oday’s lection records the story of Jesus’ graduation. He had spent his first thirty years as a student and teacher in the community synagogue excelling as a scholar. The people from his home town addressed him with the title, “teacher,” or “raboni.” But his sermon, comments on the lection, were different on this special day: Jesus had a new message; “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (v.21, NRSV) Jesus was announcing to his hometown friends that he was beginning a new level of ministry traveling throughout Palestine, to reveal his Messiahship.
This important day in Jesus’ life was more of a commencement than a graduation. There is a sense in which we never graduate. As high school and college graduation day speakers typically remind the bright young faces staring back in cap and gown, “Life is an ongoing experience with learning, maturing and spiritual development, and today you youngsters are commencing on a higher level of achievement!” Jesus was actually announcing his commencement; he was embarking on a new phase of his life, he was beginning to implement his higher calling as the long anticipated Messiah.
Jesus is also saying that in his public ministry he would be dependant upon his Father’s Holy Spirit to constantly empower and direct him in his ministry. Although the Son was God, he had self-limited himself to become fully human, yet at the same time he was fully Divine. We will understand the Trinity better when we get to glory, but for now we know that Jesus was dependant upon the anointing, inspiration, power, unction of the Holy Spirit, as are we. This was an aspect of his humanity. Our text says that Jesus was, “…filled with the power of the Spirit.” (v. 14) and in verse eighteen, forward, he continues, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the 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 from, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll, gave it 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.”
Still today, preaching and all spiritual ministries is ultimately dependant upon our willingness to depend upon the Holy Spirit. The critical role that the Spirit plays in our entire life can never be emphasized too much. This is probably why our Revised Common Lectionary has followed a thread of thought related to the critical role that the Spirit. played in Jesus’ birth, childhood and at the beginning of his ministry. Indeed, it was the power of the Holy Spirit that is characteristic of Jesus’ entire experience in human form. Jesus needed the Spirit of God in his life all of his life on earth.
Neither do any of us ever graduate from our need for the Holy Spirit. Only at our graduation from this life do we receive our glorification diploma.
Before Christmas our texts dealt with God’s Holy Spirit being a part of the miraculous conception of Jesus. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb when he heard that the Messiah had been conceived. God’s Spirit was a part of the protection of the Holy Family and led them into Egypt to seek protection from Herod. The Spirit of the one true God reached out to the Wise Men from the East who provided care for Jesus when he needed it. The Spirit and voice of God was a part of Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit even took the physical form of a small, defenseless, pure white dove when Jesus was baptized by John. The Spirit came, not as a powerful and screaming eagle, but as an almost inaudibly quiet dove.
If Jesus needed the Holy Spirit, how much more do we need him? And, don’t expect a class ring or a high school annual; but there will be a crown someday.
Indeed, we are dependant upon God’s Spirit working in our lives for even ordinary, habitual spiritual aspects of our lives. When we pray the Holy Spirit interprets what we really mean, in our stumbling and inadequate words, so that God really knows what we mean. When we read the Bible the Spirit makes it come alive for us. God’s Spirit most regularly speaks to us as we read Scripture. Indeed, we can’t understand what it is trying to say to us unless we are sensitive to the Spirit’s quickening of our minds and souls.
St. Augustine had a difficult time becoming a Christian. He was so well read and educated it was hard for him to believe in the inspiration of Scripture, and many of the doctrines of the Church. Only after he learned from Ambrose that he had to read the Bible with the invigoration of the Holy Spirit was he able to experience God’s voice and understand the typology and spiritual allegory. Augustine found understanding of the process of reading in the Spirit from Paul in II Corinthians 3. He describes how the Holy Spirit enlivens our life in the New Covenant, as opposed to the deadness that was experienced under the Old Testament Law. In the Old Testament Moses put a veil over his face to read the laws chiseled in stone, and the people’s hearts were hardened, “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom… And the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” (7-18 NLT)
We can see how this helped Augustine because it’s the same process that works in us. Whenever we read the story of the near sacrifice of Isaac by his father, Abraham, we can understand the analogy, or archetype, of how the Father was willing to give his Son on the Cross. When we take Communion we see how it is so similar to the Old Testament Passover.
Our ongoing opportunity for spiritual development through the inner working of the Spirit in our spirits is the key to the ongoing existence and life of the Church. As believers have learned to lean on Him, great things have been done.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor