Pastor Mark’s Devotions #114

“Inauguration”

“The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Jesus. Unrolling it, he found the place where it was written…”
(Luke 4:17)

Tomorrow, our nation formally announces Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Arguably, not since the inauguration of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, has this transition of power, and our country been in a more contentious condition. Tomorrow’s inauguration will be the ceremony that will formally begin Biden’s Presidency. During this official observance, President Biden is prepared to declare his intentions for the next ten days, next 100 days, and, in general, the next four years.

His speech will include working for greater unity and efforts to heal a divided nation. The White House has released a memo stating that his agenda will include facing four overlapping and compounding crises. He will highlight the pandemic, the economy, the environment, and racial equity.

On the eve of this inauguration, as followers of Jesus Christ, it is timely to consider Jesus’ inauguration. For the past two weeks, during Sunday sermons, I have spoken about the “transfer of power” that Jesus experienced. Jesus initiated this with his parents, Mary and Joseph, at the Temple in Jerusalem. A transfer of power also took place with John the Baptist (earthly power), and from God the Father along with the Holy Spirit (divine power). This transfer formally took place, in what can be considered his “inauguration” at the Jordan River. Jesus’ baptism was the formal ceremony that set forth his public ministry, and officially declared that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

Jesus did not give a speech at this inauguration. The Spirit anointed him. The Father blessed him. Jesus’ agenda and his direction in ministry for the next 3 years, would come at a later date. And it would come with quite contentious reactions. Be it noted that Jesus entered his reign at a most contentious time in general. The conflict between Romans and Jews was palpable. Let alone hateful feelings toward Samaritans, foreigners, outsiders, outcasts, and “sinners”.

But shortly after Jesus receives the baton and blessing during his baptism, it is followed by his triumph over Satan in the wilderness. Finally, the time has come, for Jesus to officially walk upon the public stage. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus returned to Galilee and went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. On the Sabbath day, we are told, he entered the synagogue, which was his custom. His coming out party was about to be personally and publicly declared. Among friends and neighbors, Jesus highlighted his agenda through the prophet Isaiah. Can you picture the setting? All are gathered at the synagogue. Jesus stands up. He walks to center stage. He is handed the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He stands before the table and podium. He is in position at the center of the room as religious teachers do. All eyes are glued upon him. He unrolls the sacred scroll. There are no numbers marking the scroll with chapter and verse. But he knows the Word. His finger finds the place. He knows what’s at stake. He knows the plan and his purpose. He is to redeem a divided people. He is to unite God and man. It will not come without a contentious fight. From the prophetic words of Isaiah, inspired 700 years before this moment, Jesus declares his agenda:

    The Spirit or the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of our LORD’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Through Isaiah, Jesus clearly lays out his five-point agenda. His plan is to reach the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed – both physically and spiritually – and finally, proclaim God’s grace for all! Jesus then goes silent. He does not speak another word. Quiet takes over the room. Jesus quietly rolls up the scroll and returns it to the attendant. Jesus returns to his seat. All eyes are fastened upon him. Thoughts are racing. Questions hang in the air. Finally, Jesus rips through and shreds the silence and declares, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” Luke records the reaction from the crowd, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” They asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22)

But how quickly the emotional tides can turn. Gracious words quickly turn to furious reactions. Emotions runs high. People do not want to be confronted with the truth. Jesus continues his comments to the crowd. He states, “Surely, you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” Jesus knows the hearts of his people. He knows the hearts of humanity. He knows that his hometown will want to witness magic tricks just like others, yet their hearts are far from God and far from wanting to know the truth.

Jesus continues, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.”

Hearing these confrontational words from their home boy, the hometown crowd now turns into a mob. They are enraged and incensed. They demand, “Who is this common carpenter’s son that has the gall to condemn us with his words?” The mob drives him out of the synagogue and out of his own hometown. It would not be the last time. They took him to the brow of the hill, in order to throw him down off the cliff. What was it that sparked such rage? What did he say?

Jesus called the crowd, his friends and neighbors, to examine their hearts. He wanted them to consider their inner motives. But they would have none of it. They returned his call regarding truth with defensiveness, resistance, and violence. Their hearts led them to the desire to kill the messenger.

Then Luke records, “But Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:30)

Jesus did not flinch when the mob raged. Jesus was focused upon his obedience to his Father and the purpose for his arrival. Jesus would face many other crowds throughout his 3 years of ministry. Some would embrace him and some would blaspheme him and one would even betray him. But he knew his purpose. He knew his Father’s plan, and he would walk in accordance to the will of his Father.

I don’t know whether you will celebrate tomorrow’s inauguration or you will have great concern regarding the ceremony for our 46th President. I would expect that, either way, you had the opposite emotions, and felt differently four years ago. And four years from now, where do you think your feelings will find you?  

As Christians, let our eyes be fastened upon the person and agenda of our Lord and Savior. He is still standing at the table and at the podium, announcing the same five-point agenda. As he has fulfilled his redemptive purpose, now he calls you and I forward to declare the same. Some will embrace us, others will be enraged. Jesus has already warned us of this. He challenges us to look within and examine our own hearts, examine our motives. And he has called us to carry out his agenda – those needing to hear His Good News. He has come for those who are poor, and in prison, and have lost their reason for living and are suffering from oppression. We are here to announce, as St. Paul states, “Christ has come to set us all free.” (Galatians 5:1)   

For now, may we continue to put our trust in God’s Inspired Word. Titus 3:1 tells us, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all people.”

Let us pray for those who are stepping into governmental authority tomorrow: President Biden, Vice President Harris, their Cabinet, Congress and other government leaders. May we be a people who mightily pick up the baton of prayer. May we engage this worthy weapon of God, and call upon the Holy Spirit to work revival across our divided nation.

The way of revival? Remember: Love Wins! Love ALWAYS Wins!

And with God’s help, may we walk through angry crowds, as our Savior did, because our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ, and our obedience is to Him alone!

God Bless You All! 
Pastor Mark