Who’s angry at Jesus

Luke 4:16-30
Preachers talk a lot about the religious leaders that rejected Jesus.

They were the ones who plotted against him. It was their plan to have him crucified. Sometimes we forget, though, it wasn’t only the leaders who wanted a shot at him.

Early in his ministry, Luke tells us Jesus visited the synagogue in Nazareth. This was the town he grew up in. Like we speak of our churches, this was his synagogue. People knew him. They remembered him. And he knew them. In fact, as we read we come to understand he knows something about them they may not even know about themselves.

So far, people have recognized Jesus as a teacher. People praised his teaching ability and content. We see another example of this in the synagogue that day. Most likely, the worship attendant called on Jesus to read from scripture. Luke tells us Jesus “found the place” from Isaiah. I always love reading that. To me, Jesus seems intent on what he wants to declare to his congregation.

He quotes the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” According to this passage, the Spirit’s anointing has a particular calling. Those who are poor, in bondage, blind or oppressed will see the benefit of Jesus’ call.

How many times do we hear people talk about the Spirit? Apparently, Spirit does a lot of comforting and calming these days. Praise God for those moments. But what about what Jesus recognized as Spirit’s role in his ministry? Have we forgotten what the good news means to those otherwise marginalized people? Did we even know how important that was to the Holy Spirit?

After he read, Jesus offered a brief interpretation. The people loved it. At that point, Jesus could have surfed by on his good teaching reputation. But he said something else. He quotes two Old Testament stories. If you aren’t familiar with them, there’s one point you should understand about them. Jesus reminds his listeners that those stories show that God didn’t speak to them. God spoke to and through outsiders.

Whereas the people praise him for one sentence, they were ready to kill him the next. What is wrong with people? We can’t just disagree. We have to villainize and persecute those who speak against us. This holy congregation was ready to push Jesus off a cliff that day.

What angered them so much?

It always strikes me odd because they knew the stories Jesus mentioned. That wasn’t a surprise. But what fired up their anger was his insistence God wasn’t playing favorites. No amount of prior religious tradition or association would limit God’s new reign.

Does that anger us today?

Of the times I know I’ve offended religious people, it always seems to be some sense of pride that I rub up against. Maybe if I knew how much money they gave or how important they were, I’d change my mind. Yea, that’d make me want to disobey God. Now, none of those people would push me off a cliff. I do wonder if we realize how much our prideful inclinations stifle our ability to live within the reality of God’s kingdom.

There is freedom in God’s kingdom. The Spirit leads us to know redemption and holiness. And it’s something meant for all people to know. But don’t be surprised when it starts with the people you would rather forget.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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