Fourth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Being “loved” by Jesus the Christ

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 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?” (Luke 4:21-22)

This is a continuation of last week’s gospel passage – I did wonder if the RCL was going to complete the story. I also wonder if the people of Jesus’ hometown were favorably impressed with Jesus’ gracious words, or surprised. Furthermore it occurred to me, were they surprised that Joseph had a son who had such “gracious words”?

“He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown 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 hometown.” (Verses 23 – 24)

But then I read these verses, and I have to wonder if maybe the hometown folk were critical of him; they apparently (Jesus implies) were aware of the miracles, signs, and wonders he had done in other places. And Jesus again implies that they expected him to do such things in his hometown for them.

“But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up 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.” (Verses 25 – 27)

It does not seem, beloved reader, that Jesus’ words to the hometown people continued to be “gracious”, at least in their estimation.

“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.” (Verses 28 – 30)

Consider this carefully, beloved reader, we are presented with varying views and aspects of Jesus Christ through the words and images of the gospel writers. Just as in the case of the Old Testament and the way it portrays the Lord God the Divine, the gospels and the epistles may present a view of Jesus that does not line up with our personal experience. Jesus seemed to be quite angry that the hometown folk did not believe he was the Son of the Divine, and seemed to demand proof of his Divinity. Surely this episode did not happen in a vacuum but was the culmination of Jesus visiting his hometown. Is the Jesus you know this peevish about lack of belief in himself?

The gospel writer portray Jesus, at times, with a vehemence that seems out of character with the Jesus Christ I have experienced personally. I am not sure I have any definitive answers concerning this passage. And I am pretty sure I won’t find the answers in any commentators notes. So I continue to try to discern and understand such passages – some days and times I have more success than others. But that I am sure is that Jesus has vast amounts of patience with authentic and earnest seekers of him. Selah!

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