20130919

Prophet's Home

The whole town was gathered, as was the Sabbath custom, but on this occasion the house seemed more packed than usual. The air crackled with electric current. Hundreds of conversations carried out in hushed tones created a cacophonous murmur that blanketed the meeting place. All the nervous energy, all the jittery anticipation was focused on a single individual. He was there.

Some time ago He had left the community. Reports said He had gone to see John, the one some hailed as a prophet and others saw as a madman. John hadn't wanted to baptize Him, but He insisted. There were stories that God Himself had spoken at the occasion, even sent a physical sign they said had looked like a dove. It had caused quite a stir!

Then He disappeared for more than a month. He had been seen trekking into the wilds, but no one knew where He had gone or what He had done. When He returned, however, everyone knew about it. He visited many communities scattered throughout Galilee, teaching in packed-out synagogues, leaving every wowed audience begging for more. Word spread like wildfire throughout the land: there could be no doubt the Spirit of God had fallen on the Man.

And now He was here, in His hometown synagogue!

The excited whispers drowned in an instant the moment He stood. Every eye was fixed on Him. He made His way to the podium, and was handed the scroll of Yeshayahu. As he began to unroll the scroll, it was as if everyone in the room collectively leaned forward. He found His place, and began to read.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” His voice was mesmerizing, loud enough to be heard by all but warm enough to make you think He was just talking to you. Still looking down at the scroll he went on, accenting every word with masterful inflection. “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind.” He paused here briefly and began to sweep the crowd slowly with His eyes as He finished the rest from memory. “To set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Rolling the scroll back up, He handed it to the attendant. Turning, he walked to the Seat of Mosheh, the teacher’s seat, and sat down. Every eye was fixed on Him, every ear hanging on what He would say. Silence reigned for what seemed like an eternity. Then He spoke.

“Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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If you were there in the crowd listening, how would you respond? This narrative interpretation of Luke 4 is a product of my imagination, certainly, but it sprang from an attempt to try to put myself there, in the moment. If all your hopes and dreams hinged on the belief that one day a prophesied Messiah would come, if you’d heard rumors about a man you knew manifesting signs that He was the One, and if finally He was standing before you quoting some of your most treasured prophecy and claiming that it was being fulfilled in that very moment, how would you feel? What would your reaction be?

I think our first reaction would be just like their first reaction: awe & wonder. Actually, isn't that everyone’s first reaction when they really meet Jesus for the first time? When we first come to know His love for us, understand what he He did for us, don’t we all marvel at this Jesus? Even those who don’t share our faith tend to speak well of Him. They acknowledge the power of his teaching and the beauty of his actions, just like the Jews at Nazareth did. While I firmly believe that it’s a pernicious lie to say that Jesus was just a great man and wonderful teacher, almost everyone can agree that Jesus was a great man and a wonderful teacher.

But that is not enough.

Jesus refuses to be confined to that nice little box, and that’s when things get ugly. It does not suffice to simply be amazed by Jesus and respect His teaching. He will not be redefined, marginalized, or sanitized in the slime of political correctness. He refuses to play our games, seeing through every facade we project and every mask we put on. He will barge into every one of our hidden places and stomp on every single one of our toes. He will drag every dark secret into the light and tolerate nothing but truth in the innermost being. He demands obedience, not only the things we do but the thoughts we think.

How do we respond to this Jesus? What do you do when the Prophet's words hit home? There essentially are really only two choices; there is no middle ground. We can either accept His Lordship over us with every uncomfortable detail that entails, or we can respond just like the Jews in Nazareth…

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When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
(Luke 4:28-30, ESV)

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