BIBLE READINGS: Corinthians 13: 1-13 Luke 4:21-30
Who owns the messiah? It sounds like a silly question. But think about it for a moment. Who has rights to the power that he brings. Who can call upon the mercy that he offers. Who owns the mineral rights to the spiritual riches Jesus has.
It is a very important question. Jesus is a veritable gold mine of spiritual riches. He said he came to bring good news to the poor. Good news for the poor is hard to come by. It is a commodity that should go for a good price. He came to bring release to captives. People who are oppressed want release. They will often pay a high price for freedom. Recovery of sight for the blind. In this room there is easily over five thousand dollars worth of corrective lenses. Imagine what the blind will give for sight.
"Who owns the Messiah?" It's an important question. It is at the heart of the Gospel. It determines who is in and who is out of the Kingdom. It defines who is blessed and who is cursed. Who, after all, owns the Messiah?
The people of Jesus' home town thought that if he was the Messiah, they had first rights to him. They knew how valuable the Messiah was. Jesus told them that morning that the prophecy of the Messiah had come true in him. And they said his words were gracious. What a nice thing for him to say that God would send the Messiah to us. I can just see the sign to be erected at the edge of town: "Nazareth City: hometown of God's Messiah."
Oh of course they were a little skeptical. After all they all remembered Jesus as a boy. He was the son of that carpenter. Oh, what is his name: Jonathan? Uh, Joseph yes! He's Joseph's son. They had heard what he had done in Capernaum, healing and teaching and stuff. They probably thought to themselves, "You know those Capernians. They are always exaggerating. He probably helped some old man with arthritis and they all thought he could make the lame walk." But remember they also knew the benefits if he was the Messiah.
Jesus knew what they were thinking. He said, "I'll bet you want me to do the same things here that I did in Capernaum. You want me to prove myself to you. And you want me to bless you and no one else. What does the Bible say. During a drought in Israel God sent Elijah to a Gentile widow to bless her. And when there were many lepers in Israel God sent Elisha to a Gentile to heal him." They got the point even if we don't. Jesus was saying that God sent him to bless all who would accept him. Not just other Jewish towns like Capernaum and Nazareth, but even Gentiles. That was more than enough. "What! God send the Messiah for Gentiles? That was too much. It's bad enough that he won't stay at home now he won't even stick with his own kind." They were so mad that they tried to kill him rather than have him take God's blessing to the Gentiles.
Jesus got away that day. The Bible says that he just walked through the midst of the crowd and walked away. But Jesus' words eventually caught up with him. You see the religious leaders in Jerusalem thought they owned the Messiah too. And when they couldn't control Jesus they lost their patience. If they couldn't own Jesus, then nobody could.
So they surrounded him with a crowd of soldiers. Jesus could have walked away again, but this time he chose not to. They nailed him to a cross and he still offered God's blessings to anyone who would accept them. On a cross next to him, a thief asked for forgiveness and he gave him salvation. A sinner - a thief – some think a terrorist, and Jesus gave him a place in paradise.
And if forgiving thieves wasn't enough he continued to bless Gentiles. While the Roman soldiers were gambling for his clothes, you know what he said? He said, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing." Can you imagine the nerve of him to ask God to forgive even Romans.
Who owns the Messiah? On TV there was a true story of a father whose son had been murdered. The murderer was sentenced to death and the father did all that he could to witness the execution. He wanted to see his son's murderer die with his own eyes. So he pulled strings and maneuvered so that he could be in the witness booth at the execution.
The father got to see his son's murderer die, but he wasn’t satisfied. The reporter interviewing him asked him why he was not satisfied. You see the killer had become a Christian shortly before the execution. He had given his life to Christ. He had been forgiven of his sins. He was going to heaven. The father was disturbed because he didn't think it was right that his son's killer should go to heaven.
Nobody owns Jesus, and everybody does. You might be thinking to yourself - "You can't have it both ways Martin." Yes I can, because the Bible says so. No one has exclusive rights to Jesus because he died for the sins of the world. God gave him so that anyone who would put their faith in him could be saved. We can all share in his grace and mercy.
Christ's grace is offered to all. That is what Christianity is all about. Jesus gave his life for the sins of the world. Jesus didn't do it just for his disciples. He died so that anyone, even convicted murderers and criminals, could be saved. And Jesus didn't give his life just so that Jews could see God. He died so that even a Roman Centurion could say, "He is surely the Son of God."
Jesus died for all. That is why we in the Uniting Church practice an open communion, and try to welcome everyone. Anyone could walk through that door and they would be welcome at this table. It doesn't matter who they are or what they have done. The only thing that matters is that they accept new life from Christ. Wesley believed rightly that the sacrament of Holy Communion was evangelical. All we ask is that you love the Lord a little and would like to love him more.
Jesus died to give forgiveness to any who would accept it. He came to give new life to any who would kneel at the cross. He gives grace to any who will accept his broken body as a sacrifice for their sins. He offers mercy to any who would be washed by his blood. Come, Christ has provided the bread of life for all who would kneel at his table and receive with thanksgiving.
Acknowledgement: Rev Alex Stevenson