The Place Where It Is Written

June 25, 2023

The Place Where It Is Written

Passage: Gospel of Luke 4:14-24
Service Type:

This scene from the life of Jesus our Lord is very familiar to us, isn’t it?.

First, we have read this story many times and we know the narrative: Jesus begins his public ministry by going to his home synagogue. They handed him the Torah scroll; he unwinds it and finds the Prophecy of Isaiah; he reads it while standing and speaks about it while sitting. It was what happened every Sabbath day in the Jewish synagogue, then and now.

Second, we have repeated this scene many times in our own places of worship. We gather in a sanctuary; we pray and sing and exchange the right hand of Christian fellowship. Then somebody takes the Holy Scripture, opens it to a particular text, and reads it. Most of the time there is somebody to explain what is read and encourage us to live in accordance with what is read.

This simple ritual—opening the Bible and reading the Bible—is among the most basic things we do when we gather as Christians. If somebody asks you, “What do you do down there at that church?” you say to them, we read the Bible.

We read the stories and the prayers. We read the laws and the commands. We read the blessings and the warnings. We read about the creation of the world and the redemption of all things. We read about Abraham and Sarah, and Moses, and Ruth, and David, and Esther. We read the prophetic words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve. We read of the birth of Jesus the son of man, the life and ministry of Jesus the Lord, the death and resurrection of Jesus our savior.

We read the Bible. We are a Bible-reading people. When there is no music, no sermon, and no meal, there is a Bible and we read it. The first practice of Christian people is this: bible-reading. There are eight other practices of gospel people, but today we start with this one. Bible-reading is where we begin as gospel people. It says of Jesus, he took the Torah and found the place where it is written.


Jesus took a scroll, the story reads.

This opens for us the history of how the Word is written. Writing began on hard surfaces, like stones and pottery. The next stage of writing was the use of skins of animals: cut, dried, and stretched. Later, papyrus was cut, dried, and used to create a writing surface. They were stitched into one long scroll and wound around a wooded pole, like we do a roll of paper towels today. This is the sort of document that was handed to Jesus that day in Nazareth. The text says, Jesus unrolled it and found the place where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

Later, aides cut the papyrus into sheets and scribes wrote in ink upon these sheets. This is the sort of material that Paul used as he wrote or dictated his letters. Short letters would use one papyrus sheet; longer letters like Paul’s used multiple sheets. None of these original letters of Paul are known to have survived. But even in his day, believers all over the Mediterranean world did what Jesus did, they found the place where it is written.

A major revolution came with the creation of what is called the codex. These papyrus sheets were stacked page upon page, and stitched together, like we do the modern book. This was much easier to handle, but still they were cumbersome and rare. Soon after Paul’s untimely death, scribes created collections of Paul’s letters, stitched together these sheets, a collection of Christian writings.

Of course, most people could neither read nor write; neither did individuals own personal copies of these codices. Synagogues and churches might own a codex. Scribes copied these documents by hand: line by line, page by page, codex by codex. Those who could read were called upon to do so when the Christian gathered for fellowship and worship. They did exactly what Jesus did, they found the place where it is written.

The transformation of reading occurred 1500 years later. Guttenberg of Germany invented the printing press. Suddenly, the production of books was possible, and book printing boomed. Bibles were everywhere. Educated people—those who could read and/or write could own and use a book, a Bible. In addition to this technological breakthrough, scholars began translating the Bible into the language of the people. It had been written in Hebrew and Greek. Later it was translated into the universal language of the day, Latin. But during the Renaissance, these documents of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin were translated into the language of the people: German, Italian, English, and French.

These twin developments—the printing press and the translation into the vernacular—brought the Book, the written Word, into the homes, stables, and shops of people everywhere. William Tyndale was one of the earlier translators. He is reputed to have said to some medieval priest, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.” For centuries now, those boys behind the plough, in the theater, around the house did exactly what Jesus did, they found the place where it is written.


Here we are many years later, in this sanctuary, with a public illustration of the modern history of the Bible.

First, there is the large pulpit Bible. These Bibles represent the day when not everyone had a personal Bible, but every church had a public Bible. This one was given to this church by Dr. Herb Sierk in honor of his late, dear wife Carolyn. Next to it is my person copy of the Bible. It is one of more than 40 copies of all or some of the Bible. The lead picture in the church newsletter this week was one I took by stacking up some of the Bibles on the shelves in my rented house in Travelers Rest, South Carolina.

