Luke 4:14-30 tells a story about Jesus that still shocks me.
After reading Isaiah 61 to his faithful hometown synagogue attendees and commenting that it was a prophecy now fulfilled, they reacted favorably and perhaps even with surprised awe – “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
But, for this understandable misapprehension, Jesus replies in a very confrontative way:
“Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'”
“I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
So, furious, they drove him out of town and would have thrown him over a cliff – except that He walked right through the gathered crowd and went His way.
I wonder if their admiring doubt was all that precipitated this outburst. The description of apparently the same event in Mark’s gospel that I blogged about a few days ago leaves out the attempted murder … and his observation that “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them” makes me wonder if that lack of faith drove His pointed commentary in the synagogue.
Did they welcome Him in town so they could see the miraculous things He had done elsewhere in Galilee – rather than to actually hear what He had to say? Only to discount what little they saw as impossible, because He was Joseph’s son?
Maybe that’s the rest of the story that we don’t see in Luke.
I know Jesus knew men’s hearts and thoughts (Matthew 12:25 or Luke 11:17; Luke 6:8; and maybe even John 2:24-25). I know that we – well, at least, I – don’t have those abilities. I know we aren’t to judge others.
Yet I also know that He took people on when they doubted God or tried to re-write His Word or thought better of themselves than of others; His brand of meek and lowly had nothing to do with always bowing to the expectations of such people.
(This, obviously, is not the only example. For more, see my post from June 15. Or better yet, a Bible in your neighborhood.)
And I know that He lived an exemplary life, a life worthy of our emulation.
So does Jesus expect us to be as confrontational as He was?