Wow. Was I in a bad mood yesterday. Bad bad bad. I started the day off at work rather raw, too. But we began with a prayer meeting (and then time alone to pray for me) which led to several other awesome meetings – one with a very patient co-worker who put up with my edginess – and by the time I left, I was in a great mood.
I LOVE MY JOB AND THE PEOPLE I WORK WITH! I couldn’t always say this in past jobs, but it’s true now. One thing that binds us together is that we are all committed to taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who will hear – no matter who they are, no matter where they are from, no matter what background or lifestyle.
And it’s in part this very openness that gets Jesus run off a cliff in Luke 4.
Jesus has done a couple of fancy miracles in Capernaum, so his hometown Nazareth is eager to see him do his thing. He starts by preaching from Isaiah that:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4: 18-19
Jesus indicates that this passage is about himself, that he’s going to bring the Good News to the poor, captives, blind and oppressed in word and in deed.
Sounds pretty good, and indeed, his homies “all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” (vs. 22)
But not a few verses later, “all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.” (vs. 28-29)
What the heck happened between verses 22-28?? Well, I checked a couple of commentaries.
First, Jesus pretty much claimed to be a prophet when he said “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” (vs. 24). Then he tacitly compares himself to the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
It’s ok to do a few miracles for us, hometown boy (though you say you won’t do them here?). And we like what you say about taking care of the down and outers.
But a prophet? You claim to be a prophet? An anointed man of God? That’s a bit TOO much.
Then, Jesus continues on to really insult the crowd. He points out that the prophets Elijah and Elisha decided not to do miracles for the people of Israel, but for outcast Gentiles instead!!
Elijah fed a triple outcast: a woman, a widow and a Gentile. So this is the kind of oppressed person Jesus will minister to? Not us?
And Elisha cleans a double outcast: a leper and a Syrian. So this is the kind of sick person Jesus will minister to? Not us?
Jesus’ neighbors in Nazareth were subjects of Gentile Rome. Israel had no fond feelings towards Gentiles. Even Jonah refused to bless a bunch of Gentiles in Nineveh.
And you tell us that you will minister to Gentiles instead of US? Forget it.
Jesus reveals Himself as a prophet and then basically insults his hometown and his nation by showing how he’ll bring liberty to the TRULY poor, captive, blind and oppressed – not to them.
It was all too much.
So they tried to drive the Son of God off a cliff.
Dear Lord: I wonder how often You aren’t who I expect you to be (or want you to be). I wonder how often You don’t do what I expect you to do (or want you to do). I wonder how often I feel deep anger and resentment towards you – that I’m not aware of? Show me my expectations and help me to receive you for who you are and what you do, knowing that the Cross proves you always act with love towards those you liberate. Amen.