Sure! There’s a local woman on the show this season! Lisa Rambo, a special education assistant at Hudson High School and the wife of Tony Rambo, the chaplain at CCH, is a contestant on this competitive reality show that encourages weight loss for healthy living. It’s much more fun to watch a national TV show when there’s someone you know or someone you COULD know on the screen. I don’t know Lisa. Yet, I’m rooting for her because she’s from here. She’s one of us. I want her to do well. We want her to do well. We want her to achiever her goals. We want her represent us positively. And, maybe, just maybe we want what she does to rub off on us. She’s going to become a hometown hero, and in a way, that can be really exciting!
The people of Nazareth knew what that kind of excitement was all about. Their boy Jesus had left not too long ago and came home a local celebrity. After his baptism in the Jordan River he had been led further into the wilderness by the Spirit of God where he was tempted for forty days. Resisting the temptations set before him by the devil and filled with the power of the Spirit he returned to civilization and began teaching in synagogues to adoring crowds throughout the region of Galilee. By the time he finally returned to Nazareth the place of his rearing, his reputation preceded him. Jesus received a hometown hero’s welcome when he returned to Nazareth after his baptism.
He went about his normal routines, but life was anything but normal. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom; he stood to read from the scroll when he was there. Presumably the congregation was on the edge of its collective seat. Actually that doesn’t work. They stood. They were on the balls of the feet, waiting, expectantly for what he had to say.
The scroll of Isaiah is given to him, and he finds the place where it is written, “T he Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed me to bring good news.” Bold words, but the people are enraptured. They are on board. Of course they are. This is one of them. This is their Jesus. He is from there. He is one of them. They want him to do well. They want him to represent them positively. And maybe, just maybe they want what he has to rub off on them. If the Spirit of the Lord is on him, then the Spirit of the Lord is on them.
Imagine them listening as he speaks:
“Good news to the poor.” Yeah, we’re poor.
“Release the captives.” Uh, sure, captives metaphorically speaking.
“Sight to the blind.” Uh huh, oh yeah, we’re…blind, sort of. We can’t see where this is going.
“The oppressed go free.” ?????
“The year of the Lord’s favor.” Right! That’s what we’re hoping for. Jesus is here. He left town nothing more than a tradesmen, but we’ve been hearing about all these things he’s doing. He’s taught in other synagogues. They’re beginning to say that he can do more than just speak well; he even heals the sick! Best of all, he’s home! He’s here to bring it all back to us. He’s going to settle back home and bless us just by being with us. They are feeling they are set! Yep, this is going to be the year of the Lord’s favor.
That is, until Jesus keeps going. The crowd has been with him up to this point. They think his words are lovely and gracious. But then Jesus keeps going. He starts to get - - almost antagonistic. They are loving on him, and he tells them that a prophet is rarely welcome in his own hometown. They’re about to find out why. First, he tells them about the prophet Elijah. Elijah was called to deliver the word of God to Ahab, but in this story he is sent in another direction, away from the people of God, to the land of Sidon. After being fed by the woman from the last food that she had, Elijah heals her sick son. A prophet of Israel heals a child outside of Israel - - not exactly a story of the hometown hero coming to bless his neighbors.
Likewise with the story of Elisha. Naaman is not just a foreigner he is actually the commander of the army of the enemy king. His hand was leperous and no prophet nor healer not physician of his own nation had been able to help him. But an Israelite girl was a servant of Naaman’s wife, and she knew of the prophet Elisha. Naaman makes his way to Elisha and against all odds, across all national boundaries, is healed by the grace of God, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God of Jesus.
Jesus came back home and immediately the people of Nazareth had ideas of what they wanted and needed from him for themselves. But Jesus came back home and immediately started telling them stories of prophets who served not the hometown crowd, but the people least expected, people not even a part of God’s covenant with Israel. This is not was Nazareth was looking for.
They had other plans for Jesus. They wanted to bend him and twist him into the exact model they were looking for. This tongue-in-cheek doll that’s for sale says it all. Poseable Jesus. That’s the kind of Jesus the hometown crowd really wanted – one who looked the carpenter’s son was supposed to look like, did the kind of things the carpenter’s son was supposed to do, but then also a hero who would hold his hands just like this, say a blessing when a button is pushed on his back just like that. They wanted a Jesus they could put on a shelf when they wanted to, but pull down for their own benefit when they needed to. They wanted a Jesus for themselves.
