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Sunday, January 30, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 4:21–30
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?” 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. 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.” 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. (NRSV)
“No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” Those are difficult words to hear for those of us who speak reverently of our prophets, whether modern or ancient. And when it comes to the person of Jesus, most Christians are hard pressed to admit that we might reject the One we laud as Lord and Savior, bearer of good news, and herald of justice and mercy. But the truth is that when we hear uncomfortable truths from our prophets, we can quickly turn on them. We become tough crowds or resident critics and cynics.
When Jesus’ hometown audience heard him proclaim Isaiah’s stirring oracle, they flattered him. Enamored of his message, they waited with anticipation for a realization in their midst. Jesus’ reputation as a prophet of healing and reconciliation from nearby villages like Capernaum only grew the expectations. But it appears that when it came to Jesus’ prophetic power, the hometown crowd was mainly thinking of themselves.
Just as the spoils of war or the riches of empires often accrue to those considered closest to a victorious leader, we expect that the fruits of prophetic ministry will come to those with close connections to the prophet. So the crowd, in this case, starts calling in favors. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they shout, as if to say, we knew you and now you owe us.
But Jesus is not simply a politician serving a particular constituency. Jesus’ ministry stretches beyond the limits of his home. His prophetic ministry of healing and ultimately political justice-seeking is not centered in his hometown or among his next of kin. Instead, the ministry of Jesus reaches far and wide for those in distress and all too forgotten, whether purported friend or enemy alike. And so the widow in Sidon and Naaman the Assyrian are also drawn into Jesus’ realization of Isaiah’s prophecy, where all will ultimately be forgiven, freed, and made well.
God who frees the captive, we give thanks that your gracious realm is not for a favored few but for all. Help me not to guard your graces for myself but to release them for all in need. Amen.
Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Community Engagement
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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