- Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (Luke 4:21-30)
You just heard that Jesus went home to Nazareth to visit the family. By then, he was well-known as a teacher and rabbi and healer. You would have thought that there would be a parade or a celebration that the hometown boy was back. But, that was not the case.
Jesus was speaking at the synagogue in Nazareth. He had just announced
- “This day this Scripture passage is fulfilled even as you listen”. (Luke 4:21)
The people were excited, they had waited a long time for a savior and were ready to greet the Messiah! But the excitement wouldn’t last. Jesus is too familiar. We heard:
- “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22)
Remember, Joseph was the local carpenter – not a rabbi, not someone important, not a rich man. He was just. like. them. The green eyes of jealousy or envy struck them – why didn’t Jesus come from them?
And then Jesus challenged their understanding of the Jewish law with a few examples of God’s generosity to outsiders.
How dare He!
Jesus had spent his adult life making people feel uncomfortable and question their understanding of how people should treat others. The Jewish laws were very specific about what was clean and unclean, who were to be acknowledged and who was to be avoided at all costs (think of the lepers and the Samaritans). And Jesus taught and showed by his actions that the lepers and the Samaritans and all those ‘unclean’ people were accepted and loved by God.
The people were outraged! How could the Messiah come to save EVERYONE? After all, they were God’s chosen people. . . only they had been chosen and promised to be saved in the Old Testament.
Now here was this upstart, saying that everyone would be saved. . . that He was the savior, the Messiah!
How could He!!!
I don’t often add anything personal to my homilies, but I am for this one. As a child, my mother let everyone in the world know that I was the ‘perfect’ child – I never caused any trouble, obeyed my elders and those in change, and did everything I was supposed to. She would point out to my aunts and uncles the shortcomings of their children and how they should be more like me. She even did it in the grocery store to parents of small children! You can imagine how popular I was with my younger siblings!
But, when I went away to college, got a good job paying more than my father had ever made, the tables were turned.
I thought my parents would be proud of me – I was the first one on both sides of the family to go to college, and I had a good job. I hadn’t been married four times. But, I was not going to come home, get married, raise a family and take care of my mother. I had lived in other states for about 10 years, making my reputation in the business world. So when I came back to Ohio, I thought they would be happy for my success – was I wrong! At one point, they came to where I worked and accosted me in the lobby, saying that I would ‘never amount to anything’, and if that was what I was getting paid, I was lying! And maybe they should talk to my boss and let her know what a horrible person I was.
To this day, they still are not happy for my success. Eleven years ago I left the corporate world for my true calling and am now an ordained Vocational Deacon in the Episcopal Church – I don’t even know if they know or would care.
Like my parents, the people of Nazareth were also unkind to Jesus. They almost tarred and feathered him and ran Him out of town. The scripture says
- they led Him to the top of a hill and were going to throw Him over. (Luke 4:30)
But Jesus knew who he was and what His mission was, so continued on His way. . . to be condemned, crucified and resurrected.
All for us!
So even if we are not welcome in our own town, like Jesus, we need to continue on our path and God will help us accomplish it.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, often we feel that we are unwelcome and unwanted by those who are our friends and family. Please remind us, like Jesus, we have our own paths to follow. Let us be strong enough to fulfill our destiny and remember that you are there beside us all the way.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 31 January 2016