Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown

Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.

Jesus at this stage of his ministry, these first steps of the coming kingdom, is all about the overwhelming love of God for his people.

We love, because He first loved us. 
Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death.

But the issue that Jesus is making goes beyond the love of God.

The point Jesus is making is not just about God’s love, but also, who is able to receive it.

It is all about who is out and who is in.
Who is in the presence of God, and who isn’t.

Who does God love?

"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. 

It all starts so well with Jesus first preaching at the synagogue.
The people are amazed at his gracious words.
What they are hearing is a side of God that they have not heard before.

The passage from Isaiah that Jesus preaches on is speaking to them for the first time.
God is going to free the oppressed, release the captives, restore sight to the blind.
Jesus is speaking to them about their oppression, their captivity, their blindness.

Jesus proclaims that it is he who can do this, he is the fulfilment of this scripture.
The gracious words they hear are for them.

Or are they?

The first thing they do is try and claim Jesus for themselves.
He is a Nazarene, Joseph’s son.
They believe that his gifts should be used for them as he is their own.

Jesus picks up on this very quickly:
'Doctor, cure yourself!' 

This is like “Charity begins at home”

'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" 

It is a strange moment in his ministry.

A still moment between adoration and revulsion.

This moment is decisive in the ministry of Jesus.
It is decisive in history of Israel’s understanding of their God.
It is decisive in our understanding of God now.

Jesus has the folks onside.
They are thinking it is their time.
Their God is finally going to fix all their wrongs in their lives.

But Jesus again turns things on their head.

He turns on the people.

They are about to find out how gracious God really is.

"Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown

Jesus starts his speech with an outright contradiction of what he has been asked.

They may be happy with what he has said, and what he has said he will fulfil,
but he prophesies that he will be rejected.
It  shows the divine genius at work:

He prophesies to his own people that he will not be accepted as a prophet by his own people.

But then he drills down.
He goes deep into the history of his people, deep in to scripture.
He recalls the story of Elijah being sent to widow in Zarephath.
A woman who was a gentile, non Jewish.

He recalls the story of Elisha who cleanses the leper, Naaman, the Syrian.
A leper who is a gentile.

It is hard for us to see how this could lead the people in the synagogue into a murderous mob.
From being  amazed at his gracious words to being filled with rage.

The irony is that the words he is speaking about God at this point are even more gracious than the ones he preached on from Isaiah.
The God he speaks of now loves ALL people. Not just those of the covenant.
The people want to claim God as they own, yet Jesus is telling them that is not the way it will work at all. He will be rejected by his own, and that it is those who are outside the covenant that will be in the presence of God.

Those who are on the outside due to ethnicity are on the inside as much as those who are already in.

The people are outraged about how gracious God really is.
They are outraged at his extravagant love.

Are we sometimes like this?
Does God’s never ending love for all people trouble us?

Is it easier to have a God that only loves those who are Anglicans?
Is it easier for us to have a God who only loves those who go to Church every week?
Is it easier for us to have a God who only loves Christians?
Is it easier for us to have a God who loves only those who love him back?

Jesus expresses Gods love as reaching beyond previously held beliefs about where it went.

How do we feel about God’s ever gracious love going further than we think it goes?

Are we comfortable with God’s love going to those we think may not deserve it?
Are we comfortable with the fact that it is our duty as followers of Jesus that we are the ones to show this love to those we may feel don’t deserve it?
What would it mean for us as the body of Christ to really share God’s love everywhere we went?

When Jesus told the people in the synagogue about how far reaching God’s love really was, they wanted to kill him.

Jesus showed how far he was to take this love by offering himself freely to the cross, to lay his life down for those he loved. That is how far and gracious God’s love is.

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