Monday, April 2, 2012

"We Are Nazareth."

When Jesus begins his ministry in Luke 4, he teaches at a synagogue in Nazareth. It's his hometown. These people watched him grow up. They're excited to see Joe's kid give the message, but they don't know what's coming.

Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then Jesus says, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." He has declared he is the Messiah. Last night, my friend Jamie pointed out how Jesus must have said all this with great authority because the people at the synagogue marveled and spoke well of what he said. There was a moment where they believed, "Maybe Joe's kid is the Messiah."

Then Jesus goes on to tell them, "'Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well."' And he said, 'Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.'"

Maybe you already understand why the people in Nazareth decided at that moment they had to kill Jesus. Maybe it makes perfect sense to you why the people went from excited amazement to furious bloodlust. If you're like me, though, you have to go back through that passage a few times to figure out what happened.

Jesus said he is the Messiah. The Jews were waiting for someone to come free them from the Roman occupation. They wanted the Messiah to put Israel back in power. They wanted all sorts of things they thought would happen the way they wanted it to happen. Jesus knew this as soon as he said it, so he explained, "It's not going to look like what you thought or happen the way you expect, and I'm going to offer the same freedom to people you hate. Here are some biblical examples to back it up."

There it was. The Messiah they wanted would never say or do the things Jesus had just said and done. In the eyes of the Nazerites, Jesus went from the greatest man ever to a blasphemer who deserved death.

It should bother us how much we're like Nazareth. I know so many people who have said, "I can't believe in a God who..." They reject God because He doesn't act the way they think He should act or say the things they find acceptable. If they don't like something said in the Bible, they either reject it or reinterpret it.

The Jews were excited for what the Messiah would do for them. Freedom, healing, cancelled debt, justice. But they wanted the Messiah on their terms, and those terms were unconditional. Are we any different? Do we want Jesus or all the things he can do for us?

If Jesus were here today, how many of us would be excited until He started talking? How many of us would maybe think about trying to kill him again?

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