Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Sunday, February 3, 2019

February 3, 2019  

Luke 4:21-30

Today we complete a story begun last week: the story of Jesus returning to his home synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. Jesus read scripture to the people gathered in the synagogue; he read a prophecy from the book of Isaiah that he then proclaimed he was the fulfillment of. He proclaimed he was the Messiah. Jesus told his listeners: The Spirit of the Lord is upon ME. I have been anointed to bring good news to the poor. I have been sent to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. I have been sent to let the oppressed go free. I have been sent to proclaim that this is the time—this is the moment—of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:19-19)

The people who knew Jesus best, the people who knew him when he was growing up, who knew his mother and his father and the rest of the family—their first response was to wonder: Isn’t that Joseph’s son? (Luke 4:22).

It is like they are asking: who would have thought? Who would have thought Joseph’s son could say or do such things? Who would have thought a hometown kid like him would become a star? It was amazing! In fact, Luke wrote: they were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:22).

Then it appears that Jesus heard them saying that they wanted him to do for them everything he had done in other places. It appears he believed they were a little bit miffed that he didn’t do great things for them, first. After all, they were his people. He was their Son. He ought to be taking care of them, healing them, teaching them. Maybe he should only take care of them, only heal them, only teach them.

The reading is clear, Jesus knew he was sent to the world for all the world, not just for his own people—not just for his own “kind”. Which is why he referenced Elijah and Elisha. They were both prophets who, as the Nazarenes would have known, assisted foreigners.

This is the point in the story where things got ugly. When Jesus pointed out that his ministry was not going to be just for his own people, “all in the synagogue were filled with rage” (Luke 4:28).
The Nazarenes were angry enough to want to kill Jesus.

Perhaps you know what it is like, when you have something really good, maybe even great, and you want to keep it for yourself. I do that at home sometimes when Jeanne buys me my favorite candy. I hide it. I don’t want to share it. I get angry if she eats any of it, even just one piece.

Jesus and what he brought to the world—he is a lot more important than candy. There are people who want to keep his message of love, they want to keep his words of grace, they want to keep his promise of eternal life—they want to keep Jesus for themselves. Or maybe they want to keep him for the people who are just like them.

Jesus knew he could not be kept!

Jesus cannot be kept! We cannot limit who we share Jesus with!
We cannot hoard his grace. We cannot tuck Jesus away in a secret place, stingily reveling in what he has done for us.

We need to share Jesus with the world!
We need to share the good news of his love—with the world!We need to lavish his grace on others—both telling them about his grace-full acceptance of us all and living that grace in our own relationships. Being forgiving. Being welcoming.
We need to openly declare the promises Jesus has made to the world. We need to bring hope even as we are hope-full.

The Reverend Barbara Lundblad once said that we humans tend to want to “wrap religion around us like a homemade quilt” (Homilies for the Christian People, p. 403-406 as quoted in Sundays and Seasons for Epiphany 4 2019). We want to snuggle into our religion and make ourselves comfortable. We don’t allow much room for others when we do that, do we?

Jesus has a way of wiggling out of our selfish embrace.
He comes to us and to others.
In so many ways, he comes to us.
Jesus comes for us.
And for the world.
Wanting to save us all.

Thanks be to God for God’s infinite generosity.