“Isn’t this JOSEPH’S son?”
Jesus has come home to Nazareth for the high holy days. He went to the synagogue, as was his custom. Only this time, it’s different. Because Jesus is different having been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit after his recent visit to the desert and encounter with Satan.
All eyes were on him. It was a big day – Yom Kippur perhaps. The leaders of the synagogue handed Jesus the scroll of Isaiah. Were their hopes rising with every turn of the scroll, when he went nearly to the end? Jesus picks up the yad and begins to read the familiar text.
And Jesus reads, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me… anointed to bring good news to the poor…release the captives…sight to the blind…oppressed go free…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. He rolls up the scroll and gives it to the attendant and sits down.
He says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.”
Jesus could hear them murmuring, “Is this not Joseph’s son????”
Jesus begins to explain, using two incidents from the lives of the most important prophets to date, right behind Moses – that of Elijah and his protégé, Elisha. Stories that he knew they would know.
There were many Israelite widows in the land who were poor and starving during the 3 ½ year drought. But Elijah came to the widow of Zarephath in Sidon – a Gentile widow.
Wait a minute, Jesus are you saying that #gentilelivesmatter?
And their anger kindles.
And then the story about Elisha and Naaman the Syrian – there were many sick Israelite lepers who received no miraculous cure but this pagan did.
Wait a minute, Jesus, are you saying that #paganlivesmatter?
And their anger begins to burn.
Syria and Sidon oppressed the Jews greatly through conquest and brutal persecution.
These people were not nationalists. They just expected special treatment. They were God’s people after all. What the good people of Nazareth heard were Jesus’ gracious words of comfort being applied to the enemy.
If you are having a hard time understanding all this think about anyone who has harmed you on purpose and with a smile on their face.
Jesus expanded the circle. Are you serious? Do you really mean #enemieslivesmatter?
The burning anger turned into an inferno of rage, pushing out the good news, the fulfillment of scripture that had just graced their ears.
They are forgetting what a prophet does. Prophets speak words of truth that no one wants to hear.
That’s why their lives are always in danger. That’s why Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptizer, lost his head at the hands of Herod; telling truth that no one wants to hear.
What was the truth the Nazoreans didn’t want to hear? What are truths that we don’t want to hear? What are those truths that cause our anger to erupt in violence?
And how do we treat those truth-tellers? Lash out? Like Herod, cut their heads off – figuratively — with bullying, yelling, making a scene?
What made those first century listeners so angry? What makes us 21st century listener so angry?
By invoking the mortal enemy’s names Jesus expands the circle of the family of God.
And says all means all.
The people of Nazareth assumed that God was NOT for the Gentiles and pagans that surrounded them and mingled with them.
Jesus issues the invitation to them and to us: “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And then he challenged them to do it. He challenges us to do it. For everyone.
Jesus was rocking not only their world but the entire world. Life is never going to be the same again BECAUSE of all that is described – poor receive good news, blind receive sight, oppressed experience relief and the captives are freed.
Jesus didn’t show up in Nazareth to perform miracles but to challenge them to change their way of thinking about the world, to show them that Jesus wasn’t just for them but for everyone one. When Jesus says all means all, he means it. He really means it.
Jesus invites us on the journey and says, ”Come rock this world with me.”
Change the world. Change.
The last thing we ever want to do is change. We humans like our homeostasis. Change?
Me? No way! Us? Forget it.
And our world rocks.
We take our crushed dreams, our destroyed hopes, and fears for the future and ball them all up together.
In our rage, if we try to hurl them off a cliff with all our might so that things just might get back to normal in our lives.
What does Jesus do? He turns around and pushes right through their anger and rage.
Jesus pushes through our anger, and rage, and all the barricades we have thrown up to protect ourselves – barricades of “us and them” and then Jesus gets into our safe space.
Jesus challenges us to face the truth about ourselves and then shows us God’s grace, mercy and love. And we hear the real truth that God knows everything about us and loves us anyway.
Jesus took on the challenge to change the world through his life: taking on human skin, sharing our experiences, sharing the truth about this amazing loving God and showing just how passionate this God is for all his people.
Jesus took the challenge to change world through his death: We are so important that death on a cross wasn’t too large a price to pay for our NOT accepting the truth, not wanting to change.
Jesus took on the challenge to change the world through his resurrection: conquering that which scares us the most –death – and brings words of forgiveness, grace and love for EVERYONE and that he is relentless in that pursuit.
The light from the star that showed the way to the baby Jesus shines on all of us, illuminating and revealing that this is the year of the Lord’s favor, this is God’s love revealed. This is Epiphany!