A prophet runs the risk of rejection by others.
Today, we pick up where we left off yesterday in the passage from the Gospel of Luke. Not everyone in Nazareth was satisfied with hearing Jesus proclaim God’s will for the world.
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He 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 was 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 4:22-30).
The people are puzzled by the gracious words coming from the mouth of Jesus.
• Jesus refers to himself as a prophet, but that self-perception is nearly impossible for the people of his hometown to hear and accept.
• After all, these are the people who know his humble parents and ordinary siblings; they are people who have taught Jesus, fed him, and nurtured his growth and development.
• The story reminds us how we often overlook or discount the important views and prophetic critiques offered by people with whom we are most familiar.
• Sometimes, we fail to hear the prophet speaking to us from next door or down the street; all too often we give more credence to the voices of people from far away, despite the fact that they know less about us than the prophet nearby.
Jesus compares his ministry to that of the great Israelite prophets Elijah and Elisha.
• Standing alone, this seemingly pretentious comparison might be enough to antagonize the people in Nazareth.
• But Jesus goes further, telling two stories about Elijah and Elisha that are linked only by the fact that these two great prophets extended their healing and reconciling work to Gentiles – well beyond the boundaries of the people of Israel.
• Jesus suggests that his prophetic ministry is not just for Jews only, but for the poor and oppressed of all the nations. This is a prominent aspect of the mission and ministry of Jesus highlighted particularly in the Gospel of Luke: Jesus is the savior of all the world!
• The people of Nazareth are surprised and unhappy to hear this: after all, they are God’s chosen people and they apparently think that makes them the exclusive beneficiaries of God’s mercy and healing.
• The mission and ministry of Jesus extend to everyone. For that reason, the people of Nazareth reject Jesus as a prophet and seek to throw him off the cliff.
Questions for Reflection
• Who are the people in your hometown or congregation who try to give you a God’s-eye view of reality that is hard to hear because they are so familiar to you?
• In what ways do you take the mission and ministry of Jesus to everyone, not just to the members of your congregation or to those who are like you?
Gracious God, you created all people in your own image and seek to reconcile all people to you in the body of your son Jesus Christ: give me ears to hear the words of your prophets who are my neighbors next door; help me see and understand that the mission and ministry of Jesus extends to all the world; and give me the courage to cross the social, political and economic boundaries that otherwise divide us, so that I might minister to others in the name of Jesus. Amen.