Luke 4:16-30 – “Does God Make Mistakes?”

Does God make mistakes?  Reading our text for this morning, it is hard to come to any other conclusion than Jesus – God the Son – really messed up here.  Let’s set the scene.  This is the beginning of His ministry in Luke’s Gospel.  After the birth narrative He was baptized by John and then driven out into the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan.  Then the text says, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”  So as He’s working His way back home, He’s been teaching along the way and building a bit of a reputation for His teaching.  The people were liking what they were hearing.  So how did it go so wrong?  Did Jesus make a mistake in Nazareth?

Standing among family, friends, and neighbors, Jesus reads the Scripture reading for the day out of Isaiah, and He gets it all wrong.  Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  This is what He says, but this is not what is recorded in Isaiah.  The text from the 61st chapter of Isaiah reads, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.”  This is what the text from Isaiah says.  It was a well-known text regarding the coming Messiah, the judgment of the nations, and the restoration of Israel.  Everyone there would have been familiar with it.  But this is not what Jesus – reading this text – says to them. So, we see two obvious problems.  First, Jesus leaves out bits of the text He was reading.  He left out the bits about “binding up the broken hearted” and “the day of vengeance of our God.”  Second, Jesus adds something that isn’t in the text.  He adds the bit about “recovering of sight to the blind.”  But more than this, the translators have obscured some even more glaring changes.  Jesus does not say here that He was anointed to “proclaim good news to the poor.”  He literally says that He was anointed AS good news to the poor.  Jesus does not say that He was sent to “proclaim liberty to the captives.”  He literally says that He was sent to proclaim FORGIVENESS to the captives.  Jesus leaves stuff out, He adds stuff that wasn’t there to begin with, and He alters what is there.  So did Jesus make a mistake here?

The people there knew this text.  This was a very popular text.  You would have expected everyone to say hold on there a minute Jesus you got that wrong. And that is what’s really interesting to me.  The people there knew that Jesus’ reading of Isaiah was not accurate, but they weren’t all that fussed about it.  Our text says, “He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.”  Everyone was focused intently on Him and no one said a word.  And after He sat down “He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?””  Now it is obvious that the people weren’t upset that He misquoted Isaiah, but how can we tell that they knew He had misquoted Isaiah?  It is the word gracious.  The text says they marveled at His GRACIOUS words.  But that translation is misleading.  The text literally says that they marveled at His GIFTED words.  His words aren’t accurate, or well spoken, but gifted.  These are words given to Him that He gave to the people.  What the people heard was not a reading of scripture, but a proclamation of prophesy.  Jesus was not in error in His reading of Scripture, He was fulfilling that Scripture in His prophetic proclamation.  And this is what He tells them.  He says “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Jesus was not mistaken.  He spoke with a purpose.

But then things take a turn for the worse.  Just as everyone is excited and enthusiastic about Jesus’ teaching, He goes and turns them all against Him.  They are all looking forward to receiving the same glorious teaching from this prophet from their hometown.  And Jesus – knowing their thoughts – says, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”  So what’s wrong with that?  They have heard the prophetic proclamation and they have welcomed Him as a prophet, but then what He says next turns them all against Him, so much so that they try to kill Him.  Did Jesus make a mistake in Nazareth?

Jesus says to these family, friends, and neighbors – who have received Him as a prophet – “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.  But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah… and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  In other words, Jesus is saying, that prophecy that I just proclaimed, yes it has been fulfilled, but not in the way that you think.  No, this good news to the poor; this forgiveness to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind; this liberty for those who are oppressed; and the year of the Lord’s favor is not just for Israel, but for the gentiles as well.  And these are words that the people did not want to hear.  But does that mean they were a mistake?  No, Jesus spoke with a purpose.  This physician will not just heal Himself; He’ll not just heal Israel, but all mankind.  And the reaction of the people was likewise not a mistake on Jesus’ part. He begins His ministry the same way He ends it, in rejection.  This same rejection that we see from Jesus’ family, friends, and neighbors is the rejection that follows Him all the way to the cross, but this too was done with a purpose.  Jesus was rejected for us, Jesus suffered for us, and Jesus died for us.  It is through Jesus’ rejection, suffering, and death that this physician heals us; we who are oppressed by our fallen nature He sets at liberty; He opens the eyes of us who are blind to His revelation; He forgives us who are captive to sin.  Jesus’ rejection, suffering, and death is our Good News.  THE CROSS IS OUR EPIPHANY! But did God make a mistake?  Jesus died for our sins and through the free gift of God the Father, through Faith in Jesus the Son you have been saved and given eternal life.  But was that a mistake, or did God save you for a purpose?

God does not make mistakes.  God is not capricious or unintentional in His choices.  God chose you and He chose you for a purpose.  He has anointed you to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent you to proclaim forgiveness to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  You are the Body of Christ and God chose you to be His means to fulfill His purpose in this community.  God does not make mistakes.

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