The Mount of Jumpification: Reflections on Luke 4:21-30

Lectionary Reflections
Luke 4:21-30
February 3, 2013

[Editor's Note: This week's column is a continuation of last week's cliffhanger from Luke.]

The people sit expectantly in their seats. Jesus, their hometown boy, is about to bring the message of the morning. They remind me of the audience at the Golden Globes, all dressed up in their finery, waiting to be praised and given awards. And the host, whatever comedian or popular talk show host has been chosen to emcee the whole thing, has been tasked with insulting them in a humorous way, but not to go too far. Through the years, hosts' versions of "too far" have varied.

Here are some of the sharpest insults from the 2013 Golden Globes:

"When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who was married to James Cameron for three years."—Amy Poehler "praising" Zero Dark Thirty director, Kathryn Bigelow (don't worry, Bigelow laughed).

"Does this say, 'I beat Meryl?'" -- Jennifer Lawrence reminds us that Streep can't win every year. She was actually quoting a line from a movie and apologized on the Letterman Show the next night. Meryl probably wasn't offended.

"Russell Crowe had four months of singing lessons. That was money well spent."—Sacha Baron Cohen insults Russell Crowe in Les Misérables. Crowe has a temper, but so far Cohen hasn't suffered any repercussions.

"Anybody can grow a bloody beard."—Sacha Baron Cohen to Daniel Day Lewis on his role in Lincoln.

"I have not seen someone so totally alone and abandoned like that since you were alone with James Franco at the Oscars."—Tina Fey to Les Mis actress Anne Hathaway.

Sometimes, the insults are premeditated and well rehearsed. Other times, as with Lawrence, the problem was that she had not prepared an acceptance speech. Fortunately, for the insulters at the Golden Globes, there don't seem to have been any life-threatening repercussions.

Kathryn Bigelow laughed. Meryl Streep made no comment. Russell Crowe is renowned for his temper, but so far, seems to have taken the insult in stride. Daniel Day Lewis is Abraham Lincoln, and Cohen is a gnat buzzing around his greatness, so he has no need to get angry. Anne Hathaway seems like the type to get her feelings hurt, but not to plan revenge.

Jesus Knows How to Insult, Too

Jesus insults his crowd, asserting that he won't be able to minister with healing power in his hometown. Why? Perhaps because they think they know him too well? Perhaps because they want the gifts he will bring all for themselves and not for outsiders? He gives examples of Gentiles who responded to God's actions when Jews did not: the widow in Sidon and Naaman the Syrian.

Jesus is no Golden Globe nominee shooting from the hip because he hasn't bothered to prepare an acceptance speech. He's no Golden Globe host or presenter, shooting zingers to show how witty he is and to bring a laugh. He knows exactly what he intends to say: he intends to point out the truth to his audience. That's what prophets do, in their hometowns and beyond. If his hometown folks are offended, let them prove him wrong by heeding his teachings and amending their lives.

Listening Even When the Words Are Painful

It's hard to hear an uncomfortable truth without getting defensive and angry and responding, "How dare you talk to me that way!" I heard the story of a man who had gained quite a bit of weight. He went to the doctor for a physical. The doctor looked at his chart where the man's height and weight were written, made a few notes, and then had to leave the room for a moment. The man sneaked a look at his chart. The doctor had written, "The patient is obese." Who wants to hear something like that?

Jesus wrote a hard message on Nazareth's chart: He gave them a history lesson. God sent Elijah to feed a non-Jewish widow in a time of famine. Why? Perhaps because she was willing to first share her bread with him (1 Kgs. 17:10). God sent Elisha to heal a non- Jewish leper, Naaman the Syrian. Why? Perhaps because he was willing, albeit after some negotiations, to receive God's healing (2 Kgs. 5). They were livid when Jesus claims that the blessings he brings will go to others whom they disdain and not to the people in their town. They didn't like the implication that they have no one to blame, but themselves.

Nobody else had the guts to tell them what Jesus told them and us: "You won't be able to claim God's blessings for your life unless you claim them for other people's lives at the same time." Nobody else but you has the power to accept this hard message as the guiding light of your life. Nobody else but you has the power to accept Jesus' gifts of peace, forgiveness, justice for your life.

12/2/2022 9:10:35 PM
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  • Alyce McKenzie
    About Alyce McKenzie
    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.