Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Stunning Rejection!



ON THE Third Sunday of Epiphany, we read from the Gospel According to Saint Luke. The text relates a segment of the ministry of our Lord, as he returned to his home town. The results of his efforts stun us so that we recoil in hearing…


And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caperna-um, do here also in your own country.’”  And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine 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.”
 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away. (Luke 4:14-30)

Echoed Sin…
Our gospel writer, like his counterpart in Matthew, worked late in the first century to include an account of Jesus’ ministry that had been recorded by an earlier gospel. The account informed early Christians about the treatment our Lord had received when he proclaimed his Messianic presence to his own people, in his own home town. Because of this sharing amongst the gospels concerning the event, I ask you to examine that which had been earlier written by me concerning this lesson in Mark (written c.65-68A.D.)…

The scene described shows that because Jesus had returned to his home, where he was raised… he could do little proclamation and healing there. Familiarity spawned contempt. He struck out and his ability to do wondrous deeds was thwarted because faith in his Messianic role was sparse. Very little in miraculous ministry was manifested.
 We must note here (also) that Mark described our Lord as the “son of Mary”, and not as “son of Joseph”. Mark deliberately portrayed Jesus as the human man, born of Mary. Indeed, this scene endorsed his identity as the “Son of Man”, and we see proof of his earthly family heritage. I believe this emphasis to be planned in the gospel writing. You see, in the time of taking pen to scroll, the text cast away heretical thoughts. There had been speculation offered in the writer’s day that Jesus was simply a god who came down from heaven just to mess with people… only to go back up into the cloudy realms after the fun was over. Contrary to that fantasy, Mark thus stated that Jesus was fully human.”


Unrealized Truth…
Here from the quill of Luke we find an expansion of the conversation found in Mark. Not only as in Mark is there rejection of Jesus as the “Son of Man”, but Luke tells that a detailed argument and threat ensued. In Luke, animosity reigned. The argument got louder and more violent. Not only most persons listening in the synagogue rejected the claim… they became violently minded in protest. In reaction, many in the synagogue congregation intended to harm him.
 The offense they perceived was that Jesus had announced that prophetic scripture had been fulfilled by his presence there. They realized he had made claim to being the Messiah, the Deliverer or Christ of God, and they did not believe him. They rejected our Lord even as a human deliverer, and most certainly also spurned him later at the cross as the “Son of God.”

Then and Now!
The text given to the gospel of Luke, therefore, tells us about who we are as sinful, but often religious people. We too often become religiously invested in the familiar… too invested. Routine comforts sedate us within the confines of synagogue, church or home. While we expect that God will come and be with us, we want the occasion to be on our terms… at a time when we are ready. When God is present with us, however, we often reject the idea that God is God, and God will do what God wills to do. When God’s arrival upsets the nature of the most familiar and settled, out of reaction we get upset… and we react. Like spoiled children, we want salvation to be earned our way. Often our reaction spews forth vehemently and violently. The middle ground of thought disappears and demons reign.
 Such was the environment in the nation of Israel when Jesus was crucified by the people. And such was the demonic spirit present in the early church so to deceive during the late first century as God, through his Beloved Son and Holy Spirit, worked against sin, to reveal to us a realized time. God had revealed through Luke that Jesus is God and was amongst his people. This message was welcomed by those whose faith was in God through the Holy Spirit, and not smothered in the habits and traditions of men... forming a people who were stiffly rejecting their own sinfulness and touting their own chosenness.
 So it was in the time of Luke’s ministry in Asia Minor, and so it is now. As the Word of God, who is God as revealed in our midst… is rightly preached among the people around us… we must realize that a violent reaction is surely possible. As the sinful in the church, which stands as now redeemed only through Christ, proclaims salvation through Jesus... we need realize that rejection even to the point of violence may occur.
 As this happens, we need remember that violence met Jesus, who was without sin. How much more so will we the redeemed sinful be rejected?. Violence surely met the church in Luke’s day and the world yet reacts the same way in modern society. We in the church seem the most surprised when the rejection often begins at home. The hurt of the demonic working even in our homes and family seems to hurt the more.
 The calling of the church, however, is to do as blessed Luke did in accomplishing the complete witness of God’s grace. Historically he is promoted as the source not only of this gospel writing, but also the author of the “Acts of the Apostles”. Luke demonstrated what it means to be a Christian. Luke witnesses continually to continued and realized grace. Such is the walk of faith, following Jesus in the same way that he did as our Lord passed through the crowds so long ago… all the while remembering that like our Savior… we too are on the way to the cross.


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