Sunday January 7, 2007 | Greg Boyd
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
“Truly I tell you,” 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[b] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
The Kingdom of God is incredibly different from any kingdom of this world. One of the major ways this is so is in the way that God's Kingdom includes everyone in its benefits. When it comes to God's love, no one is left as an outsider!
The Kingdom of God is incredibly different from any kingdom of this world. One of the major ways this is so is in the way that God’s Kingdom includes everyone in its benefits. When it comes to God’s love, no one is left as an outsider!
Jesus showed us just how embracing the love of God really is when he started his ministry. Following Jesus’ time in the wilderness, he went back to his hometown of Nazareth. He went to a Jewish place of worship and read from the book of Isaiah. The text that he read was a well-known text about how God’s servant (the Messiah) would come and free Israel from all bondage. After reading the passage, he basically told the people that he was the fulfillment of this messianic hope. Of course, this came as a shock to many of the people from his hometown. After all, they had grown up with him and knew that he was merely the son of the carpenter, Joseph. Jesus knew the intentions behind their “shock” and spoke powerfully about the nature of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus spoke the Isaiah passage, he had intentionally left out a portion of the passage that dealt with the “day of vengeance” against Israel’s enemies that the Jewish audience would have thought to be an important part of the Messiah’s mission for God. Such grace shown to Israel’s enemies was not seen as a good thing.
As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus pushed the boundaries even further. He mentions Elijah and Elisha, who are two major prophetic voices in Israel’s history. He talks about how both of these prophets were not sent to the “insiders” of the Israelite people…but to “outsiders” who were in contention with Israel. As seen in those episodes, God was willing to show his delivering power to people who were not Israelites! In talking about these two, he was making a serious point: the Good News of God’s Kingdom is often not received by those who perceive themselves to be “insiders” with God, but is greatly received by those who are “outside!” There is a huge reversal where God is showing his love to everyone such that no one is outside anymore.
This message troubled and angered Jesus’ audience very much. And the same message still troubles and angers many today. Some of us have struggled with pride, where we get life from making separations between people for various reasons. In that struggle, we forget that, in Christ, the categories that we separate people have been broken down. But this is the central message: that God takes in and loves all “outsiders!” Unlike the kingdoms of this world, God’s Kingdom embraces everyone at all times. No one is ever left out!