Luke 4:14-21 (page 908, NKJV) “The Shortest Sermon Ever Preached!” + + Epiphany 4 / January 29, 2012 + + Summerlin Evangelical Lutheran Church, Las Vegas NV

“Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He as handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” [Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.] In the name of our Epiphany Lord and Christ Jesus, fellow saints, by His blood,

I think every church-going person has an opinion about how long a sermon should be. People have said to me as they’re walking out of church at the end of the service, “I could have listened to you a lot longer this morning.”I take that as a compliment, of course. I don’t recall that anyone has ever come right out and said, “That was too long pastor!” But there are the little hints. Like the young mother with a baby who told me, “I almost ran out of cheerios this morning, pastor.”

Of course, a message from God’s Word is what you are here to hear. How long should the message be? Martin Luther’s advice to preachers was this: “Stand up, speak out, and sit down.” Well, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Before you say, “Right on!” be aware that his Christmas Day sermon in this book of mine is 27 pages long. My message today in 11 point Times New Roman is two pages long. Maybe I should stand up and speak out for a longer time before I sit down.

Perhaps the length of the message should depend on what the preacher says.Some long sermons seem very short when you are captivated by the content and some short ones seem painfully long when the message is just not connecting with the heart or the mind. And then there’s the fact that we don’t mind listening to people talk, but we’re used to taking a break every ten minutes when the commercial comes on.

So how long should a sermon be? How about eight words? If a preacher got up in the pulpit, spoke eight words, and said ‘Amen,’ would you say, “Finally, a preacher whogets it!”From what I know about most of you, I doubt that you’d say that.Maybe someone among you might at least think, however, “Is an eight-word sermon worthy of an offering?”

Well, I’m going to show you an eight word sermon this morning.I’m not going to preach an eight word sermon, oh no, but I’m going to tell you about an eight word sermon.St. Luke wrote the sermon down in the Gospel that bears his name. It’s a sermon Jesus preached in a church in Nazareth where He was the guest preacher for the day.When it came time for the sermon, He picked up the Bible, read the text, and preached this sermon…here it is, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” (21). Count’em--eight words.It seems like The Shortest Sermon Ever Preached.But it’s long on fulfillment, and it’s filled with forgiveness.

1. It’s long on fulfillment. Most of you know that Nazareth was Jesus’ home town, and so the people in Nazareth knew Jesus pretty well.They knew him as a good, hard-working young man who came from a good family. But Jesus hadn’t been around for almost a year; he’d been on the road.There was no CNN in those days, but the people in Nazareth had heard what Jesus was up to while He was gone.They knew about the water He had changed into wine at Cana, about the paralyzed man He had healed in Jerusalem.Jesus had been preaching in other churches, too; and they knew what He had been saying.By the time He got back to Nazareth, Jesus had a reputation as a healer and a preacher.

When He was ready to preach to them, the people were waiting to be impressed. Jesus unwound the scroll to Isaiah and read His sermon text, the 61st chapter. And this is what He read:(18,19) “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”Everybody knew that passage. It was one of the most famous passages in the Old Testament.They knew Isaiah had written these words, but they also knew the real speaker of those words was the Servant of the Lord, the one God had promised to send to the people of Israel.It was Messiah, and when He came all their troubles would be gone and all their problems would be solved.

So, Jesus read the sermon text and then preached the shortest sermon ever preached.“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”What’s in those eight words? Here’s what Jesus was saying: I am the grand finale; I am the completion; I am the fulfillment of God’s plan to save you. Everything Moses wrote in his books, everything David wrote in the psalms, everything the prophets promised in their preaching and prophesies--that Jesus would be born of a virgin and live in Nazareth, that He would be betrayed, beaten and bruised, and that His bones would not be broken—all of it pointed to Me. I am the Seed of the woman, I am the Son of David; I am the Suffering Servant. I am the One God anointed: In the Hebrew language, I am called Messiah; in the Greek I am called Christ.

This sermon in Nazareth may be THE SHORTEST SERMON EVER PREACHED, but with those eight simple words Jesus was claiming to be the One that God had promised…not just one of many that God was promising to send, but THE ONLY ONE. And because of it He could later say: (John 14:6) “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Now that is just about the most politically incorrect thing a Christian can say today.

I can still remember back to the Gerald Ford funeral—what was that, 12-2006?—where the preacher read the first half of that passage, but skipped the second, the part that said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me”If he hadincluded it, likely it would have been the main news story of the day. Franklin Graham is Billy Graham’s son, and Billy Graham is the most well-known Christian preacher of our lifetime.But when Larry King asks Franklin Graham if Christ is the only way, Franklin Graham choked badly--really badly. We can’t choke.We need to say it with love, but we need to say it: Jesus Christ is the way to the Father, and there is no other way to the Father. When it comes to people, God is inclusive: Jesus died for everyone.But when it comes to His plan, God is exclusive; Jesus is the only way, the only One who brings release from sin, death and the power of the devil.

2. And it’s filled with forgiveness. “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. [I am the One who has come to]…preach the gospel to the poor; heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, set at liberty those who are oppressed, and proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”Every one of those phrases paints a different picture dripping with mercy, but each picture depicts the same scene: The Messiah was coming to release people from sin.

You were all waiting for this, weren’t you?Every good Lutheran sermon worth its salt has to talk about sin and guilt. We close our eyes for the confession of sins each Sunday and we admit we’re guilty, just the way we’re supposed to, because we take seriously the Lord’s command, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!”And then the preacher absolves us, and we’re good to go for another week. Right?

Not necessarily…because not everybody gets rid of guilt with a once-a-week confession.Guilt can eat away at people.It can dominate their lives.Some people think about guilt in the middle of the night but some people think about guilt in the middle of the day.Some people feel guilty for things they did, but some people feel guilty for things they didn’t do.Counselors and psychologists work with some people to help them get rid of guilt, and sometimes that’s necessary.But the truth is--we’re all guilty.Goodness, we’ve all sinned.We’ve all done things God doesn’t want us to do and not done things God wants us to do. And if we don’t feel guilt, we should! If we try to talk ourselves into believing that there is no reason for guilt, then we are fooling ourselves into a dangerous position of complacency. If we think that guilt is merely a relative thing then we are not listening to our conscience.

Jesus gets rid of guilt. When He spoke through Isaiah long before He ever took on human skin and bones, Jesus said He would get rid of guilt. When He preached in Nazareth, Jesus said He had come to get rid of guilt. And He did.He kept God’s laws and had no guilt of His own.And then He took your guilt and mine on His back;He carried our guilt to the cross;He paid for our guilt with His blood and His death. He came back alive and He rose from His grave telling us His Father had accepted His payment for our guilt.And now God says to you and me: No guilt, no more.Your guilt is gone.Your conscience can’t plague you. The devil can’t accuse you. Sin can’t control you.Death can’t frighten you.Can we be sure?Here’s another short sermon; this one’s only three words long.Not spoken in a synagogue but on a cross. Jesus said,“IT IS FINISHED.” Our guilt is gone; we can be sure of it, because God, our Suffering Servant says so!

I have to admit something to you.Some Bible scholars are convinced that this eight word sermon in Luke chapter 4 may be God’s inspired summary of what Jesus said in the synagogue on that Sabbath Day in Nazareth…in which case it might not be the shortest sermon ever preached. Jesus may have said more, maybe much more.But here’s the point.Whether Jesus preached long or whether he preached short, Jesus preached what every sermon needs to preach.He pointed to Himself as the only way to life with God and He declared Himself to be the Savior who takes away my sins and yours.If a sermon tells us that, then, long or short, it too, is the best sermon ever preached!Amen.