Following Jesus’ time in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil, Luke records that Jesus began his teaching mission. Jesus was a child and product of Nazareth in an earthly sense. His parents, Mary and Joseph, had come from this region and, with Jesus’s return, the people were excited about the Jesus of Nazareth, whose reputation had gone before him. As he approached the temple of Nazareth, they handed Jesus the scroll for Him to exhort and teach from the words of the Prophet Isaiah. While teaching, he was incredibly clear; the prophets had spoken of Him. The Messiah that the people were awaiting was standing before them, teaching them the scriptures. At first, the reactions to Jesus’ bold statement were positive. Excitement filled the air as they sat before the authoritative teacher of the scriptures. Yet, the excitement quickly turned sour as the implications of what it meant for them and their lifestyle were made clear.
“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.’ ” 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. “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 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.”
What is remarkable is the shift in how the people viewed this teacher they had heard about. At first, they were overjoyed. Perhaps this Messiah would bring notoriety to the small city of Nazareth or perhaps He would show them favoritism. For whatever the reason, the people felt as if they could use this great teacher and miracle worker towards their own personal gain. Yet, Christ had different plans. Jesus came to free mankind from their masochistic desires and tendencies. Where the people of Nazareth sought fame and favor, the mission of Christ is to bring people to repentance and to die to themselves in order that they might live. Thus, the people of Nazareth turned on Jesus swiftly, having been spurned by His clarity of mission.
Laying Aside Expectations of God
When presented with the authoritative teaching, the people were amazed at Jesus’ knowledge of the scripture. And they were right to do so. After all, the scriptures had blatantly referred to His coming throughout the course of history. Yet, instead of staying in their reverence, the people quickly sought how they could use this figure for their personal gain. Jesus became the mascot of the people of Nazareth, instead of the Savior of all mankind. Thus, Jesus had to remind the people of their place in the scheme of an eternal God. Jesus had come not to give preferential treatment to Nazareth or even to the Jewish people. The message of hope would extend beyond the people of Israel and to those outside of the family line.Like the roaring lion that He is, The King cannot be caged and held submissive to the desires of the flesh. Click To Tweet
Today, we as people tend to hold expectations of what the Messiah should be and do. We force the will and actions of an eternal and sovereign God into a small and finite box. We want our healings to be when and how we want, ignoring the time where the suffering is for our own good (Genesis 32:25). Our blessings should be monetary instead of the richness of His eternal presence. Eternity is traded for gold. The lasting nature of joy is sacrifice for the persistent but temporary happiness that serves to placate our emotions. For all our trying, we will never be able to put God in the box of our expectations. Like the roaring lion that He is, The King cannot be caged and held submissive to the desires of the flesh that man holds.
The Missio Dei
Simply put, the Mission Dei is larger than you and I. It goes beyond an elitist group of people and extends to all who are in need. It is precisely the people that Jesus mentioned in his quotation of Isaiah. Jesus is sent for the poor, the oppressed, the blind, and the prisoners. Christ is sent to heal the sickness of sin and set the feet of the lost on the foundations of eternity. There is no favoritism in the eyes of God as His eyes are on the whole of mankind. Those people we, honestly, do not want in heaven, have as much of a right to receive the blessing of God and the gift of eternal life because neither of us earned it to begin with. Differences in race, culture, political affiliations, or any other man made restriction, do not limit the infinite and loving God.All are able to come before God, all of us in our sinful state, not one more deserving than the other. Click To Tweet
Giving God permission to work in us and through us means laying down our own expectations and desires for the sake of the larger work of God, for the Missio Dei. The blessings of God may come in various forms, none of which we will be prepared for, but they will be blessings nonetheless. Similarly, the Mission Dei will extend beyond preferential treatment. All are able to come before God, all of us in our sinful state, no one more deserving than the other. This is the beauty of Christ’s message. The whole of mankind, no matter how hopeless the world may think we are, has the privilege of eternity through grace by faith.
Talk It Out
- What about the reaction of the people of Nazareth is shocking to you? Why does their reaction and their immediate change of reversal surprise you?
- Why did the people of Nazareth not feel so keen on extending the message of salvation to those outside of Israel? What did they have at stake that would change?
- When is a time that you tried to put your expectations of what you think God should do on God?
- Do you struggle with waiting to share the Gospel with a specific group of people? What would their hearing the Gospel do for them?
- How does understanding that we did not earn the grace of God help us to give that same grace to others?
For more in this series, check out A Walk Through Luke.