You’re free! Set free to love God. He’s not condemning you anymore. He condemned Me in your place. Set free to love your neighbor. I am loving them through you. You’re free not to fail. Hear it in the Gospel! Hear it in the preaching! See it in the Scriptures! Hear it in the Absolution! All these echo what I say to you, ‘You’re free!’ ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; for this reason He anointed Me.’”
(THE WORD PUTS JESUS AND HIS WORK IN YOUR EARS.)
Freedom is yours. You have it. You’ve heard it, and so it’s yours. May God let it ring in your ears, in your mind, and in your soul. Jesus is there in His Word. He’s delivered through His Word. His freedom is there too. It must be so. You’re free! “Today this Scripture was fulfilled in your ears.”
INI + AMEN.