Poseable Jesus. That idea can hit a little too close to home. I’ve often got some pretty good ideas about how Jesus should act, too, what Jesus should do, who Jesus should love. It usually starts with me. Am I alone? I’ve often got some pretty good ideas, or at least I think they’re good, about what trouble should be tackled next, what ailment should be healed, what blessing should be bestowed, and while my grace wish list includes people and situations beyond my door, I wouldn’t say I’d be upset if Jesus decided to start with mine - - you know, to show me something’s really going on.
In the 2003 Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty, the title character, Bruce, has a similar list. A Buffalo, NY television newscaster, he’s fed up with the way his life is going. At the end of a particularly miserable day he rages against God for everything going wrong, and God decides to answer. If Bruce thinks this whole divinity thing is so easy, fine, God’s going to give him a chance to try running the world for a while. Bruce gives it a try, starting with the answering of prayers, watch these scenes to see how it goes.
Millions of prayers come in like e-mail with subjects like “Make Me Thinner,” “Friends Stop Fighting,” “Good Weather this Weekend,” “Win the Lottery,” “Let the Sabers Win.” Overwhelmed by the task, Bruce decides to do what he always wished God would do, just say “yes” to them all. He lets himself be posed by the people calling on him. Can you guess how that goes?
[Not so well] All the prayers were answered, but it still didn’t make everyone happy. Seventeen dollars in winnings is exactly what the lottery pray-er had in mind. One person’s candy jackpot is another person’s stolen property. Chaos ensues because poseable God didn’t turn out like they had hoped. Chaos ensues because the wisdom of God, real God, is substituted with the wisdom of the people.
The good news is that Jesus isn’t poseable. The good news is that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; God’s ways are not our ways. The good news is that every wish we utter, every whim we would like to chase, every reaction we have to the fear that God’s love isn’t big enough to be shared is not answered the way we want it to be. The good news is that Jesus’s welcome and Jesus’s ministry of release and freedom and healing is not restricted by our fear that we might get left out, that others might be let in, that we might be forgotten in the midst of the rest of the world’s need, that we might be changed by those who are different from us. The good news is that Jesus’s love is NOT just for the hometown fans; it’s not just for those on the inside of the faith community. It’s for the foreigner, the doubter, the soldier, the tax-collector, the widow, the orphan, the Samaritan. It’s for the sinners, and that’s all of us.
The fulfillment of this good news that Jesus proclaims here in Luke 4 unfolds over the rest of the gospel as one time after another, again and again, Jesus extends the reach of God’s grace further and further. He brings the proclamation of God’s freedom to his hometown, but he doesn’t leave it there. He won’t be contained by them; he won’t be posed by them. He won’t be contained by us; he won’t be posed by us.
Chaos ensued in Nazareth, too, as the people realized that their hometown hero wasn’t all they hoped for themselves. He made it pretty clear with stories of God’s blessing and favor on the outsiders that he didn’t intend to just be the prophet on the shelf for the sole benefit of his hometown. By declaring God’s word to Isaiah was being fulfilled in him, that he was going to preach to the poor, restore the sight of the blind, release captives and free the oppressed, he announced that he wasn’t going to keep his ministry contained among nice, polite, acceptable society. Jesus wasn’t going to be posed into some perfect little action figure for their own private use, for what they thought was best, so in a chaotic flurry, they decided to try to do something about it.
They tried to throw him off a cliff. In a rage of anger and frustration and, let’s admit it fear - -fear that they might get left out, fear that others might be let in, fear that they might be forgotten in the midst of the rest of the world’s need, fear that he might not reflect well on them, fear that his reputation, which was about to go downhill real fast, might harm theirs - - in fear and anger and rage they drove him out of town and tried to hurl him off a cliff!
Jesus won’t let it happen.It won’t be the last time that an angry mob has a plan for his demise, but the next time the story goes in a different direction. This time Jesus has somewhere else to be.This time Jesus has something else to do, and he won’t let the anger and fear of his neighbors stop him.This
is good news. Jesus has things to do and won’t let our anger or our fear stop him.Even when we’re ready to toss him over a cliff, even when we have been challenged what feels like one too many times,
even when we just don’t understand why he is doing what he is doing - - God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; God’s ways are not our ways.Jesus just passes on through.Jesus just keeps going in grace. Jesus keeps the door open for us to follow. Are we willing to go?