Cliffhanger! Jesus Rejected at Nazareth: Reflections on Luke 4:14-21
The people buzzed with admiration. "Such a beautiful passage that speaks of a mysterious servant whom God calls to lead the nations, who is horribly abused, takes the punishment due to others and is ultimately rewarded. Such an inspiring description of the Servant preaching the good news and bringing healing and justice to the nation. The Servant must be a metaphor for us, for our nation! What a lovely passage! And his voice, so melodious! His eyes, so glowing. His manner, so confident! We see what all the fuss is about now. What a fine speaker!"
He's rolling up the scroll, giving it back to the attendant, and sitting down. We can't take our eyes off him. We are mesmerized! What uplifting and comforting words will he have for us?
Listen to what he says now: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Could he be implying that he thinks he is the Messiah? Or at least a prophet like Elisha or Elijah? Is he saying that he is the one God has sent to bring them release from all captivity, outward and inward? Is he saying that he will bring good news to the needy, forgiveness of sins to everyone? That's some pretty big talk!
Still, he is a fine public speaker. He might bring considerable income and repute to our little town. But let's hear him out, even though we already know what he's going to say. He'll begin by praising us for the warm welcome. And then he'll praise us as Jews for our superior righteousness to Gentiles. He'll close by thanking us, calling us individually by name, for the nurturing we provided for him when he was growing up. Then he'll stay for a few weeks and heal and teach and draw lots of tourists to town to buy food from our food trucks and souvenirs from the gift shop and some overnighters for our inn. This will be a really good thing for us.
But now, we need to stop woolgathering and listen to what he has to say. He's seated now and has opened his mouth to speak.
(To be continued ...)
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.