Jesus is back in his hometown, Nazareth. He is speaking to those gathered in the synagogue on the Sabbath, doing some reading of ancient texts and some teaching about those texts. Initially, he is warmly received and the people seem both pleased and proud that a native son that they had raised up is so well versed in reading and teaching the Bible.
It isn’t so different in some places today. Some churches keep track of their native sons and daughters who go into ministry and are proud of their record of raising up people who serve in ministry. Some even have picture walls with their sons and daughters who have gone on to be pastors. It’s a nice thing and all but if you ask me being overly proud of that leans a little too much into history and not toward the future. Raising up people who go into ministry is the future for certain but it’s the keeping track of such a thing that concerns me. It is good to look back on our history with fondness occasionally but our life of faith is actually in the future, like it or no. We can and should learn from our history but our history doesn’t define where we are going. Most of our energy should be focused on where we are going.
Which is where Jesus gets in trouble with the people in the synagogue of his hometown Nazareth. He starts off quoting the old testament prophet Isaiah. That’s always a good way to start. Who doesn’t like a little Isaiah first thing, right? Especially this text. The Lord is bringing good news to the poor, release of the captives, sight to the blind, and freeing the oppressed. That’s some good stuff right there. Who wouldn’t like that? And the hometown crowd does like it as they V22 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. Seems like everything is just peachy keen, let’s all hold hands and sing Kum By Yah then go home to dinner.
Except that Jesus drops a bombshell on them. After they offer their compliments and kind words he basically tells them, “Oh sorry, this good news isn’t for you who are not actually poor, captive, blind, or oppressed. This is for the other people. The people who really need good news. You know, people like the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. I’m not speaking of you. I’m speaking TO you.”
Then they had a fun reaction when they found out Jesus wasn’t speaking of them but instead speaking to them. They take their native son, the young man they had raised up to be this eloquent speaker and teacher, the Messiah from the hometown, and are so angry with him that they take him to a nearby cliff with the intention of throwing him off this selfsame cliff. There’s so many things wrong with that. Being petulant and angry over not getting what you wanted. Falling into following a crowd mentality, an angry crowd mentality (herd?). Wanting to kill the messenger when you hear words you don’t want to hear. Where to begin?
Have you ever known anyone you disagreed with the minute they opened their mouth? You know, a friend who is good at heart but has changed over the years and now has become kind of, um, misinformed shall we say, in their thinking? Or maybe a family member who has never been on the right side of anything but you put up with because they’re family? Perhaps it is another person in church who you can’t even imagine why they show up because they’re so ___________ ? They are the people Jesus is speaking up for today.
Kind of annoying, isn’t it?
Annoying but at the same time, one of the things I love about Bible stories and faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t need proofs about my faith but I do get a charge out of those moments, those frequent moments where you just kind of say, “Uh huh. Yep yep yep” because of the truth of what the story is saying.
I get a charge out of those moment but I also find them annoying because they are too close to reality to be really comfortable with. It’s too easy to identify being with the poor and the oppressed when we really aren’t. There are reports flying around social media and some news outlets about how the Christian church is the most persecuted group on the planet. I’m not sure I agree with that though it is certainly true there are people dying around the world because of their faith in Christ. The problem with the idea here in the US is that we begin to think that we are a persecuted people and that marginalizes and minimizes the actual sacrifice of people dying for their faith. And then we start acting like Nazareth when someone suggests we’re not actually persectuted.
Not having something we want because it violates the First Amendment of the constitution doesn’t quite rise to the level of persecution as say, having your head cut off because you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I’m just saying.
If we don’t want to sound and act like the people in Nazareth, angry because they didn’t get what they wanted from Jesus, then what do we do? I think it always comes back to the same thing. We keep the Gospel real as we Bring Christ’s Love to Life. Whatever else we think and want, that is one thing we’ll never be wrong about. Kind of like this weekend where this community of faith fed people at Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach, made quilts for Lutheran World Relief, delivered a van load of donations to Barnabas Community, and will be/is currently out delivering Meals on Wheels.
Putting it another way, don’t be like Nazareth. Be like Jesus.