WelCom February 2019:
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year C: Luke 4:21-30
21 Then Jesus began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.’ 22 And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’ 23 But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself,” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own country.”
24 And he went on, ‘In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country. 25 ‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, 26 but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a town in Sidonia. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many suffering from virulent skin-diseases in Israel, but none of these was cured – only Naaman the Syrian.’
28 When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff, 30 but Jesus passed straight through the crowd and walked away.
Rejection at Nazareth
A reflection on Luke 4:21-30
‘Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ Jesus’ reference is last Sunday’s gospel, when He read from the scroll of Isaiah. Jesus’ words confirm He is the anointed one, not just a prophet who conveys messages for the future, but the One the Jewish people had been waiting for. Besides, this tells us He could read. Jesus’ words drew the approval of His listeners. They commended the words of salvation from His mouth, words from God. Yet while His words were impressive, His listeners did not find them convincing. In their air of disbelief, they asked ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ Jewish people had been awaiting a Messiah for centuries. They knew of His miracles, but because they occurred in Capernaum, Jesus received no credit as the Messiah. For a local boy to preach and heal in Capernaum before starting at home would have caused jealously.
They wanted a miracle-worker who would fit their own expectations of what a miracle worker should look like and what kind of person He should be. They did not want that person to appear ordinary as if He was one of them.
They listened in disbelief when Jesus said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.’ As if He understood the problem their own expectations had generated, He reminded them that ‘no prophet is ever accepted in his own country’. He also related how Elijah, in a time of famine, was not sent to any of the widows in Israel, but was sent to a Gentile widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town (see 1 Kings 17:14). Jesus also related that although there were many lepers in Israel, it was to a pagan Syrian, Naaman that Elisha was sent to cure (see 2 Kings 5:1-14).
Despite Jesus’ attempts to explain Himself to them, the listeners in the Nazareth Synagogue were not convinced and became furious even to the point of intending to kill Jesus. Luke prepares us for Jesus’ crucifixion and death to come as the people hounded Jesus from the synagogue to the top of the hill with the intention of throwing Him over the cliff. They ignored their history of an impending Messiah, preferring to see Christ as a man only and not the Messiah that had been sent to save them.
What would our reaction have been, were we at that synagogue service? Would we have been disappointed also? Would we have reacted any differently had Jesus turned up at Kaponga, and been raised the son of an ordinary farmer?
What are our expectations of the work of God? Could they be spiritually limiting? How do we expect Our Lord to appear in our lives and in our World? Do we impose our own constraints bounded by expectations of race, culture, class and time? Clearly Jesus’ works (miracles) are timeless and unbounded by location, culture, race and human expectation.
Let us not forget that God loves to do extraordinary things with ordinary people in ordinary places. May we avail our ordinary selves to His extraordinary power and open our thoughts to how Our Lord would like to do His things in 2019.
Tom Gibson is a retired dairy farmer and is a parishioner in Stratford.