He (Jesus) said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ ” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. Luke 4:23-30 NRSV
Perhaps you recognize the word-picture painted here by ‘Dr. Luke’. Having studied the intricacies of Nazareth many times in seminary, I can quickly imagine “the brow of the hill” Luke describes. When you stand on top of it, on a clear day, you feel like you can see half the world. In fact, the locals refer to it as Mt. Precipice. It’s a beautiful vista for a pilgrim-tourist, but not a great place to be “hurled” from.
In the dim misty recesses of time, I signed-up for a class on preaching with a young (by seminary standards) whipper-snapper professor who spoke fluently the languages of satire and sarcasm. He also had a way of speaking truth. He was fond of challenging us to be sure that our reading of scripture and our preaching matched the emotion of the actual texts we would read and preach about. “If the text is a fiery condemnation by the prophet, well, by golly, your proclamation better match the prophet’s intensity.”
It appears that when Jesus returned to his hometown, people struggled seeing him (hearing him) as a teacher. He was apparently pigeonholed by some as being a “wild-eyed, self-educated, wanna-be preacher” who was (in their estimation) no more than a stone mason/carpenter of a stone mason/carpenter. He sensed their derision. “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” As it played out, it seems it wasn’t so much Jesus’ reading of the scripture that got Him in trouble that day; it was his application.
In his sermon, “Just Tell the Truth”, Richard Lischer invites us to consider this piece of our own American history.
“It’s not often acknowledged that late in his career, Martin Luther King took a sabbatical from talking about brotherhood. Instead, he started preaching about racism, a word he rarely used in his younger days. Then, he came out against the war in Vietnam, for which every civil rights organization, except his own, and every news outlet in America, including the New York Times, denounced him. He was left alone on the narrow ledge of testimony. Shortly before his death, they told him to quit marching. He responded by testifying, “I don’t march because I like it; I march, because I must; and, because I’m a man; and, because I’m a child of God.”
‘Dr Luke’ says that the synagogue mob didn’t have their way with the preacher that day. “They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”
He “went on his way.” Thus, this begs the question: On whose way are we going? In other words, as someone asked me just a couple of years ago: “Eric, are you taking Jesus with you where you want to go…. Or, is Jesus taking you with Him where he is going?” Selah!
Blessings & Peace,