Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Shock and Awe in Jesus' Hometown

Yes:  That would have been my reaction to the event described in Luke 4: shock that people would behave this way and awe that I was in the center of such a storm.

I:  the one who avoids conflict at any cost.

I:  the one who tries to make everyone happy, basking in the approval of smiling faces and warm relationships.

I: the one who knows the truth and yet will dilute it if I see others reacting negatively.

I:  the one who would have left the synagogue long before it got this ugly.

I:  who thinks I can not only control my reaction but others' responses as well.  In other words, I believe I can control BOTH sides of an interaction and I panic when I cannot do so.

What is the basis of my response to what happened in Jesus' synagogue?  Fear.  What is the basis of Jesus and His response in His hometown synagogue?  Faith.

Miles apart, huh? What does the Word say? "Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." (1 John 4:18) 

How did Jesus operate so freely and fearlessly, especially in the face of such hostile opposition? He dwelt in the perfect love of His Father: "And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matt. 3:17) 

This fulfills what Isaiah said about the Son: "Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One, in whom My soul delights. I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations." (Is. 42:1) 

Jesus stood firm in knowing that "The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. And to your amazement, He will show Him even greater works than these.' (John 5:21)

I know what you are thinking:  Yes, of course, that is Jesus we are talking about here. But I am me.  Ugly, codependent, fearful me.  Fearful of being abandoned, rejected and subjected to ridicule and scorn.  

But so was Jesus.  He was abandoned by His disciples at His greatest time of need; He was rejected by His own people, His hometown synagogue being just the beginning of this; and He was ridiculed and scorned as He was dying in excruciating pain and suffering. 

And yet.

And yet, he never lost sight of His Father's love, even when He felt He'd been abandoned by His Father: "From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour, Jesus cried in a loud voice...'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'"  (Matt. 27:45-46)

Wait.  How could the Father abandon Jesus if He loved His Son so much?  Because, for that moment, Jesus was fully under the darkness of sin--the sky registered this dramatic moment.  Not His sin--OUR sin.  Every sin, every failure, every evil ever done.  The only thing that sustained Him from giving up hope, was knowing that despite His taking on of our sin, His Father's love held.  The Father never withdrew His love; He withdrew His presence from Jesus until the sacrifice for sin was made.  Jesus was that sacrifice, and like the scapegoat in the Old Testament drive away from the people, Jesus was driven away, as it were, but not forgotten.

So, sweet CoDeWo, how does this apply to you and me? First up, if we are in Christ, we are His son or His daughter: "So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, 'Abba, Father.'  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Rom. 8:15-17)

So, we are His child, in whom He is well pleased, for we are in Christ.  Covered, cleansed, set free, born anew, adopted, accepted, never abandoned, no sin too great for forgiveness...nothing can separate us from God's love.  

These verses are the CoDeWo's Declaration of Dependence (On God's Unchanging Promises):  

"What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:31-39)

Wow.  So when we enter our hometown synagogue, and others' hostility triggers our fear and our sense of unworthiness, go and read these verses, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom.  Sometimes this will mean, just like Jesus did, walking out the door and seeking God for the next step.

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