So here we are in the gospel of Luke—Jesus has been baptized; Jesus has gone out into the wilderness and been tempted by the devil, Jesus has started a ministry of healing and preaching; and Jesus goes back to his hometown, Nazareth, back to his home synagogue. He’s been getting quite a bit of press. Everyone is talking about him. So, when it’s time for someone to read the Scripture (what we call the Old Testament) and comment about it—why not ask the local celeb?!
Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah—where it says “the Spirit of God is upon me and has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he has told them “Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke well of him. Can’t you hear it—“That’s Joseph’s boy” “Mary did a good job with him.” “Such a nice boy.” “I always knew he would make it big.” “And here he is, back with us.” “Have you heard what he did at Capernaum!” “Yes, I heard he did incredible things—now what do you think he’s going to do here?”
I’m sure there was lots of excitement and expectation. But Jesus almost immediately pops their feel-good balloons saying “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (ie I’m not doing anything here!) And then he lifts up two very famous examples of prophets who healed people who were outsiders, foreigners, not the home team. Elijah went to the widow at Zarephath in Sidon (not Israel) and helped her and her son stay alive when there were many starving of famine in Israel. And Elisha is sent to heal Naaman the Syrian (again, not Israel) of leprosy when there were many lepers in Israel.
This makes everyone MAD. So mad, they drive Jesus out of town, up to the brow of the hill, thinking that they will hurl him off the cliff! But Jesus passes through the midst of them, and goes on his way.
What in the world are we to make of this story?
Because the bad news today is that WE are the home team. WE are the ones who populate Jesus’ “home” synagogue. WE are the ones who hear about all the things Jesus does for everyone else, and WE have expectations about what Jesus is supposed to do for US! And maybe, if we are honest about it, we have had the experience, or know someone else who has had the experience that when you don’t get your prayers answered the way you want, when something bad happens in your life, even though you’ve been good, and you’ve been coming to church, and you’ve been putting money in the offering plate, and you’ve been praying your prayers—and STILL, something bad happens, and God doesn’t fix it. Maybe some of us have gotten MAD at Jesus, and want to drive him up to Eagle Rock and push him over!
Or maybe we just decide we’re not going to come to church anymore. Or we decide we’re going to believe, but just at arm’s length—not too much money, not too much praying, not too much work for God. We’re MAD because we’re the home team, and we ought to get something for it, don’t you think?!
And I hear Jesus (later on in Luke) when people tell him “Hey, Jesus, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you”, Jesus responds “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Boy he is rough. Not even blood lines will get you special privileges with Jesus!
So what is Jesus saying? Who does get Jesus’ attention? That sends me back to the Scripture Jesus read at synagogue. The Scripture that Jesus said was fulfilled in their hearing, right then and right there. And what did that Scripture say? What was Jesus hearing that God anointed people to do?
Preach good news to the poor
Proclaim release to the captives
Recovery of sight to the blind
Let the oppressed go free
Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, JUBILEE (an ideal time where all debts were cleared, all lands that had been lost were given to their first owners, and all those in servitude were freed).
Did you notice any similarities in the Spirit’s focus? The vulnerable—the poor, the captive, the blind, oppressed, anyone in debt or in servitude, or weighed down. That is who Jesus feels called to minister to—not geography but NEED.
That is a hard thing to hear. Especially since most of us could probably come up with some need or another that we think should really put us in the running for Jesus’ healing, for Jesus’ ministry, for Jesus’ focus on US. And I know there are some here who are desperate for healing. I know there are some here who need a spirit of calm and peace to descend on their lives. I know there are some who are worried almost to death about finances or personal relationships or what is happening to our world economically, and politically, and ecologically. I know we have needs. But we can’t allow our neediness to be the ALL in All.
If we want to be close to Jesus—what did he say about mothers and brothers (and I’ll put in sisters too). “My mothers and brothers and sisters and cousins: My family is those who HEAR the Word of God and DO it.” My family is those who HEAR the Word of God and DO it.
So we can hear about God’s preference for the poor, and the captive, and the blind, and the oppressed, and the those in need of a break, but instead of trying to figure out how that gets us into the line for God’s grace, instead of getting mad if Jesus doesn’t seem to be realizing just how much we need him, instead of navel gazing—we need to hear about God’s preference and DO something about it.
And maybe, even without knowing it, THAT is why the home team, the home crowd, the hometown got so mad at Jesus. Because he was saying: I’m not here for you. He was saying: Listen to what God is saying, not just to me, but to you. The Spirit of God doesn’t just anoint one person, the Spirit of God doesn’t just fall on one person, the Spirit of God doesn’t just have a relationship with one person—Jesus. The Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing—not just because Jesus is standing in your midst. The Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, because those are marching orders for each of us.
Being on the home team of Jesus doesn’t mean we get “freebies.” It means Jesus invites us to be family—if we are willing to HEAR the Word of God and DO it. I want to believe that not everybody in that home town stayed up on that brow of the hill, mad and finding every which way to talk bad about Jesus. I want to believe that there were some who saw him going on his way--And they followed him.
Because they knew that there was preaching to be done;
because they knew that there was releasing to be done;
because they knew that there was healing for blind and lame and hurt of all kinds to be done;
because they knew that there was freedom to be achieved;
because they knew that no matter how pie-in-the-sky, how ridiculous it seems that the world could be turned upside down, that Jubilee could actually be proclaimed and practiced, that is what we are called to.
That is what we are challenged to as we hear God’s Word.
That is what it means to follow Jesus.
May the Spirit touch each of us deeply
May the Spirit allow each of us to stand tall
May the Spirit drive us out together into our world
For we want to be with Jesus.