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Times of Visitation

Petri Hotari | The Voice of Zion August 2017 --

And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way.—Luke 4:23–30

Listeners Question

This text is from the time when God’s Son had begun His public ministry. Jesus had come to His home town of Nazareth and stood up to read and preach on the Sabbath day. We recall His words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18).

A precious time of visitation had approached the listeners. They wondered at Jesus’ gracious words, but they questioned, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22). God’s Word says that they rejected Jesus: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). John then relates of the blessing for those who receive God’s call: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (1:12).

God Comes Close

A time of visitation is a time when God comes especially close. God calls people through the preaching of the gospel, proclaimed through the power of the Spirit and from His kingdom. Both the time of visitation and man’s repentance are God’s work from beginning to end. In our text, Jesus spoke of two examples from the time of the prophets and how during those times only a select few found the saving faith.

One example is when the widow of Zarephath was visited by the prophet Elijah during a time of drought and famine (1 King 17). The other is when Naaman the Syrian was healed of his leprosy (2 King 5). Both the widow and Naaman were unable to believe with their own strength, but God helped them. Despite weaknesses and doubts they were obedient to God’s instruction. Today, too, God approaches and personally calls those who seek Him to His kingdom. Those who heed His call are given power to believe.

Our text relates how Jesus himself was speaking to those of Nazareth. His two examples illustrate the fact that “many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Rather than being pricked in their hearts, the listeners were filled with wrath, and they cast away Jesus and their precious time of visitation.

It is not easy for man to accept that only a few are chosen. Jesus’ words are always timely: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17).

A Fleeting Time

Luther described the time of visitation as a passing rain shower that does not return to where it has been. He exhorted those in his time to buy while the markets are open, to gather while the sun is shining, and to use God’s grace and Word while it is here. He reminded that living faith was once with the Jews, how Paul brought it to Greece, but how what’s lost is lost. Luther reminded the German believers to take hold and hang tightly to God’s grace while they are able (Letter to the Town-Councilmen, Volume 10, 464).

Luther’s description reminds of the time of work after Jesus had ascended to heaven. The disciples were given the duty to continue the work of preaching. Peter and John went to the Temple, and a lame man asked them for alms. “Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). When the markets of grace are open, the prophet’s words are true: “Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1).

The time of visitation is a fleeting time, and a time when the free gift of faith is offered. What is needed is empty hands and a contrite heart that desires to believe and trust in God and believe in His Son who purchased us from sin with His innocent shed blood. From God’s kingdom the message of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name is preached. “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts” (Heb. 3:7,8). Heed to the grace call which offers eternal treasure in heaven.

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