Saturday, January 18, 2020

CoDeWo Nightmare #1: Jesus in His Hometown

Let’s go in deeper into Jesus’ life and see how He handled people. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you where you could be handling someone differently not based on what you think is right, but looking at how Jesus would do it.  Yes:  this is a WWJD? moment. 

It may sound cliché, but waiting on the Holy Spirit to give you the “how” means you won’t be jumping into a situation without thinking.  Taking a moment to to evaluate what is being asked of us is good for us.  It gives us a chance to breathe and wait on Him—listening for His voice and peace.

For our first CoDeWo Nightmare, we are going to look at Luke 4:14-30.  I want to set the stage first.  Jesus has been baptized by John and was then led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to undergo an ordeal authored by Satan.  Satan, sneering at Jesus’ new found power, wants Him to compromise it and use it for personal glory, not for the Kingdom of His Father.  Once that ordeal is over, Jesus returns to Galilee, “filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.” (Luke 4:14)

In the Jordan River, God had ordained and affirmed His beautiful Son; in the desert, Satan mocked that affirmation and sought to undermine Jesus’ ministry before it began, but to no avail.  No Jesus is on His way.  

Jesus goes all over the Galilee region, and teaches in each town’s local synagogue, and He receives “praise by everyone.” (verse 15).  His ministry starts out well.

Then He goes to His hometown, Nazareth.  Everyone He grew up with lives there.  His family still resides there.  He is that local Boy making good.  He goes to the synagogue on a particular Sabbath.  Why?  The reading of the Scriptures in synagogues then and in synagogues today are cyclic.  Each portion is read at a certain time during the year, so by the year’s end, the Scriptures have been read.  Jesus comes into His hometown synagogue on the day where a specific portion of Isaiah will be read. 

Jesus is handed the scroll containing Isaiah.  He unrolls the scroll to the day's reading, and proceeds to read:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…(Is. 61:1-2)

He rolls up the scroll, hands it back to the attendant, and sits down.  It is the custom for the reader to comment on what has been read.  Everyone is looking at Jesus intently.  Why?  They know Him.  They watched Him grow up.  They know His laughter, His moods and His ways.  They walked past his father's shop, and saw Him at work.  They saw Him pack up and walk with His father to other towns to complete jobs.  They knew Him.  Or so they thought.

Jesus proceeds to say, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (verse 21)
The congregants are pleased:  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. (verse 22)

They all knew the Scriptures.  They knew what followed Jesus’ reading: 

…and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.
For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed. (Is. 61:2-9)

To those sitting in that synagogue that day, Jesus’ words are refreshing to their souls.  They are  fervent Jews, well aware of God’s restoration of Israel after the devastation wrought by the Babylonians and the captivity that lasted seventy years.  These Jews have no trouble equating their current woeful oppression under the Romans to the words read and unread ones that follow.  

They sit beaming with the knowledge that the Messiah will restore them to their former glory:  the Chosen People of God, with their own kingdom of priests, prophets and kings.

But Jesus knows what they are thinking beyond the obvious parallel to their situation.  He knows that they want miracles—spectacles, entertainment—to distract them from their dreary day to day existence.  But Jesus will not yield to their demands.  Isn’t that what the desert was all about?  There are no shortcuts to winning hearts and minds. 

Jesus now cuts to the heart of the matter:

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.”
‘Truly I tell you,” he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 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. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.’ (verses 25-27)

OK.  Big deal.  Jesus gives commentary on these verses—something that is expected by the congregants. But wait a minute!  They erupt in fury.  They mob Him out of the synagogue.  They force Him to the edge of a hill with the rather unfriendly idea of pushing Him off, so they can stone Him.  Blasphemy—the dishonoring of God—demands no less, and this crowd is happy to oblige, for Jesus dishonored God with His words. 

As CoDeWo’s, this scene sets our teeth on edge.  Controversy.  Anger.  Raging conflict.  Really upset people.  Blame.  Shame.  Finger pointing.  Approval to disapproval so fast that even a falling star could not keep up.

What happened? 

As Jesus read the comforting words to the people in Isaiah, they applied the promises to now. God would restore them.  The Romans would receive the vengeance of the Lord, and His Chosen would reign in peace. They hunger for a miracle!  Jesus, with His track record, seems to be a likely candidate for a miracle of nation-changing proportions.  But Jesus has no intention of miraculously bringing about a Roman-free Israel.

Jesus has the gall to apply Isaiah’s words not to Israel alone, but to the Gentiles.  Can’t you just hear them…

  • Yuck.  Those people?  Those disgusting, fornicating, murdering, arrogant Romans and all others who are not the chosen of God like we are!  He's applying the words to them and us!
  • He is saying we are not the only ones upon whom God’s favor will rest!
  • Zion is us, and all the best God has to give belongs to us!  Never the Gentiles!  They never follow God’s law and we do!
  • Who is this guy?  He has calloused hands and is a villager, just like us.  Who does He think He is?
  • Yeah, He’s citing the Scriptures accurately, but so what?  We are chosen and we have plenty of verses to prove it! 

So, Jesus, at the start of His ministry is almost killed by his hometown team.  Just the yelling and mobbing would had me back-peddling faster than a clown on speed.  Yet Jesus says nothing more.  He walks through the crowd and out of town.  No apologies, hand wringing or wanting their approval.  He walks silently away.  

There is a lesson here for us CoDeWo’s.  What is it?  We will explore that in the next installment. 

Forgive me for the long times in between posts.  We just bought a new house and life just got real crazy!  I will try my best to blog more frequently.  Thank you for your understanding and for reading my blog!

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