Just as we did for Advent, we will be posting a series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s sermon scripture during this season of Epiphany. You may use these devotions as you want – for yourself, with a group or as a family; all at once, or broken up throughout the week. We suggest you start with the Scripture readings before you engage the other pieces. Enjoy!
We return to the scene of Jesus in his hometown synagogue, just after he is done reading from the scriptures and as he begins to talk. A listener might have expected some commentary on the scriptures, but all Jesus offers is, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What he says next is about this statement and their reactions (and potential reactions) to his words.
Jesus does not let their full reactions play out right away. He preempts their next words by saying they will either reject his perceived powers and prophesy, or demand that he show evidence of it. And as one filled with God’s divine intuition, Jesus was likely not wrong about what his hometown neighbors were about to say. It is hard to see someone who has grown up among you, who you have taught, worked alongside and saw as a son, brother or friend suddenly tell you all no one ever knew him at all, and they never would. Jesus doesn’t even seem to give them a chance to show otherwise.
Jesus, hometown boy, presumes to declare he is the Messiah Isaiah speaks of, that these people before him – his friends and neighbors – will never really understand that, and that no one in the history of Jewish prophecy has been truly understood by those in their home country. No wonder they are mad! If there had been any support for him, it was lost in this tirade of accusations.
Why does Jesus go out of his way to alienate the people he grew up with and among? It is not that God’s love is not for them, but Jesus makes it clear that a) his old life here in Nazareth is done, b) he is not going to be some trick pony they can point to and use to promote Nazareth, c) they are not at the center of the message. Jesus’ work is not to bring glory and prosperity to his hometown or even his family, it is to bring glory to God.
And God’s love and new life is most needed by those in the margins of life – the poor, the powerless, the prisoner, the disabled, the foreigner, the outcast – who we too often find easy to ignore or see as equal to us. We can see how Jesus centers and loves people who are mostly ignored. When we follow Jesus, it means that we do the same as Jesus – we spend time with the people Jesus spent time with, we heal the people Jesus healed, we forgive the people Jesus forgave, and we love them all.
We are filled with God’s love and new life not as a reward for knowing and growing up with Jesus, like the Nazarenes, but as a result of doing what Jesus did. God’s love fills us because we are carrying it to others. So, who will you put at the center – yourself or God?
- Have you ever had a longtime friend who you thought you knew really well, but then you learned something surprising about them you never knew? How did that make you feel?
- If you had a really good friend who said they were going to become friends with someone you greatly disliked, what would you do next?
- Have you ever become friends with someone you didn’t like at first? How did it make you feel when you realized you were friends instead of enemies?
God – sometimes we forget that you came to earth for all human beings, and not just us. Help us follow You in seeing all of Your children, and caring for them as You care for us. Help us remember that the more we know You, the more we need to share You with others. We are ever grateful for a God who walks alongside us each and every day, a God who could be as human as we are. Amen.