Isaiah 61:1-2 (NIV)
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
Jesus stood in front of those gathered together in the synagogue of His home town and read these words…then, glancing at everyone in the room who were listening he rolled the scroll back up, it was placed in its customary resting place, and he took a seat to teach on the reading. You can almost imagine the crowd gathered there in the synagogue waiting for this fellow resident of Nazareth to speak. What would He say, he’s just a stone cutter’s son, and how much scriptural understanding does He really have? In the back of the sanctuary a person coughed, all eyes trained on Jesus, hanging on expectantly for what He would say.
Then it happens, with scriptural intent Jesus, now seated, looks directly into the faces of the people and fellow teachers and declares; “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And then He lays it out there in his teaching. He tells them, without flinching or hesitation that every prophet is rejected in their home towns and proceeds to give examples of this through Elijah and Elisha. His meaning strikes the congregation like an audible slap in the face. Since the people of Israel rejected their prophets and continued in their ignorance the prophets went to the gentiles instead.
A fellow Jew takes a step forward and yells in outrage “What are you saying?” “How dare You!” another screams, the color of anger red rising in his face. “Blasphemy” another calls out and is repeated like an echo in a cave throughout the room. The once docile crowd seemingly awakens from its sermoned stupor and like a crashing wave onto jagged rocks at high tide convenes on the cause of their anger – Jesus. And with murderous intent glinting in their eyes, they grab Jesus roughly by His cloak. The roar of anger reverberates off of the columns and ceiling as the crowds of neighbors, townsmen, and even those who had worked with Joseph and his sons including Jesus…they knew Him, and yet they knew nothing. Anger now brimming over like lava from a volcano, the hometown crowd hauls Jesus out with cries of blasphemy and curses. Their intent is to end the guilt and conviction they feel by ending Jesus’ life. But as they approach a nearby cliff, something remarkable happens. Perhaps it’s an unrecorded miracle because no water is turned into wine, nor is someone healed from a sickness, but it’s a miracle nonetheless. The murderous rioters or would be church goers who were intent on killing Jesus aren’t permitted to do the deed! It’s not time yet for Him to die, and this isn’t the place for His ultimate sacrifice.
Instead of falling to His death, Jesus walks through the crowd. Nothing more is said of this event except that He goes on His way (v30). Was Satan involved in this sudden murderous riot? Were the town folk prompted to respond this way by a spiritual battle unseen? Perhaps, but the focus still remains on Jesus here. He walks through the would be murderers from the cliff and continues on this path and mission of teaching, healing and changing lives. This act of the crowd is fulfillment of Christ’s words only moments ago “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” It wasn’t time yet for His sacrifice for the sins of the world. And so He moves on. Something to ponder here is if this event broke Christ’s heart. Were there tears in His eyes when He walked away from them, from His home? People He had known for years had just attempted to kill Him. His ‘old stomping grounds’ had become a hostile and uninviting place for Him, further reinforcing scripture that “He had nowhere to lay His head…”or call Home anymore. (Matt 8:20)
For us today, we may never face public riots for what we say for the sake of Christ. People might not be attempting to throw us from cliffs. But if we are to be followers and emulators of Christ we too must take bold stands and remain firm in them. Jesus said to His disciples and even now to us, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matt 16:24) In these words speaks of sacrifice, selflessness and purpose beyond our earthly lives. Jesus understood this measure of surrender, his purpose for being here on Earth and He gave himself completely to this task despite being rejected by the hometown crowd…how about you?
What is the measure of your surrender today?
(*My title isn’t meant to offend, please know I reverence Jesus and that of His life, and please don’t misunderstand my intent in the use of ‘Homeboy’)