And he (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and 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 proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (see Isaiah 61)
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:16-30 (ESV)
There is a saying that no prophet is taken seriously in his hometown. When Jesus went back to Nazareth, all that people there could see was, “Hey, this is Jesus- the carpenter’s son!” They couldn’t see beyond that guy they know.
The people of Nazareth had heard of all the signs and wonders Jesus worked in Capernaum and figured that He would do the same things for them. But Jesus gave them a reality check.
Not everyone Jesus encountered when He walked on earth in a physical body was healed of their diseases. Some were, but Jesus’ healings here on earth were temporary, and meant to point us to the healing we have with Him when we cross over into eternal life.
We wonder why some widows are fed while others starve. We wonder why some people get well while others get worse and succumb to illnesses. We don’t have good answers for who eats, who starves, who gets ill and dies or who gets ill and recovers. We can serve as the hands and heart of Jesus, but even as we serve, Jesus reminds us: For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. Mark 14:17 (ESV) When Jesus says “you will not always have me,” he is referring to having Him physically walking with the disciples here on earth. There will always be poor people, no matter how we work to mitigate their suffering.
We get angry with Jesus when we learn that he is not Santa Claus or the Bread King or the Miracle Healer. We get into the age old arguments with Him, especially when we receive a tragic diagnosis, or lose a loved one in an untimely death. It’s. Not. Fair.- we rail and scream. There is no shame in mourning the loss of health or wealth or stability, or of our loved ones, but all of those things are part of the human condition- the human condition that Jesus entered into with us.
The part that we forget is that as long as we live here on earth we are subject to the curse of the Fall. We inherited the consequences of the Fall- the broken creation, our dying and decaying physical bodies, the sorrows of disappointment and loss. Even Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead, ended up dying again eventually. The feeding and the healing that Jesus did here on earth were temporary and meant to show us that there was far more to the feeding and healing that Jesus gives us freely and always.
Our physical bodies will decay and will die, unless Jesus comes back to earth first. Our salvation hope in Him is that we will be raised at the last day and that we will be restored to life with Him in bodies that do not die or decay.
The people of Nazareth got angry with Jesus and wanted to toss Him over a cliff when they discovered He wasn’t the Miracle Worker, Santa Claus or the Bread King. It’s easy to reject Jesus when He doesn’t meet our expectations. Yet in faith we need to learn – and sometimes we really don’t like the lessons in the school of hard knocks- that God is God, His will is done, was done and is going to be done, whether we agree with it or not.
There is good news in this. Even though we do not understand. Even though we hurt. Even though (admit it) we might want to throw Jesus and the whole suffering struggle of this life over the cliff at times, we are still baptized and put to death with Christ. He is not going to let go of us.
Like Simon of Cyrene, we might have a cross beam thrust on our back when we never expected it. Unlike Simon, we have had fair warning, and more importantly we have a Savior who never leaves us, never forsakes us, and is with us in, through and with us no matter how bitter or painful our suffering is. There is no valley of shadow that we walk through alone.
C.S. Lewis once said that a believer in Jesus must come to the conclusion that “It’s Christ or nothing.” The apostle Peter got it (even though at times he didn’t get it) when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (See John 6:50-69)
Lord, give us the grace to see that You are the Christ and that apart from You we are nothing and there is nothing. Lord, give us the faith that clings to You when the answer is no, and when we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Lord, help us see You as the one who brings liberty to the captives, who is the good news to the poor, the one who brings freedom to the oppressed.