You’ve heard the saying, “No prophet is welcome in his own hometown,” right? That sentiment comes from the gospels of Mark and Luke.
This week we continue our Back to Basics: Luke’s Portrait of Jesus with a startling truth. When Jesus first began his ministry, he was teaching in synagogues throughout the countryside and everything is going pretty well. Then he returns to the little village of Nazareth where he had been raised.
It all started out OK . . . On the sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue as he normally did. He stood to read, as was the custom, and the assistant handed him the scroll of Isaiah and he unrolled it and read the passage:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Then he rolled up the scroll, handed it back and sat down.
At first, everyone was on board and it was all wonderful and great. Can’t you just imagine them elbowing one another, leaning over and whispering, “Hey, isn’t that Joseph’s son?”
What they didn’t realize was that in that moment with this passage of scripture Jesus was making it clear what his mission was and what his ministry would be about.
He clarified it even more by telling a couple of old stories from the Hebrew Scriptures. Now, all he did was tell them a couple of stories right from the Bible — stories they had certainly heard many times. But, that’s when things started going downhill.
He chose two stories where the recipients of God’s favor and special grace were Gentiles. Suddenly it became clear that Jesus’ mission was to everyone. So the elders became furious and tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. They didn’t succeed, but in this picture Luke draws for us, we see the way in which Jesus was beginning to take on the established norms and turn them upside down.
This scene — and the telling of this story — is typical of Luke. He wants to portray that when Jesus shares his mission statement, he makes it clear that it applies to everybody.
So what kind of questions does this story raise for you? What would you say Jesus’ mission statement looks like now? If we are to be the body of Christ in this world, isn’t that our mission statement as Christians, too? How do we portray that mission statement — and what parts of it might provoke others in this day and time?
I look forward to exploring these questions and Luke’s imagery of Jesus with you further this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster