Going Home Again
Shortly after Jesus began his public ministry, he was going through the towns of Galilee teaching in their synagogues and he came to Nazareth, where he had grown up. Luke reports that he went to the synagogue and read from the book of Isaiah.
His listeners praised his gracious ways and clear speaking. Here was Joseph’s son, whom they had known all their lives—they had watched him grow, play in the streets, draw water from the well, climb the slopes, and gaze over the valley and roads. But Jesus didn’t accept their response. He didn’t want them to be impressed with his manner and his words but to open their lives to God. He saw that they were using compliments to mask their rejection of God. They were being nice to him so they would not have to take him seriously. At that moment, Jesus was in great danger—would he reduce himself to their expectations and fit into the old hometown ways?
But Jesus had not come back to his hometown to be admired. He wanted to bring them to God. Jesus saw through their tactics and exposed them. He used the familiar names of Elijah and Elisha—both men had lived much of their lives in the valley stretched out below Nazareth—to challenge their small-minded comfortable selfishness that was glad to have Jesus entertain them with his sermon. When Jesus exposed their sentimentality and pretense, their nice compliments were replaced by murderous rage. They took him out of the synagogue and up a steep hill where there was a precipice. Their intent was to throw him off and kill him. He slipped through their midst and left. That is the last we hear of Nazareth. It was Jesus’s first rejection. And it was by the people with whom he had grown up.
We all begin somewhere. Everyone has a hometown. The life of the gospel that Jesus demonstrated for us takes into account the details of that place, wherever it is. We often think that it would be easier to be a Christian if we lived somewhere else or if we went to another church, had better educational opportunities, or were better appreciated. In Nazareth, Jesus told us something quite different. Any place is the right place to be visited by God. Any place is dangerous to the life of faith. Amen.