Return to Nazareth

Return to Nazareth January 27, 2019


A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke:

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom 
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” “


Jesus returned to Galilee in the Power of the Spirit.

Earlier, the Spirit had appeared over Jesus in the Jordan, in the form of a dove. Then that same Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Now the Spirit returns Him to Galilee. He is that most perfect example of the Christian life: where the Spirit leads, you go. Into the Jordan, out of the Jordan, into the wilderness where the devil is, home to meet your family.

Sometimes home is the place you dread more than anywhere else. You’d far rather stay in the wilderness, contending with the devil. It would be easier and more comfortable there, fasting, tempted with bread and miracles and all the power in the world. It’s comparatively easy to say “no” to the pomps and works of the devil, out there in the wilderness, standing on that particular cliff, seeing every kingdom laid out before you if only you’ll worship the one who is not worthy of worship. At home with your family, it’s hard. The approval of your family, the love and acceptance of the community you grew up with, is so much more tantalizing than all the kingdoms of the world. To not have that approval and love is more torturous than starving to death.

But Jesus was led by the Spirit, and He did not disobey. He went home, to Galilee, to tell them the Good News.

He went to the synagogue there, in Nazareth where He’d grown up, on the Sabbath as was His custom– just as He had as a child.

He knew everyone there.

He loved them all, so much.

He loved them because He was God, and God is pure love. But He also loved them because they were His family, and He longed to be loved by them. He would have liked to do almost anything to earn their acceptance. But He wouldn’t disobey the prompting of the Spirit.

He knew that if He spoke the word of God to them– if He told them who He was, if He even started to tell them the Good News, they would reject Him. And He wanted be accepted by them: more than He wanted bread after forty days of fasting; more than He wanted the angels to catch Him before He dashed His foot against a stone; far more than He wanted all the kingdoms of the world, He wanted the people of Nazareth to love Him. If He started to tell them who He was, He knew they would reject Him completely. They’d expel Him from the synagogue, from the town; they would try to murder Him by pushing Him off a cliff. They wouldn’t succeed, not this time. Eventually, that would be His end: rejected and murdered by the people He loved.  But in the meanwhile– the people He loved, the family He’d grown up with, would take Him to the edge of a high cliff as the devil had done, and they would try to murder Him there.

If only He would abandon the work His Father in Heaven had given Him to do, He could be accepted at home, instead of all that suffering.

But Jesus turned away the devil once more.

He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This is a very dangerous prophecy. It says that when the Spirit of the Lord anoints you, you will not go to the right people. You won’t march down to the mansions in the good part of the neighborhood and tell them how proud you are of their sound investments. You won’t go to the wealthiest parish in the diocese and lavish your praise on them for their historic building restoration project. You won’t seek out people who were comfortable already and make them feel even better. Your mission is not to the men and women your community regards as living saints.

When the Spirit of the Lord anoints you, you will go somewhere else. You will go to the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed. The people who are supposed to be quiet. The people the comfortable wish would not make themselves visible at all. You’re going to victims, not victors, and nobody likes a victim. And you will help that victim– heal their blindness, free them from their prison and their oppression. And this will overturn the comfortable lives of the ones who view themselves as holy, and they won’t like it. And they won’t like you. And they won’t accept or love you and they won’t go with you, when you go to the oppressed and proclaim and end to their captivity.

They might even try to hurl you off a cliff.

Rolling up the scroll, Jesus handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

(image via Pixabay) 







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