Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 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.
What we the people in the synagogue that day thinking listening to Jesus?
What caused the situation to escalate so quickly?
How did Jesus’ family respond to the situation both that day and in the future?
During Lent I am reflecting on Luke 2:34-35
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Today I am thinking about Jesus returning to his hometown only to be rejected. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all place this event near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and seem to be connecting this event with Jesus moving beyond his home to minister throughout Israel. Luke goes a step further than the other accounts by saying that those who heard Jesus that day wanted to kill him because of what he said. I imagine that it was difficult for Jesus to be rejected by his hometown in such a public and violent way (it is debatable whether the crowd would have killed him but the display was certainly meant to convey a message of rejection). But Jesus left, though he probably had some level of contact with this community throughout his life, we see this event as triggering his itinerant ministry.
Things were not the same for Jesus’ family, they would have remained part of a community that had rejected Jesus. How would you react to this treatment of Jesus if he were your brother or son and day after day you had to walk through the community seeing people who threatened to kill him? Remember these individuals were not the worst of the worst, they were we good religious people acting on their convictions. These are the people who would have looked out for Mary and the children, these are the people who would have grieved and prayed with and for this family. I am sure that to some degree Mary and Jesus’ brothers were thrust into an unenviable position, hurt by the community and hurt by Jesus. I think if it were me, I would be confused by the situation, unsure of what to believe and simply wanting people to forget what happened. We are talking about how the sword was piercing Mary’s soul; I think in this instance the sword was cutting through her connections to both family and community. I am sure Mary felt the isolation of being an outcast. I think Mary wanted the community to love and accept her son and felt isolated because they did not.
It is a difficult and confusing time when you are caught between friends arguing. I have watched as two people that I cared about argued and fought, the situation created distance between myself and both individuals. Jesus’s family must have been in a similar dilemma, wanting to believe him and his claims that Isaiah had been fulfilled but also recognizing how that sounded to the rest of the community when he would not back up his claim with power. How do you respond when you are caught between two friends or family members who are fighting? What was Mary to do in this situation? The sword had cut through her relationships to the community. In the same way, following Jesus today can produce strife and stress as the sword cuts between us and those we love.
It is easy to read passages like Matthew 10, where Jesus warns his followers about being divided from loved ones because of him, in such a way that we celebrate when people walk away from us. I have heard people sound rather happy about losing relationships quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34). But I do not think Jesus wants us to celebrate the loss of relationships , even those which we loose on account of him. I think Jesus wants us to recognize where the sword is dividing us and work to repair the damage. But healing these wounds can be very difficult, when we are divided from someone because of Jesus it is easy to simply say this is persecution and allow ourselves to walk away from that relationship. But Jesus came to suffer and die, to stand up to the wounds and heal relationships.
Healing begins with committing to the relationship, Mary had to find a way to live the people who had threatened to kill her son, I think we can commit to relationships with people who have wronged us because of Jesus. Such a commitment begins in prayer, praying that the other individual would encounter God and that I would change to be more like God to that person. These prayers cannot reflect a thought that “I am right and they are wrong” but must reflect “I need to grow like God and that person needs God’s love”. We are called to become like Jesus and even though the sword might pierce our souls when we are rejected as Christians we must learn to grow and become like Jesus reaching out to a rejecting world, taking in the wounds, and responding with great acts of love.