Poke the Bear? - Reflections - 1-27-16

 Texts for Sunday January 31, 2016
 4th Sunday after the Epiphany

 Jeremiah 1:4-10
 Psalm 71:1-6
 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
 Luke 4:21-30

You really need to re-read the Gospel from last week  - - Luke 4:14-21- to know what is going on in the Gospel for this week – Luke 4:21-30.

As I read this story, I have to ask: Did Jesus just poke the bear?

The crowd seemed impressed and just wanted to pat little “Joseph’s son” on the head and tell him how well he did in the synagogue. Then seemingly out of nowhere,  Jesus starts ranting at them about not healing himself or his hometown and then moves on to stories from the Old Testament (our Old Testament; they only had the one) of how God chose to reach out to the enemies/outsiders rather than to his chosen people. All the stuff Jesus said enraged the hometown crowd who decided to throw Jesus off a cliff. And then, as if the story isn’t strange enough, Jesus “escapes” by just walking back through them.

My head spins at the sudden jolt from v. 22 to 23. Did I miss something? Well, obviously. I am just not sure what I missed. The band of commentators I consult each week seems as uncertain as I to what this means. There is not a consensus among the scholars.

Some say the Greek word for “amazed” can be laced with an undertone of anger. The crowd thought Jesus was getting too big for his britches (or whatever that would be in 28 AD). So in v. 23, Jesus responds to their response to his “mission statement” in Isaiah.  Others feel that Jesus could sense that the crowd was about to ask for miracles, for special consideration as his hometown, without actually listening to what he read from Isaiah. Or maybe being called “Joseph’s son” failed to adequately get at who he was and what he was about.

Jesus’ reading from Isaiah proclaims the year of “favor”. Perhaps Jesus could tell that this call for radical change in society was a “no go” for this crowd so he decided not to waste anymore time. 

And what drove the crowd to drag him to the cliff? From the current era, I’d say fear. Fear seems to be driving our society to drag all kinds of people to the cliff; but of what is this crowd afraid? Jesus left out the last phrase of that passage from Isaiah: “and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2b).  Maybe the crowd figured out that he would not lead them to victory over the Romans. Or maybe they had hoped for God’s intervention one too many times and feared that Jesus’ new was just the old again; they couldn’t hope again.  Then there are the “God-loved-outsiders-more-than-the-chosen-people” stories he told. Maybe the crowd feared that was true. Or maybe they feared that they were being asked to cross boundaries and welcome those outsiders.

A lot of maybes….

So I invite you to sit quietly with the verses. Take a deep breath and relax. 

Listen to Jesus.  What do you hear? Do you fear? Can you hope? 

PS: I have nothing on "passing through the midst of them he went on his way".

Check out the G.I.F.T. post for this Sunday, January 31, for more ways to reflect on these texts...especially the wonderful 1 Corinthians text.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment section below.

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