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Shaking off the dust

Monday, February 28, 2005

Luke 4:24-30
Jesus is speaking to a crowd in Nazareth,

"I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. ... 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 town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked through the crowd and went on his way.

Things were going so well for Jesus. He was wowing his friends with charismatic preaching they never expected from their neighbor the carpenter's son. He unfurled the scroll of Isaiah and proclaimed that he would accomplish the goals set hundreds of years ago for the Messiah. Even that claim didn't set them off.

But then he had to go and get friendly with the riff-raff. Syrians like Naaman were Gentiles, not Jews. The Nazareth brothers looked far down their noses at those particular neighbors, and Jesus was unfavorably comparing his hometown crowd to that scum. Something tripped in their minds, and they became so indignant, so self-righteous they couldn't even allow the worship service to finish. They rose up shouting, grabbed Jesus and in a fit of riot-frenzy tried to kill him.

Jesus often said later that the truth he brought would separate people, fathers from sons, mothers from daughters. The truth he spoke in Nazareth slashed the curtain between heaven and earth, and many who heard that day couldn't bear it. Jesus moved from accepted truth to God's truth, and they didn't move with him.

Jesus was not killed that day. He was not hurled from the cliff. Mysteriously, magically, miraculously he passed through the angry mob and was not injured at all. Calmly he freed himself from their grasp and moved on. God's presence with Jesus in this moment must have been even stronger than when he spoke in the temple.

Lord, I too close my eyes to the obvious sometimes when I feel threatened. Break into that fortress of fear, let the walls tumble down. Come into me and make me free.

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