Sunday 31 January 2016

Bible Book:

“And Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.’” (v. 24)

Luke 4:21-30 Sunday 31 January 2016

Psalm: Psalm 71


I wonder how many preachers can remember howthe congregation responded to their very first sermon? This passagetells what happens when Jesus preaches for the first time in hishome town synagogue in Nazareth, as he begins his public ministryafter his time of testing in the wilderness (Luke4:1-13).

At first all goes well. Jesus reads from theprophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2), a key messianic text whichspeaks of how the Spirit of the Lord is upon his anointed one.Jesus then continues by saying that "Today this scripture has beenfulfilled in your hearing" (v. 21). But at this point some start tobe worried; while impressed, 'amazed' even by the gracious wordscoming from his mouth, they ask "Is not this Joseph's son?" - withthe implicit criticism 'and just who does he think he is?' (v.22).

Jesus picks up on this by saying that "Noprophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown". But he alsoanticipates the earlier challenge about his ability (or inability)to do in Nazareth the deeds he is reported to have done inCapernaum (verse 23). He draws parallels with the experience of theprophets Elijah and Elisha, reminding his hearers how they helpedand healed those who were not part of the household of Israel; awidow at Zarephath in Sidon and the Syrian general Naaman (verses26-27). However this is more that his audience can stand. They areso enraged that they drive him out of the town and are moved tothrow him off a cliff (verses 28-29) - except that as the Gospelwriter puts it mysteriously, "he passed through the midst of themand went on his way" (v. 30).

It's a challenging story, especially forthose called to preach or lead worship. But it also introduces usto two key themes which will run throughout Jesus' ministry:

  • an element of opposition to Jesus's teaching from the start,even or perhaps especially among his own people.
  • recognition that his ministry is intended not just for thepeople of Israel but for a much wider audience (as the Acts of theApostles will bear witness.)

To Ponder

  • Have you ever felt your faith being challenged? If so, how didyou respond?
  • Do you think there is a place for challenging people inworship? And how might this be best done?
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