Luk_4:21-22. And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
THE Sabbath was appointed as a day of rest; yet not altogether for the rest of the body, but that the soul might be the more at leisure to acquaint itself with God. In this view it is a most gracious and merciful appointment; because, the time being fixed, all are disengaged at once, and ready both to serve their God together, and to receive instruction respecting their duty towards him. Our blessed Lord, after he had entered upon his ministry, employed every day in the execution of his work: but he availed himself especially of the opportunity which the Sabbaths afforded him, to instruct the people. At Nazareth, where he had been brought up, “he went into their synagogue, as his custom was;” and being called upon to read the portion of Scripture appointed for the day, he stood up and read a passage from the prophecies of Isaiah; and then sat down to expound it. His exposition or comment is not given us: but the substance of it is set before us, in few, but comprehensive, words.
It is our intention to consider,
His comment on the Scripture—
When he told the people, that on that very day the passage which he had read to them was fulfilled in their ears, we must suppose him to have spoken to this effect:
‘I am the person whom the Father has sent—
[‘From my mean appearance you will be ready to think that I can have no pretensions to the office of the Messiah: but it is of me that the prophet speaks in the words which I have now read: I am the person on whom the Spirit has been poured out; “the Lord hath anointed me, and sent me” to instruct and save the world.]
‘And this is the commission which I am come to execute—
[‘ “The poor” are the special objects of my attention; they being particularly “chosen of my Father to be rich in faith, and heirs of my kingdom.” Yet, if any be “poor in spirit,” and sensible of their low and lost estate, to them am I sent; and to declare to them the glad tidings of salvation, is the delightful work which I have undertaken.
‘More particularly, if any be “broken-hearted” with a sense of guilt and misery, I am come “to heal” them by an application of my blood and Spirit to their souls: their guilt will I remove by my all-atoning blood; and their misery, by sending them my Holy Spirit to be their comforter and guide — — — It is not as a temporal prince or conqueror that I am come: my conquests are altogether of a spiritual nature; but they are irresistible, and shall be complete. Are any persons so blinded by Satan, and enslaved by sin, that they appear like captives, immured in a dungeon, and bereft of sight, and galled with massive chains [Note: This was a common mode of treating captives. Sampson was so treated by the Philistines (Jdg_16:21.), and Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar. (2Ki_25:7.)]? I am come to set them free, not only breaking off their fetters, and restoring them to the light, but renewing even their organs of vision, and bringing them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God — — — And this I shall do, not by war and bloodshed, but by an exhibition of truth to their souls. The word is my sword, and the ministry of it is that chariot in which I will ride on, conquering and to conquer, till every enemy be put under my feet [Note: Thrice it is said, “He hath sent me to preach.”] — — —
‘In a word, you all know what is done in the year of jubilee, how debts are cancelled, slaves are liberated, and inheritances are restored: such are the benefits which I impart: I proclaim the arrival of that happy period, at least as far as respects the souls of men. Whatever debt of sin any man may owe, it shall be forgiven him: his bondage, however severe, shall be brought to an end: and his inheritance, however justly forfeited, shall be restored to him, even all the inheritance of heaven — — —
‘Thus circumstantially has the prophet described my office, which already I have begun to execute: “This very day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears:” and all of you who will believe in me, shall enjoy the benefits I am come to bestow.’]
Such we may suppose to have been our Saviour’s comment on the Scripture which he had read. Let us next view,
The effect produced by it—
This was far different from what might have been expected: yet it will afford much instruction to us—
[No sooner had he read the passage, than “the eyes of all were attentively fixed on him.” The sublimity of the words, and the impressive energy with which they were read, engaged their attention, and made them very desirous of hearing what this celebrated teacher should deduce from them.
Happy would it be, if this eagerness to receive instruction were more visible amongst us. But, in general, when a minister has read the words which he proposes to explain, many, instead of putting forth all the powers of their minds to understand and apply the subject, compose themselves in the most easy posture, and sink habitually into listlessness and indifference; satisfied with having performed a duty, though they reaped not the smallest benefit — — — But consider, the word which you hear, though spoken by a sinful man like yourselves, is, as far as it is agreeable to the mind and will of God, to be regarded “not as the word of man, but as the word of God.” “We are ambassadors for Christ; we speak to you in Christ’s stead; and God himself beseeches you by us,” Whenever, therefore, you hear the Scriptures explained, you should, like the Centurion and his friends [Note: Act_10:33.], receive the word with all humility of mind, and treasure it up in your memory for the regulating of your hearts and lives — — —]
[Their wonder arose, in part, from their recollection of his parentage and education, which appeared to them ill suited to his high pretensions. But, in part also, it arose from the suavity of his manner, and the exalted nature of his discourse, to which they could not but “bear witness.” And well indeed might they wonder that such a messenger should be sent from heaven, and that such blessings should be imparted unto men.
But alas! the very same truths delivered amongst us are heard with indifference: yea, though opened in the fullest manner, and exhibited in the clearest light, they are regarded as uninteresting speculations, if not as an idle tale. The work and offices of Christ may be explained, and all the wonders of redeeming love be opened to our view, and yet no admiration be excited; yea, the talents of the speaker may be admired, and the subject itself be overlooked. But would this be the case if men felt their need of this salvation? — — — No, surely: they would be filled with rapture, and adore their God all the day long — — —]
[Much as they were struck with the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, they could not overcome their prejudices. They had but lately seen him following the humble occupation of a carpenter, and they could not conceive that such an one could possibly be the Messiah. Hence they did not receive his testimony: hence also, when warned of the danger of rejecting him, and of God’s determination to communicate to the Gentiles those blessings which they despised, they burned with rage against him, and sought to destroy him.
Alas! how common a character is this! How many are there who hear, and to a certain degree approve, the Gospel, while yet they are not effectually changed by it! They are still under the dominion of prejudice and passion; and sit in judgment on the Gospel, instead of yielding obedience to it. The sublimity of its doctrines is a stumbling-block to them; and the purity of its precepts an offence. What is gratifying to their feelings they will receive; but whatever tends to the mortifying of their pride or the subduing of their besetting sins, they will not endure — — —
O that the example before us may put us on our guard! This day is this Scripture fulfilled in our ears, as truly as in the day that Jesus read it in the synagogue. Jesus is still the anointed Saviour: still does he retain and execute the commission given him by the Father: still does he “say to the oppressed, Go free:” the captive that is bruised with chains, and deprived of sight, and broken-hearted with a sense of his sorrows, may even now be restored to sight, and liberty, and joy. Our adorable Saviour is ever ready to give him “the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” — — —
Beloved brethren, “receive not this grace in vain;” neither be contented with a partial approbation of the Gospel: but surrender up yourselves unfeignedly and unreservedly unto the Lord; ever dreading, lest your misimprovement of the light afforded you should provoke him to remove your candlestick, and to transfer your advantages to others.]