13 January 2010

Jesus is Rejected

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, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 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. 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 lepersd 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 4:14-30

How strange it must have been for people who had played with Jesus, seen Jesus grow up, worked with Jesus, worship with Jesus at the synagogue to now hear about the things Jesus was doing. My reaction probably would have been the same as these people described in Luke 4. At first, they swell up with pride that Jesus was from their hometown [Isn't this Joseph's son?].

As usual, he goes to synagogue. But on this occasion, he goes not as a young Jewish man, but as a rabbi, a teacher. He is given a scroll of God's Word to Isaiah and reads a proclamation of what his ministry is about. He tells them he is proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour. This is good news for the poor, good news for the blind and good news for the captives and the oppressed. (Who are the poor, the blind, the captives and oppressed? This becomes clear as we follow Jesus' ministry.)

People in his hometown have heard about the miraculous events taking place through him and anticipate what Jesus will do among people he knows. They seem to respond to Jesus' proclamation that the scripture is fulfilled with "Great! Get to work Jesus. What will you do for us who are your friends?"

Then, Jesus gives an unusual response: No. Why? Because no prophet is accepted in his hometown. He tells the people he grew up with that he can't do the things he is doing in other places because they will not believe and reject his teachings. And, he gives historical reasons why this is the case.

Isn't this harsh? I mean, come on Jesus. They are looking at you with hope and this is how you meet their hope? Why does he have to be so blunt and mean and cruel? Because Jesus is Lord and because Jesus is good, then I must accept Jesus knows what he is doing even when I don't know what he is doing.

Jesus just proclaimed what his ministry is all about. His mission is too grand, too important and too short to be wasting time on people who will not accept Him as Saviour and Lord.
As it turns out, Jesus' blunt truth telling is justified in his hometown's reaction to Him. Did they respond with sorrow and reassure Jesus that they were in just as much need of Him as the other towns? Did they explain to Jesus that their will was their own and they weren't going to follow the other fools of history? No. They were filled with rage and were intent on killing him.

In school, most of us become quite adept at knowing what to say and do so that we are liked by many people. Then, that grows into a desire to be liked by the right people. Too often, we compromise many of our own principles of justice, kindness and humility just to be liked. When a person is bullied, we watch silently. When a cruel joke is told, we laugh along. We eat, smoke and drink things into our own bodies. We risk our lives and the lives of others. Why? Just to be liked.

Many of us pastors and church leaders fall into the trap of playing silly popularity games. After all, isn't the point of church to get as many people in the church as possible? Isn't the point of the church is to be popular? The problem is when our main goal is popularity, we become willing and do compromise pieces the truth of who God has created us to be, His image, in order to be liked. No, the point of church isn't to get as many people in the church as possible. She's to be a group of people who are willing together to grow up into the head, who is Christ Jesus. She is to be a group of followers of Jesus being immersed into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, encouraging one another to obey every command of Jesus.

And, often, it doesn't matter how articulate our arguments, how large our charity, or how the Spirit manifests Himself through us. Sometimes, often, the response from even our friends, the powerful and the respected to the question of do you believe that Jesus is your Saviour and Lord will be "NO!" with anger, hatred, rejection.

Father, please give me and your people your Son's strength of character.

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