Posts Tagged ‘sermon on Luke 4:21-30’

'Holkham Hall - Coach House / Stable Block - Yellow warning sign - Danger of Death' photo (c) 2011, Elliott Brown - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Here is a sermon from my 2001 archives that explores why people get angry at the ways of God.

What Happened in Nazareth?
A Sermon on Luke 4:14-30

What happened in Nazareth?  Why did the faithful worshipers of Nazareth turn on one of their own children and attempt to throw him down from a hill to smash him on the rocks?  Everything had started out so positively.  With careful attention they listened as Jesus read the words from Isaiah promising good news for the poor and the downtrodden, freedom from oppression, liberation from illness, the fulfillment of God’s promise to set things right.  Every eye in the synagogue was on Jesus, and every heart waited expectantly as he began to speak.

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  The congregation was amazed and puzzled.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they said, wonderingly.  They were enthralled.  “He’s one of ours!  He’s one of us!  This is our boy!”  With gracious speech like that, Jesus would put Nazareth on the map, in the same way that we all know about Hope, Arkansas because of Bill Clinton, its most famous son.  Jesus would draw favorable attention to this town, hemmed in on all sides with non-believers: Phoenicians and Greeks, and Romans, of course.

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Does Jesus mean this is it?  This is the year we’re finally going to get rid of the Romans?  This is the year we’re finally going to get rid of all these people who are causing so much pain and trouble?  The thought was electrifying!  The congregation murmured with approval.

What preacher wouldn’t be delighted with a response like that?  Preachers enjoy murmurs of approval.  We’re human.  But Jesus wasn’t at all pleased.  His response sounds like sass, like he’s deliberately picking a fight with the congregation.  He took three sharp jabs. The first was this: “No doubt, he said, you’re going to quote to me the proverb ‘Physician, heal yourself.’”  This was a proverb much like the thief’s jeering shout to Jesus on the cross, “Save yourself and us while you’re at it.”

“And,” Jesus went on, no doubt you’re going to say, “Do the great things here in your hometown that we heard you did in Capernaum.”  Note this: Capernaum was not a well-thought-of town.  It was crawling with non-Israelites.  Outsiders.  Jesus did great things there.  Surely they would expect him to do much greater things here in Nazareth among his own people!

And then Jesus added, “I’m telling you the truth: no prophet is acceptable to his own people.”  None.  That’s how it is for prophets.  It’s their job to tell people the truths they don’t want to hear.  Prophets got death threats, like Elijah.  They got thrown down wells, like Jeremiah.  They got thrown to the lions, like Daniel.

Why couldn’t Jesus just accept the accolades and go on?  Maybe this was part of it: the people enjoyed the message, but they didn’t take it seriously enough.  They didn’t see what serious implications and challenges it held for them.  It didn’t occur to them that good news to the poor is perceived as bad news for the rich.  The well-to-do will have to change their ways!

Indeed, that is the way of the word of God: it calls all hearers to change.  It is sharper than any two-edged sword; it cuts to the marrow.  If we haven’t heard its demands on us, then we haven’t heard it. (more…)

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