A Disquieting Turn of Events

Luke 4:16-30

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 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?” 23 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.’ ” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 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; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 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. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”  NRSV

Jesus has passed the temptation test issued by the devil. He launches his public ministry in Galilee, preaching and performing miracles. Luke tells the story as if this early preaching and healing is occurring as Jesus is making his way home. His home synagogue, filled with the people he grew up with, gives him a warm welcome. No doubt the buzz his ministry is creating has made it to Nazareth.

Then, Jesus does an odd thing. He puts down the faithfulness of the people in his hometown. It is done in a pretty heartless way. The people react to the stinging rebuke by trying to throw Jesus off a cliff.  What a strange and disquieting story!

I don’t have an explanation for the tone and tenor of Jesus’ rebuke of the home folks. I do know the truth contained in his statement, ““Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” My home church was wonderful to me. They celebrated my journey in ministry in some wonderful ways. But, it would have been impossible to serve my home church as its pastor.

I would never be granted the spiritual authority pastoral ministry requires. I would always be “Jim and Charlotte’s son,” or that “Alexander boy” they watched grow up. A pastor needs to be seen and embraced for who she or he has become, molded by the love and Spirit of God, not as they were growing up.

That was Jesus’ point, but why he chose to be so antagonistic about it has always been a mystery to me. Thanks for welcoming me into the fold so that we can continue to grow in God together.

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