By Rev. Heather Blais, Rector
I find today’s gospel reading fascinating. Here you have Jesus, a man who spent almost all of his life in Nazareth. The son of a simple carpenter. The only thing that made him unusual was that he could actually read, unlike most of the villagers. After he gets up in the synagogue and reads an Isaiah scroll that references the coming Messiah, he sits down and says, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place” (Luke 4:21). A fairly surprising claim, considering Jesus didn’t look or act the part of a political messiah.
After all, this was just Joseph’s son...the same man they who had once known as a toddler running around naked outside, a boy that got into trouble with his friends, a young man who learned his father’s trade. And yet...this man...this was the Messiah they had all been waiting for.
While they were surprised, and even a bit shocked...they had heard the rumors coming from Capernaum. Rumors of his spirit filled teachings; whispers of miracles. Could it be? With a pinch of skepticism, and a bunch of curiosity, they began to wonder...if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, imagine...imagine all of the blessing that he would bring to their village. Imagine all of the blessing he would return to this village that had helped to raise him, forming and shaping him into the man he was today. They wanted his messianic blessing, they wanted the same signs and blessings he had given the Hebrews and Gentiles in Capernaum.
Surely the people of Nazareth would be the most favored of all, right? No. Not right at all. In fact, it was as if Jesus could read their thoughts and understand their deepest longings. He explained he would not be offering any special messianic blessing because a prophet is never accepted in their hometown. Just look at Elijah and Elisha. God performed healing miracles through them to people beyond the Hebrew community. Jesus only shared this news with the people of Nazareth to let them know he was the long awaited Messiah, not because he would be offering any particular blessing to them.
And the people got mad. They were rip-roaring mad. Not because Jesus was ministering to Hebrews and Gentiles in Capernaum. They were mad because they deserved at least as much blessing as the people in Capernaum, if not much more because they knew Jesus. They deserved more blessing than anyone. And when Jesus refused, they lost every ounce of perspective in their rage. They got up, and drove him to the edge of town. The text says they drove him to a cliff, ready to hurl him off. However, since Nazareth was not built on a cliff, Luke is probably trying to illustrate just how angry they were. They were ready to kill him. And yet, Jesus manages to pass through and continue on to Capernaum.
I find the people of Nazareth’s rage captivating. They were so enraged they were ready to kill Jesus by throwing him off of a cliff. Again, this is the same man they had once known as a toddler running around naked, a boy getting into trouble with his friends, a young man who learned his father’s trade. They were ready to kill their neighbor, their friend’s son. All because he was offering something to others, that they felt rightly belonged to them first and foremost.
In their burning desire for a blessing from the Messiah, they lose sight of God. They lose sight of God’s vision to bring justice and mercy for all of God’s Kingdom, not just the Hebrew people of Nazareth. Their hearts fills with a violent, righteous anger. The kind of anger that boils over until it takes over every single ounce of your being.
It sounds ludicrous that we could ever behave this way, and yet we do.We all do at one time or another. Sometimes we believe we are more worthy of something--whether it be a loved ones affection or attention, a promotion, an inheritance. And when we don’t get what we feel we rightly deserve, the rage within us causes us to lose all perspective and our thoughts can become just as evil as the people of Nazareth’s when they were ready to hurl Jesus off a cliff.
Because in our rage, we lose sight of God’s vision. We forget that God's vision includes an economy much different than our own. Our economy values fairness and hard work. God's economy values forgiveness and unconditional love.
Remember another story that Luke tells us later in his Gospel. A story of a father and two sons. One son spends his whole life obeying his father and working hard, while the other takes his inheritance early, wastes it, and leads a sad and troubled life. When the troubled son returns, his father runs to him with open arms and holds a grand celebration of his son's return. In the story, we see the other son who has worked hard all these years grows angry and bitter. He operates in humankind's economy that values hard work and fairness. Whereas his father, values God's economy of forgiveness and unconditional love. Too often we view the world like the older son, when Jesus of Nazareth is asking us to embrace God's economy and vision.
That is precisely what Jesus was trying to help the people of Nazareth begin to understand that day in the synagogue. But they weren't ready. At least not yet.
As we prepare to head back out into the world, I wonder, in your own life, are there places where humankind's economy and vision are ruling your heart and life instead of God's? What would it look like to let God's vision and economy rule instead? Amen.
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