LUKE 4:14f JESUS IN THE HOMETOWN SYNAGOGUE
Bible Background: At Jesus’ baptism, we met the ‘grown-up’ Jesus in his first ‘public’ appearance. Then the Spirit led him into the wilderness for 40 days of testing. Now, he begins his ministry near the Sea of Galilee, and teaches in the synagogue at Nazareth. Things start out well there, but finish badly!
Digging Deeper: 1. Luke reminds us again that Jesus’ regular practice is to be in the synagogue on the sabbath day. He reads from the scroll of Isaiah, chapter 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…:” Then he announces “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” What do you think Jesus means? Is HE going to accomplish all this great stuff Isaiah talks about? Or, is that congregation together-with him-capable of bringing good news to peoples’ lives?
2. At first, the audience is impressed and pleased. You can feel great anticipation in the reading! Then, Jesus says something that riles them up! And Luke doesn’t reveal why! Has some detail been left out? Did Jesus ‘pick this fight’? Or did he perceive that the people were looking forward to hogging their status as God’s “favored people?”
3. The examples from the work of the prophets Elijah/Elisha show how God has done wonderful things for outsiders. This deeply offends the audience! Last year in Lent, Pastor shared a sermon on “Offensive Grace”, as in-when God’s love flows to people whom we might dismiss as undeserving. How do we act and react, knowing that God’s mercy is wider than ours? Do we nurse our sense of being offended? Or do we allow the Spirit to bring our heart and mind closer to that of Christ?
4. The scene gets ugly: people are not just offended. They are angry enough to kill Jesus! The past year in this nation and world show again how easy it is to stir up people’s anger. Anger is not a good ingredient for building trust or respect or community-or church or democracy-for that matter! What is it that makes you angry and why? Which of Jesus’ teachings or acts could make you angry? Where is the proper place for anger in the life of a Christian? What can you do to help tone down the anger that poisons our discussions and relationships?
5. Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went on his way”. Luke shows us opposition to Jesus. Luke shows Jesus committed to his mission. Jesus goes right on to other regions, to teach and to heal, and to bring Good News to all sorts of people! How can we as the body of Christ, stay focused on our mission?