When the Bible Gets Jesus in Trouble!

(I put on a shawl to get into character)

I was there that day. That day in the synagogue when Jesus came to preach for the first time. Oh my, we were so excited and proud! Mary and Joseph’s son! The gathered community was eager to hear what he might have to tell us. The men were all puffed up with self-satisfaction, unable to hide their pride. We women were a bit less obvious about it, but no less proud. After all, there had never been someone like him come out of Nazareth! I think we all wanted to bask in his reflected glory a bit. Even the children could tell that there was something special happening.

We had heard that he had been preaching, teaching and healing after he had been baptized by John. You remember that story right? Jesus came to John the Baptist at the Jordan River and after being baptized by John, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

We also heard that the Holy Spirit drove him into the wilderness, being tested and tempted for 40 days. That always confused me… first the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove and then she drives him into the wilderness! It was said that he experienced several temptations in the wilderness — to turn a stone into bread, to worship Satan in exchange for the glory of the kingdoms of the world, and to demonstrate his specialness by throwing himself from the top of the Temple. (Adapted from Teri Peterson)

And here he was, about to stand up and read from our Bible and preach to us! It’s written in your Bible too! Listen to what Luke had to say about it!

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

We were ALL amazed at first! He spoke so well. Isaiah’s words never sounded so stirring and persuasive.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Yes!

We were poor! We need Good News!

We were captive! Release us!

We were oppressed! Free us!

Yes, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

If only he had stopped there!

But no, he had to continue.

He reminded us that God brought healing and wholeness to those we generally believed were outside our circle. Not just gentiles, but other Jewish people. Jewish people who did not obey the purity laws quite as well as we did.Jewish people who were not as fiercely opposed to Rome as we were. And of course, our enemies, healing Naaman, the Syrian! The very air changed in the room. Suddenly instead of being full of pride and affirmation, it was full of hate and condemnation. There were murmurs… and then shouts… and then shoves… and Jesus was manhandled to the edge of the cliff. How swiftly the acclamation turned to rage.

I don’t know how he got away, but he did and we continued to hear stories of him preaching, teaching and healing. I never heard Jesus preach again. And never again did I hear Isaiah’s words in quite the same way. I would never have the audacity to speak those words as my own!

But I’ve often wondered, what if instead of hearing Isaiah or Jesus say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… we would say together, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us… I never had the nerve to ask my community that… I wonder if your minister does.

Good-bye my friends…

(I took off my shawl at this point)

You heard her! Are we bold enough to say that God’s spirit is upon us?

If we are, repeat after me! And I know you are masked, but the people at home want to be able to hear you!

God’s Spirit is upon us.

We are to bring good news to the poor…

God’s Spirit is upon us.

We are sent to proclaim liberty to the captives…

God’s Spirit is upon us.

We are sent to proclaim the recovery of sight to the blind…

God’s Spirit is upon us.

We are sent to free the oppressed.

God’s Spirit is upon us!

Thanks be to God, amen!

Luke 4: 14-30
January 17, 2021 – SMUC

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