“Befuddled by Grace”
Text: Luke 4:14-21 (22)
Baptized by God he had been (cf 3:20-21). Anointed (cf 4:18).
Consecrated he was to set God’s agenda for the world.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
He began in Galilee. An area in the north of Palestine.
The name itself means “a circle” (cf H = galil).
So-called because it was encircled by non-Jewish nations.
And, because of that, new influences had always been a part of its life.
Being the most forward-looking and
…the least conservative part of Palestine, at least to
one historian of the time (cf Barclay Luke, p.40).
And, to another, Josephus by name:
“They were ever fond of innovations and disposed
to changes and delighted in seditions. They were
ever ready to follow a leader who would begin an
insurrection. They were quick in temper and given
to quarreling” (cf Barclay, 41).
In this atmosphere, Jesus began.
In the synagogue.
The synagogue. The center of religious life in Jewish Palestine.
One wherever there were ten Jewish families, or so the Law said (cf Barclay, 41,43)
Synagogue. A word that simply means: “the place or house of gathering.”
Gathering for worship,
…just plain “getting together” (cf IDB, v4, p.476).
A word that referred technically to the totality of the Jewish world,
…all adherents of the Jewish faith, and
…the “community,” which referred to only those who
were Jewish, as it still does today, at least to the
A word that had an emotional attachment to Mt. Sinai: the place of the giving of the
Law to Moses (cf IDB, 4, 478)
…because “synagogue” sounds so much like “Sinai.”
The very symbol of the Old Testament.
And so, “synagogue” became a way for a Jew of proclaiming their loyalty to
…“the Sinai Covenant,”
…”the Law,” and
… their “righteousness” and “holiness.”
By going to synagogue. (For some Christians, by going to church,
especially around 11am on a Sunday.)
But, the synagogue was not only “the house of the people” confined to religious
worship, but it was also
…the place where funeral eulogies were delivered,
especially for “rabbis,”
…for “teachers of the law” who were
compared with “the ark of the Law” (cf
IDB, 4, 491),
…the place used for political gatherings,
…a place for lodging and caring of transients
…a law court where justice was administered.
There, in Galilee, “the circle,”
…in the synagogue, “the place of law,”
…in Nazareth, the place where he had been brought up, he set God’s agenda for
Nazareth. Located on the lower slopes of Galilee,
…near the Plain of Jezreel.
And from the hilltop above, see an amazing panorama:
…the history of Israel stretching out before one’s eyes.
There, the plain of Esdraleon where Deborah and Barak had fought,
…where Gideon had won his victories,
…where Saul had crashed to disaster and
…where Josiah had been killed in battle.
Where Naboth’s vineyard was and
…the place where Jehu slaughtered Jezebel.
And there was Shunem where Elisha had lived.
And there was Carmel where Elijah had fought his epic battle with
the prophets of Baal.
And off in the distance, the Mediterranean and
…the isles of the sea, and
…the world itself,
…unfolding itself from the hilltop of Nazareth.
Nazareth. A town in sight of history,
…with traffic of the world at its doors.
The road from the south to Jerusalem.
The way of the Sea from Egypt to Damascus of Syria.
The road to the east, Arabia (cf Barclay, 43).
There, in Galilee, “the circle,”
…in Nazareth, “gateway to the world,”
…in synagogue, “the place of the law,”
…he began God’s agenda for the world,
…with words of the Isaiah scroll (cf Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6)
given to him by the chazzan.
These words: “preach good news to the poor,”
…”proclaim release to the captive,”
…”recovering of sight to the blind,”
…”set at liberty those who are oppressed,”
…”comfort all who mourn,”
…”the day of vengeance of our God” (that is: “the
removal of all obstacles to God”),
…”the acceptable year of the Lord” (cf IB, v.5,
And by these words, those who heard were “amazed,”
Lost they were in the perplexity of the words he spoke (cf ref
Webster’s Dictionary, 1960).
For radical they were in his day,
…as the prophet’s,
…as our own.
For what “amazed,”
…”befuddled” them who heard was the apparent
compliment that Jesus was paying to Gentiles (all
For the Jews were so sure that they were God’s people that
they utterly despised all other peoples.
They believed, as one wrote, that:
“God had created the Gentiles to be fuel for the
fires of hell.”
And this Jesus, preaching as if Gentiles were especially
favored by God too (cf Barclay, 44).
And, they heard correct.
For they were words of God’s grace,
…not Law, as they were accustomed to
Befuddled by God’s grace, then,
…as today still.
Befuddling to a society based on law.
Where justice is understood to be revenge, not forgiveness.
Where the poor are seen as a dredge on society.
Where a society wants “others” to be “like us,” rather than free expressions of
Where one society knows what’s good for another, never mind them.
Yes, God’s grace is befuddling.
Befuddling today, as then.
And yet, these things too,
…obstacles as they are to God’s grace, must be removed, that we may
know the power of God’s love.
Yet, when those who bear the name “Christian, “
…who claim to follow our Lord,
…but fail to show in any real sense that love, have been duped
into believing what is not of Christ, but of another name, and
…caught in what one has called “the rut of stupid self-absorption” (cf IB, v.8,92).
…surrendering themselves to the degradation of the human soul,
…which is not God’s agenda for the world he loved
that he sent his only son for.
For what Jesus came to communicate,
…to those who would listen, is that as people choose to
give their imaginations and
…wills in glad surrender to
the service of God’s kingdom
will all the glorious possibilities
within be released,
…nearness of God seen.
Being befuddled by the
wonder that is God’s love
for even you,
A love that befuddles the world yet
…even one more time.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.