This Bible which I hold in my hand I bought with my own money as a teenager. It is the King James Version, which I rarely use any more. In the flyleaf of the Bible is the quote I wrote as a teenager, “Tis the set of the sail and not the gale that determines the way we go.” It gripped me then, and I find it true still today.

In my hand is my iPhone. On my iPhone are several copies of the Bible—the entire Bible. This is what I read from and search in and consult with daily.

From any of these Bibles we read when we gather as believers. We do exactly what Jesus did, we find the place where it is written.

In some churches, everybody brings their own Bible to worship. Some churches have a procession to begin the worship, carrying in the Bible. Other churches call the people to raise their Bible and recite a liturgical piece, extolling the Bible as a source of inspiration and guidance.

And in some churches, when the preacher stands to read the sermon text, all the people stand. This is a way of giving honor to whom honor is due; we honor God who inspired the writing, the preserving, the understanding, and the preaching of the Bible. All these rituals honor the Bible as a central element in the worship of God and the formation of God’s people.  Like Jesus of old, when we come together, it is said of us, “They found the place where it is written.”


What is it that we find when we open the Bible?

We find a big slice of life. Every rough and tumble thing you encounter in your life, you will find in the Bible. Temptation? It’s there. Violence? It’s there. Failure? It’s there. Not just the bad stuff, either: when you open your Bible you will find romance, you will find miracle, you will find friendship. From cover to cover, you will find stories of mercy and poems of shame; you will find proverbs full of wisdom and prophecies of hope; you will discover sermons full of gospel and parables full of grace.

When you open the Bible, you will find the place where it is written, “In the beginning, God created all the heavens and every square inch of the earth.” When you open the Bible, you will find where it is written, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures. The Lord leads me besides quiet waters. The Lord refreshes my soul.” When you open the Bible, you will find the place where it is written, “For God so loved the world, that God gave the only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life.”

When you open the Bible, you will find the place where it tells the story of Jesus. You will find the place that describes the manger where Jesus was born. You will find the narrative describing how Jesus went down to the Jordan River and was baptized by John the prophet. You will find page after page that describes how Jesus went about that ancient land doing good: touching the outcast, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, resisting the priests, finding in the word of God the good news of salvation, of shalom, of the renewal of all things.

When you open the Bible, you will find the place where it tells how he knelt to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, “Let this cup of suffering pass from me.” You will find where it describes the soldiers who came to arrest him and he told his disciples, “Put away your swords.” You will find where it reminds you that Jesus hung on the cross for you and suffered for you and died for you, saying, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”


They handed to Jesus the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  The text says this, “Jesus found the place where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to anoint me to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoner, sight to the blind, and liberty for the oppressed.”  What a wonderful way to open the Bible.

Jesus could have opened to other places in the Bible.

He could have opened to the place where it says God commanded the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan; but he did not. Jesus could have opened to the text where the psalmist calls down judgment on those who oppose God; but he did not. Jesus could have opened to the letters where Paul commanded the women to be silent in the church; but he did not.  There are lots of places where Jesus did not open the Bible. There are many texts that Jesus chose not to read. There are stories in which Jesus found no word of inspiration or salvation. Thank God.

It makes a difference what you read. Jesus chose these fifty words from the eighth century prophet of God, these words that made him sing for joy and live with hope, these words of salvation and redemption.

It is not what you say about the Bible that matters, it is what you emphasize in the Bible. It is not what you theorize about Holy Scripture, but what you turn to when you open the book. It is not the doctrines of infallibility or inerrancy or even authority, but the simple rule of Jesus: he found the place where it is written, The spirit is here. Grace is here. Mercy is here. Salvation is here. Jesus is here.

When we gather as Bible-reading followers of Jesus, we also hand to each other the Book. We open it, we scroll down until we find these words of joy and hope, “The spirit of the living God is upon us, within is, among us, around us, and through us. Like Jesus, we proclaim good news, freedom, and recovery from all that holds us down and pulls us back.

We find the place where it says to us, “This is the year of the Lord’s favor.”



Go to Top