The following sermon was pre-recorded for St George’s Transcona’s service for Sunday January 23, 2022.  You can learn more about St George’s and find links to their YouTube channel by clicking here.  Photo credit: Valdemaras D. on Unsplash


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasing in your sight O God, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

The lectionary has us working our way through Luke for the next little while and right from the beginning of the gospel, the Holy Spirit is actively shaping and interpreting events through people like Mary (Luke 1:35, 46-55), Elizabeth (1:41-45), Zechariah (1:67-79), Simeon (2:25-32) and John (3:1-18).

Jesus also begins his public ministry “filled with the power of the Spirit.”  As he begins to travel through Galilee, preaching and performing miracles word of his ministry begins to spread and Luke tells us that Jesus was “praised by everyone.” (14-15)

This is the setting for this week’s gospel reading.  Jesus is very early in his public ministry. He is being praised everywhere he goes, and then he returns to his hometown, Nazareth. He arrives in Nazareth on the sabbath day and we’re told that he goes to the synagogue, “as was he custom.” (16) One way of getting to know who a person is and what they value is to observe the things they do on a regular basis.  Jesus has a regular practice of going to synagogue on the sabbath. That tells us a lot about him.  He is a faithful observant Jew.

Nazareth is Jesus’ hometown and he attended synagogue regularly so he’s not a stranger. The people have known him since he was a child and it’s likely that his offer to read from the scriptures isn’t unusual to them.  He’s probably read  scripture in their synagogue many times when he was growing up.

Additionally, they have been hearing the stories of Jesus’ work in the surrounding area and are probably looking forward to finally experiencing that work for themselves.  I know I would be very excited if I thought I was going to witness a miracle.

They give him the “scroll of the prophet Isaiah,” which Jesus unrolls until he finds the following words:


18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


One of the things I like to do when I read scripture, and especially when I am preparing to preach a sermon, is ask the question, “Where is the good news in this?”  When I hear these words from the prophet Isaiah and imagine Jesus reading them, I do hear good news…. but not necessarily good news for me.

I’m not poor, captive, blind or oppressed.  Sure, maybe, sometimes I have experiences of that nature and the past few years have been incredibly hard, but it would be disingenuous for me to pretend that Isaiah is talking about me here.

I am a white person who lives in North America and I hold a tremendous amount of privilege as a result.

For me to truly hear Jesus’ words as good news, I have to acknowledge that this is not good news I get to passively receive. This is good news that is calling me to join with Jesus in the work of bringing good news to the poor, helping people who are captive find freedom, to see what they are unwilling or unable to see, and work to dismantle oppression so that we can all be free.

Which does sound like good news to me.

But it also sounds like a lot of work.

After Jesus reads these words from Isaiah we are told that he “rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” (20-22).

When I was reviewing this gospel passage in preparation for today’s service, I was really tempted to follow Jesus’ example and make Jesus’ sermon my entire sermon.  To just say after the gospel reading, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” and then sit back down. (21)

How do you imagine you’d respond if I did that?

I imagine some of you would approve because you like a short, short sermon.

Perhaps some of you would respond similarly to the people in the synagogue that day. Maybe you would “speak well of me” and maybe you’d even be “amazed at the gracious words that came from my mouth.”

But I suspect at least some of you might have a few questions.

And so did the people in that synagogue.

The lectionary divides this story into two sections.  The reading assigned for today ends on a positive note. Jesus has returned home, spoken in the synagogue and amazed the people.

But that’s not the actual end of the story.

Jesus was given one brief moment of affirmation by the gathered community at his hometown synagogue before they began to question him.

People began to ask, “wait, isn’t this Joseph’s son?”(22) They could be implying that Jesus is behaving beyond his station. They’ve known him since he was a kid, who is he to suggest that he is special enough to declare the fulfillment of prophecy? Who is he to suggest that he is special enough to be the fulfillment of prophecy?

Or they could mean, “wait, isn’t this Joseph’s son? We know he has been performing miracles and healing people in other towns, but he grew up here. We know him. Is this sermon all we’re going to get?  That hardly seems fair.”

We aren’t given any more dialogue from the congregation, but we are told that Jesus says “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things we have heard you did at Capernum.” (23)

If Jesus is accurate in his assessment of what the people are thinking, and there is no reason to think he isn’t, then essentially the people, who have heard about the various miraculous things he has been doing elsewhere, are looking for him to behave in his hometown in the same way he has behaved elsewhere. They are looking forward to some miracles.

They may even be hoping that because he is the hometown boy, that whatever he does for them will be slightly better than what he has done in other places. Shouldn’t his hometown get special treatment?

But if that is the case, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

Because Jesus isn’t going to do anything else for them.  Reading scripture and his brief sermon is the extent of his plans. No new prophecies, no signs, no wonders, no miracles, nothing.

OK that’s not exactly true. He has a little bit more to say to them, but it’s not what they want to hear. Jesus’ remaining words to his hometown are all a variation on the theme of “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” and “no, I will not be performing any miracles for you here today.” (24)

With this short speech the people shift from speaking “well of him” and being “amazed at his gracious words” to anger. (22). Luke writes that “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up and drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so they might hurl him off the cliff.” (28-29)

They were excited by Jesus’ visit, hoping to get to witness a miracle. Some in the crowd may have been hoping that they would be the recipient of the miracle. That Jesus would heal them.

And when they realize that this is not what Jesus has in mind they shift from admiration and anticipation to disappointment and murderous rage.  The man they just invited to read scriptures, a role of honour, is now the man they want to throw off a cliff.

But Jesus will disappoint them again, they are not able to throw him off the cliff because Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” (30)

It seems to me that the people did witness Jesus perform a miracle but not the sort they were hoping for.  I think his ability to simply pass through the crowd and leave unharmed was a miraculous exit.

Why does Jesus do this? Why doesn’t he perform any miracles in his hometown?  I’m not sure, and I couldn’t find any scholars who are sure either, but I have a hunch.

Remember this story is an account of the start of Jesus’ public ministry and so while it might be fun to speculate on the choices that led his neighbours to want to throw him off a cliff, I think it’s much more important for us to remember the words that Jesus chose to describe his ministry, words from scripture, words from the prophet Isaiah:


18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


Jesus hasn’t come to give the people in his hometown special treatment. He hasn’t come to amaze people with miracles. He has come to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, sight to the blind, the let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Jesus’ mission is for everyone, but especially for people on the margins. His hometown will not receive special treatment just because he grew up there.

That’s not what his mission is about, and he makes that very clear by refusing to perform miracles in his hometown.  The normal order of things, the normal ways that power and privilege function do not interest Jesus and he will do things in his own way.

And he is not afraid to upset people in the process.

In the coming year at St George’s we’re going to be asking questions about our collective mission as a parish.  That mission will align with Jesus’ mission, but we will live it out in our own unique way.  What does it look like for St George’s to bring good news to the poor or proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour?

I’m looking forward to asking those questions and discerning the answers with you as we continue to seek to be a community called and formed by Christ and this very good news.

In the strong name of the holy and undivided Trinity.  Amen.