Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit, and soon people across the region had heard news of Him. He would regularly go into their synagogues and teach. His teaching earned Him the respect and admiration of everyone who heard Him.
He eventually came to His hometown, Nazareth, and did there what He had done elsewhere in Galilee—entered the synagogue and stood up to read from the Hebrew Scriptures.
The synagogue attendant gave Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and Jesus unrolled it to the place where Isaiah had written these words:
The Spirit of the Lord the Eternal One is on Me.
Why? Because the Eternal designated Me
to be His representative to the poor, to preach good news to them.
He sent Me to tell those who are held captive that they [are] now set free,
and to tell the blind that they can now see.
He sent Me to liberate those held down by oppression.
In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim that now is the time;
this is the jubilee season of the Eternal One’s grace.
Jesus rolled up the scroll and returned it to the synagogue attendant. Then He sat down, as a teacher would do, and all in the synagogue focused their attention on Jesus, waiting for Him to speak. He told them that these words from the Hebrew Scriptures were being fulfilled then and there, in their hearing.
At first everyone was deeply impressed with the gracious words that poured from Jesus’ lips. Everyone spoke well of Him and was amazed that He could say these things.
Everyone: Wait. This is only the son of Joseph, right?
Jesus: You’re about to quote the old proverb to Me, “Doctor, heal yourself!” Then you’re going to ask Me to prove Myself to you by doing the same miracles I did in Capernaum. But face the truth: hometowns always reject their homegrown prophets.
Think back to the prophet Elijah. There were many needy Jewish widows in his homeland, Israel, when a terrible famine persisted there for three and a half years. Yet the only widow God sent Elijah to help was an outsider from Zarephath in Sidon.
It was the same with the prophet Elisha. There were many Jewish lepers in his homeland, but the only one he healed—Naaman—was an outsider from Syria.
The people in the synagogue became furious when He said these things. They seized Jesus, took Him to the edge of town, and pushed Him right to the edge of the cliff on which the city was built. They would have pushed Him off and killed Him, but He passed through the crowd and went on His way.
I’ve gone to number of seminars or retreats about finding G_d’s will for one’s life. But none of them ever talked about this passage. When Jesus read the passage from Isaiah 61.1-2, he was saying that this was his vocation; that this was G_d’s will for his life.
And this is G_d’s will for people who follow Jesus, too.
That is our vocation. In John’s telling of Jesus’ story, Jesus said, “In the same way the Father-Mother sent me, I am now sending you.” And the way that the Father-Mother sent Jesus was as G_d’s representative. To preach good news to the poor. To free the imprisoned. To give sight to the blind. To liberate the oppressed. To proclaim that the time had finally arrived for G_d’s Realm to come “on earth as it is in heaven.” We are called to follow this same way - The Way of Jesus.
Also notice the timing of the fulfillment of Isaiah 61, “Now is the time.” This isn’t something that takes place in the future. This took place in the past! It began with the public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and it continues on to this day through those who follow The Way.
Have you ever wondered why the people “became furious” with Jesus at what he said? It’s because Jesus insinuated that G_d rescued “an outsider” before G_d’s people. In other words, G_d sided with the “outsider.”
In the same way, when people of The Way dare to implement G_d’s Realm in spite of their religious traditions, those traditions react - and sometimes they react violently. When we dare say things like, “Look at how G_d is moving in the Muslim community,” or “We can see G_d’s hand in the midst of those seeking marriage equality,” or “G_d is there, in the hearts and lives of the Palestinian people,” people from our own traditions may “become furious.” When we dare say that G_d is actually rescuing the pagan before G_d is rescuing those in “the church,” we may find a fight on our hands. When we stand with those who are for stricter gun laws or those who oppose socialized gender constructs, our own families may be against us.
But that is what this story is telling us we must do. G_d’s Realm is not limited by our limitations. G_d’s Realm is not stopped at the border between us and Mexico. Through Jesus, G_d is rescuing all creation - not just “us” and “our” group, but “them” and “their group.” And sometimes, G_d rescues “them” before “us.”
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
* The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.