Luke 4:16-30 (NRSV)
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, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
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. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. 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?” 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.’ “And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 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; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman, the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 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. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Jesus is in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. The young man had come home! He was surrounded by the people who had seen him grow up. Luke puts this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as his “inaugural address” – revealing who Jesus is and what his ministry will be like.
He is offered to read from the scroll and he chooses to read from the prophet Isaiah. It is a messianic passage – a passage that was the sum of their hope as a people. But as he sat down he said, “The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Jesus makes the startling claim that he is the Messiah and will bring good news to the poor, give sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free. What? This is Joseph’s son! They thought well of him until these words. Jesus tells them two events from the Old Testament involving Elijah and Elisha. He means for his Jewish friends to hear that this good news is not just for the nation of Israel but for foreigners as well. Jesus will be reaching out with healing to all people!
The hometown folks were appalled at hearing that message, they wanted God’s promises through the Messiah to be for them alone! So, they turned on him and tried to kill him. (Eventually they did.)
The takeaway from this text speaks to us today at LPC. Our ministry for the Church and our Community is not just for us as we sit in our pews but for the many people who are outside our circles of comfort. It is a message of radical inclusiveness!
Who in our Community do we fail to accept or care for? Is there anyone with whom we do not want to share the promises? People who have a different skin tone, have different customs, dress differently, are atheist, are illegal refugees, are racial Christians or come from areas of our community with which we are not familiar.
The message reminds us not to become comfortable with our understanding of who is in and who is out with God. God is always going beyond us, he is ahead of us, and waiting for us to join him in the work he is doing in our community and world.
Gracious God, may we at LPC be prepared to be brave and be the Christian Community we are called to be by Jesus’ words. Give us your light and truth for guidance; through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.