by Rev. Mark Vickers
Luke 4:21-30 New International Version (NIV)
21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[a] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Have you ever been in a place where you really felt comfortable and at ease and you take advantage of the situation, not in a bad way, but in a good way? In a way that you would see people being advanced in their life? Jesus had settled in the synagogue in Nazareth. He had returned home. He was the ‘local’, so to speak, in a rather peculiar setting. He had perched himself in the synagogue and began to read the scriptures once again. This time, however, his reading of the Isaiah passage began to take a new route. As Jesus interprets this text it becomes clear that Jesus is feeling the fulfillment of the prophecy through the reigning of God’s Spirit in his life.
All well and good by Jesus, but what about those who heard what he said? Those who were “in his hearing?” The people of the synagogue! Early in the text, the people in the synagogue, according to Luke, were proud of Jesus. This was after all the local hero, the local boy, Joseph’s son. But in the same breath, Jesus suggests to the hearers that there is more to the divine picture than just this small world in Nazareth.
Jesus had the work of the Spirit permeating his speaking and the stories he echoed.
This becomes a rather subtle yet dynamic move in this scripture and in the life of Jesus. It is here that Jesus begins to preach the rejection of inclusion. You see, Jesus was reading and interpreting scripture in a way that moved beyond the local notion into what was soon to be seen as an inclusive Kingdom of God perspective. As often is the case, when we step on uncomfortable ground we risk the possibility of either offending someone or being ostracized ourselves! Here, Jesus accomplished both! He was able to make the hearers of the “word” extremely uncomfortable by suggesting that a prophet was not able to “work” in their own town, hence, Jesus was not there to impress the locals, nor was he there to perform acts of mercy or healing for those in his hometown. Then he really “stepped out” of the box by telling the story of a Gentile woman being healed. Go figure–telling the story of a Gentile woman being healed in the midst of the Jewish synagogue. Jesus is making the move from a somewhat human perspective to a very vivid divine perspective of inclusion of all people.
Jesus, here, in the midst of Luke’s gospel, becomes the radical ecumenical missionary. He steps out of the box and proclaims the radical perspective that the up and coming church is going to be an inclusive and encompassing body of believers that is beginning to “think outside the synagogue” as opposed to “outside the box!”
The result is Jesus being run out of town only to make an heroic escape.
The parallels of this text to the modern world are extremely real. How many times have we found ourselves proclaiming the truth and being “run out of town?” How many times have we attempted to be the church and been shunned by the world because we don’t coincide with earthly ways? Jesus certainly shunned the ways of synagogue thinking when he spoke of the widow who was neglected and the lepers who were not cleansed. Jesus did not hold back! He put it our there for all of them to see and to hear. He pushed them to a point of no return, he pushed them to think of what they had NOT done! Jesus moved them at this young age to think about their religious maturity so much that according to Luke, they were ready to run him out of town and push him off a cliff. Yet, he escaped untouched!! The plan was bigger than them!
So it is with us as the church! The plan is bigger than us. We as the church are called to look beyond ourselves to a world that is in need. We are called to be “religiously mature,” we are called to hear the Word of God in an inclusive way that brings the Kingdom of God to be know by everybody.
That, my friends, may require us to be uncomfortable! It may require us to be with people who are not like us, and even more, who don’t THINK like us! Just like Jesus, he was at home in the synagogue with his Jewish family and friends, but he was proclaiming to them a new way to look at the world and new way to treat people! He was proclaiming to them the bigger plan, a plan they didn’t want to hear, but a plan that was right for the world.
Let us be Christ like in this manner and proclaim the inclusive Gospel for all people!
AMEN and AMEN