Luke 4.14-30 — The Homecoming Dance doesn’t go so well

We’ve had the whole set-up: Chapters 1-3 of Luke have give us HUGE expectations of this man, both in terms of societal upheaval, political reversals, socio-economic revolutions, and spiritual presence and power. He gets baptized and the tiny scene DRIPS with the same metaphors and symbolism of the set-up. Then he gets driven into the wilderness by his loving Father, and challenges the philosophical and theological conundrums of the ages: the problem of evil, the will to power, and the abuses of faith.

Finally the man is prepared to DO something and to SAY something. We’re on the edge of our seats.

The first place he heads is to Nazareth, his home town. Makes sense—start at home. After his temptation he has not lost any ground; he returns to Nazareth “in the power of the Spirit,” just as we’ve seen him before. News about him has spread (the other gospels record events that Luke doesn’t bother with), and Jesus’ reputation is running rampant in front of him. People come to listen to his teaching, because he teaches with such authority. There is general admiration of him everywhere; he is the wonder-teacher of his time. But in his hometown he drops a bomb, in perfect keeping with his Luke’s set-up. In the synagogue Jesus stands up to read from Isaiah 61, and it says the very things the angels, and the Priene inscription, and the prophecies of Simeon and Anna have said: the anointed one is filled with the power of the Spirit, and brings good news to the poor and brokenhearted, frees captives, and bring Jubilee: the great and grand leveler of all society. But Jesus, we will find out, is speaking both literally and spiritually: the economically poor as well as the poor in spirit, etc. All is fine; up until now it’s a typical sermon. Then Castle_romeo2he drops a nuclear missile: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Aha! “The visible socio-political economic restructuring of relations among people has been achieved by MY presence,” says Jesus. SAY WHAT??? Jesus was claiming to be none less than the Messiah of history and prophecy, that the REAL year of Jubilee had come (the one only shadowed by the OT Israelite one), and that the prophecies of the OT were coming true while people watched with their mouths hanging open. And the people actually understood that that’s what he meant, and they were impressed. Jesus had spoken winning words.

But the more people talk, their mood of wonder turns to scowls of cynicism. “What a minute,” they start, “we know this guy. He grew up here, remember—the “illegitimate” son of Joe and Mary?” Jesus nails them right away: “You just want to see some magic tricks, don’t you? Well, you’re not going to get any. That’s not what I’m here for. Everybody only gets what they need and can accept. It’s always been that way, if you knew anything about God. I have a message that will overturn everything and everybody. I’m not here for tricks.”

They immediately caught on and saw the point of these two Old Testament illustrations (Elijah & Naaman) of how God in two cases blessed the heathen instead of the Jewish people. The implication was evident. Nazareth was no better than Capernaum, if as good. He was under no special obligation to do unusual things in Nazareth just because he had been reared there. Town pride was insulted and it at once exploded in a burst of murderous rage. The mob scene turned into a execution scene. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. There is no record that Jesus EVER returned to Nazareth.

Jesus is who he is, and his message is what it is. It doesn’t change with any whims. He’s not a monkey & trinket show in the traveling carnival. He’s here to upend the world order and to conquer death with the own death and resurrection (as foreseen in the baptism). He will give no time to the self-centered and closed-minded, and ESPECIALLY to the RELIGIOUS self-centered and closed-minded. But for anyone who is open to the powerful Spirit in him—whoever they are, viz. those in Capernaum, he is a reckless representative of God’s presence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *