Jesus was the hometown boy of Nazareth, the rising star who was putting the small village on the map. He walked into the synagogue on the Sabbath with the people all watching with pride, their chests puffed with delight over one of their own making it to the big time. It just so happened that on that day the Old Testament reading was from the prophet Isaiah – a prophecy of grace and healing that fit the budding ministry of Jesus. Here was the hope of Israel. It was all bunnies and butterflies, until Jesus decided to say a few words to them all….
Jesus took the prophecy of Isaiah about proclaiming liberty to captives and the oppressed and applied it not to his fellow Jews who were present, but to, of all people, Gentiles! Jesus just had to open his mouth and point out that in the days of Elijah, the prophet was sent to a Gentile woman instead of Jews. What is more, Jesus let everyone know that the prophet Elisha cleansed a Gentile. The gathered synagogue worshipers understood exactly what Jesus was doing. He was claiming to be the ultimate prophet, sent for those other people. It was too much for them. All hell broke loose as the ‘worshipers’ became so angry and insolent that they drove him out of town and tried to kill him. Jesus had that kind of effect on many of his fellow Jews.
The people of Nazareth had always interpreted the message of Isaiah and the prophets as being for themselves, not others. This is a probing story for today’s Christian church. Whenever we lose sight of the Bible’s message and re-interpret it as being for only us, then we end up like the Nazarenes of old who did not recognize Jesus for who he really is and what he really came to do. The burning question for individual Christians and the corporate church is this: Are you ready to throw Jesus off a cliff?
Take some time alone with God today and think about whether you have made Jesus into the image of what you want him to be, or whether you accept him as he is. One clue to this is if you think some person or people group (hint: what do you really think of LGBTQ’s and Starbucks?) should not have Jesus – he belongs to people like you. Perhaps today some soul-searching repentance is in order so that you will be a true worshiper of Jesus, and not just a fan of him.
Gracious Lord Jesus, you are the Savior of the nations and not just of people who look, act, and believe just like me. Open my eyes to see others as you see them so that I can worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.