Jer. 1:4-10 Psalm 71:1-6 1 Cor. 13:1-13 Luke 4:21-30
I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. (Luke 4:24, CEB)
Throughout my life I have quoted Luke 4. When my own family rejects my thoughtful wisdom, I say to myself, “Truly, Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s own home.” It is my way of calming my mind in an awkward familiar moment; “they don’t get me. But Jesus and I have been through this before. We know exactly what is going on here: people just don’t get us.” I may still feel the pinch of rejection, but I land on my feet, feeling justified and in good company.
Hence, this is one of my favorite Gospel verses. God, thank you for the opportunity to explore it. I say with a bit of snark.
Jesus was speaking aloud the prophecies of Isaiah to the gathered congregation, and at his words the prophet’s dream became real:
Release from bondage!
Sight to the blind!
Personal Liberation from oppression!
The worshippers were amazed by Jesus: Joseph’s son had such an understanding of the ancient texts, such faith in God’s goodness to us, such a gracious way of speaking!
Then, over the course of just five verses, Jesus managed to turn their admiration into anger. They’d been ooh-ing and aah-ing over this local-boy-made-good; why didn’t he just keep quiet and soak up their compliments!
But he already knew how fickle they were; before even they knew they would turn on him. He predicted: “No prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown.” Why?
Because the homefolks don’t want to hear that they don’t have exclusive rights to good news, release, sight, liberation? Because the homefolks don’t want their child–the one they invested in, the one who bears their lineage and speaks their language to become the advocate for outsiders?
Or because they didn’t want him coming home to tell them that “their” promises will be fulfilled in and for someone else?
Maybe they felt they had been baited-and-switched.
Maybe they felt so possessive of God’s promises that they’d rather the prophecies not come true for anyone, than for them to come true for everyone, including outsiders.
Maybe they simply felt betrayed by one of their own, one who should have been speaking for them (not preaching at them!).
Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion take place in Luke 22 and 23; but here, in the earliest days of his ministry, is a glimpse of what is to come. The people are not just disappointed in him or frustrated with him. With just a few words from Jesus, they have gone from proud and impressed to outrageously angry. They are so full of rage that they try to throw him off a cliff; better to break a commandment than to allow such bold betrayal of us-ness!
The promises have become real, yet in their anger the people remain unfulfilled. So much for the good news; turns out they are still poor, still captive, still oppressed. Turns out, despite the light they have seen, they are still blind.
This I have read was from the Blog ‘A Moving Yarn--stitch-making and storytelling for life’s seasons. The blogger identifies herself only as an ordained Baptist minister, mom and military wife. She posts her picture and not her name.
The statement “they are still blind” is a bit of a downer. So, I found myself pondering: “Is Luke saying We are all still blind or are They are all still blind? It makes a difference. Is this about us or them?
Wouldn’t it be fun if it was about them? We could use this Sunday, the 4th Sunday of the Epiphany to just trash those fools who rejected Jesus? We could make thrones for ourselves (the hearers of the word) for a special holiday; and for the children, pinatas and pin-the-tail on the Nazarene.
All this seemed silly until I thought deeper about the power and tragedy of hating the other for not responding to Jesus as we believe one should.
This is especially so, as looming over this story falls the shadow of the cross. This will not be the last time that Jesus takes the good news to others who are not “his own kind”. And before Easter, He will be rejected by his own yet again.
So maybe a better use of this time is to consider our own response to Jesus. Our answer to his call, and maybe for some of us, is our just as frequent rejection of the good news. How easy it is to reject the truth when one is carrying long-held biases, beliefs and opinions. We all know that our own strong positions are barriers to greater understanding. It is just so much easier to see it in others.
After the people of Nazareth drove Jesus out of the city with a purpose of throwing him off a cliff, He slipped away and never again returned to Nazareth.
Those who should have known his mission and participated in it, those who knew him best, could see no further than their own wants and their own interests. They drove him out because he not only had dared to share the good news with others, he had brought them face to face with their own narrowness and closed future.
This message may seem disturbing. But one that could not be backed away from--any more than Jeremiah could back away from boldly preaching against the sins of the people despite being aware of his own fallibilities. “But I am only a boy,” he tried to argue with ‘God. I am Not good enough! I don’t always listen! And God said to Jeremiah, “No excuses”.
Jeremiah was anointed from the womb to preach truth and God promised to be by his side to provide the words.
And so, each of us, is called in our own way…in God’s way…to speak truth boldly, whatever the consequences.
But always temped by love; not anger, not frustration, not the need to be grand or glorious. We are called to listen and hear and know with total certainty that God loves us even when our hearts and minds are closed. If we are truly motivated by the love of Christ Jesus, God will find a way to be heard and we will be willing to break down the emotional, social spiritual and intellectual walls that cause us to reject the word.
Love begets love. Love destroys walls. Only love can defeat ignorance and rejection of the word. That is what motivates us. It was God’s great compassion for those who suffered that put words in the mouths of the prophets. And equally, God’s great compassion for those who are not hearing, offers us a path to hear.
Upon you, O God, I have learned from my birth: it was you who took me from my mother’s womb…from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me. Until I proclaim Your Love to all people of every generation.
And a final thought:
Who is us?
Who is them?
With whom do I count myself?
C.S. Lewis wrote:
How monotonously alike are all the great tyrants and conquerors.
And in contrast how gloriously different are the vast number of saints.