Epiphany 4 (1/31/15)

Jer. 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
1 Cor. 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. (Luke 4:24, CEB)

Jesus spoke aloud the prophecies of Isaiah to the gathered congregation, and at his words the prophet’s dream became real: Good News! Release! Sight! Liberation! The worshippers were amazed by Jesus: Joseph’s son had such an understanding of the ancient texts, such faith in God’s goodness to us, such a gracious way of speaking!

Then, over the course of just five verses, Jesus managed to turn their admiration into anger. They’d been ooh-ing and aah-ing over this local-boy-made-good; surely he was tempted to keep quiet and soak up their compliments! But he already knew how fickle they were; before even they knew they would turn on him, he predicted: “No prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown.” Why? Because the homefolks don’t want to hear that they don’t have exclusive rights to good news, release, sight, liberation? Because the homefolks don’t want their child–the one they invested in, the one who bears their lineage and speaks with their accent–to become the advocate for outsiders? Or because they don’t want him coming home to tell them that “their” promises will be fulfilled in someone else?

Maybe they felt they had been baited-and-switched. Maybe they felt so possessive of God’s promises that they’d rather the prophecies not come true, than for them to come true for anybody else. Maybe they simply felt betrayed by one of their own, one who should have been speaking for them (not preaching at them!).

Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion take place in Luke 22 and 23; but here, in the earliest days of his ministry, is a glimpse of what is to come. The people are not just disappointed in him or frustrated with him. With just a few words from Jesus, they have gone from proud and impressed to outrageously angry. They are so full of rage that they try to throw him off a cliff; better to break a commandment than to allow such impudence!

The promises have become real, yet in their anger the people remain unfulfilled. So much for the good news; turns out they are still poor, still captive, still oppressed. Turns out, in spite of the light they have seen, they are still blind.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.