Fifth Sunday after Epiphany Lectionary Text:
Jeremiah 1: 4-10: Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’ Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’
Luke 4:21-30: Then he began to say to them, 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 home town 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 home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for 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.
COMMENT: The narrative continues as we left Jesus in the Synagogue in Galilee. After he read from the prophet Isaiah, he sat down. Luke 4:20 records, “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Jesus first words were, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21
It is difficult to believe that the promises posed by the prophet did not generate hope and confidence in the hearers: “to bring good news to the poor…release to the captives…recovery of sight to the blind…the oppressed go free and the year of the Lord’s favor.” Isaiah 61:1. I also believe that they understood this text to be a description of the mission and ministry of the Messiah. But how could Jesus be the Messiah, we know him!
Then Jesus goes on to tell his hearers that these promises are not only for his people, the Jews, but also for the gentiles. The energy of doubt that filled the room becomes hostile, even murderous.
In few words, Jesus shook ‘comfort zones’ and challenged preconceived notions. Jesus’ entire ministry thus far was sifting and dismantling and in this case rattling the spirit of entitlement. What his experienced was that Jesus also came in the spirit of Jeremiah, “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10
There was really only two responses the synagogue congregation could have made, either acceptance or rejection. When life-circumstances generate declarations of entitlement like, “That’s not fair” or “It’s not supposed to be this way” or “I expected more”, before you choose rejection, consider accepting that God is building and planting to take you beyond…
© January 29, 2010
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