daily biblical sermons


CHRIST SETS AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, 17th Week of the Year, July 31, 2015
Lev. 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37, Ps. 80, Matt. 13:54-58


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"And coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?'" (Matt. 13:54).


According to St. Luke, Jesus read this scripture in the synagogue in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19; Isa. 61:1-2). Then St. Luke tells us, "He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:20-21).


Here, when Jesus says, "Today, this scripture has been fulfilled," he means that the Messianic age has at last arrived in him and that now is the time of fulfillment and salvation. He means here what he says elsewhere, namely, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Jesus is telling the people in his home-town synagogue in Nazareth that the kingdom of God has finally arrived, has come into the world, and has begun in him. He is telling them that he is the one who brings God's salvation to fulfillment in the world, and that therefore in him there is now good news for the poor, release for captives, and liberty for those who are oppressed. This is his mission to the world, to bring us the fulfillment of God's salvation. It is a mission of liberation and salvation, a liberating mission, a mission of forgiveness and justification. Christ has come to declare sinners to be righteous, to remove their burden of guilt, to open blind eyes, and to save the oppressed, especially those who are oppressed by the burden of guilt for their sins. This is the burden that he comes to lift off of our shoulders. He comes to open the doors of the dungeon of depression that we are in, and to fill us with his own resplendent righteousness.


Christ takes our burden upon himself and pays our debt for us. He pays to God the debt that must be paid before we can go free. He takes our sins upon himself and suffers their punishment for us, thus reconciling us with God. He intercedes for us before the Father in the heavenly sanctuary, offering him his own blood, which he shed on the cross in reparation for our sins, thus reconciling us with God. "He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12).


Our part in this salvation is faith, that is, accepting Christ as our Savior so that his work of salvation may take place within us. We do not have to go about downcast because of our guilt and depression for our sins, even for small sins, even for sins of thought. Christ is the great doctor, the great healer, the Savior who binds up our inner wounds, and by his suffering makes us whole (Isa. 53:5). He takes our sickness from us and carries it himself. He is the one who makes reparation for our sins on the cross, through our faith in him. God reckons our faith to us as righteousness, just as he reckoned Abraham's faith to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3). That is, God reckons us as righteous, because of Christ's reparation work on the cross, which we receive through our faith. And so we are filled with Christ's own righteousness.


Our eyes are opened, our dungeon doors are set ajar, and we are set free, released, found not guilty, acquitted, because Christ paid our debt for us and thus put us at peace with God in our heart, even in the midst of other problems. Our most basic and fundamental problem he has solved for us, namely that we are now at peace with God, at peace in our mind and heart, at peace in our conscience. Our sense of guilt has been removed from us, and Christ's own righteousness now shines within us.

 

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