"Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
This Sunday's reading was Luke 4:14-21. I find it both intriguing and frustrating how the scriptures are silent for the better part of Jesus' childhood, his teen years, and his early experiences as he matured into an adult. We do not even get a mention of the death of Joseph. Then suddenly, there he is! It's almost shocking how abruptly the tale switches in just a few chapters.
We go from birth to Brit Milah, to presenting Jesus as an infant at the Temple, to finding him in the Temple as a boy (Luke 1-2). I do want to point out after Mary and Joseph found him in the temple (Luke 2:51-52), we learn that he went home with them, obedient and growing in wisdom, age, and favor with God. An attitude every parent of a teenager has dreamed of their entire parenting lives. Stop and think of all the living that had to happen in those silent years between Luke 2 and 3:21 where Jesus is baptized.
He must have loved Nazareth. Nearly everyone I know has some degree of loyalty to their hometown, whether they still live there or not. Childhood memories of that yard, this house, those neighbors, or a local business are often wrapped up inside stories that fit like a favorite sweater and are told and retold at reunions, holidays, and weekend fish fries.
The same comfy-sweater-feel may have been what made Jesus return to his childhood synagogue. It was where he studied Torah, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, watched friends get married, and welcomed new lives with naming celebrations. This was his church family, his friends, his people. When we have big news, don't we want to go back to the place we came from to share it and be celebrated?
I suggest taking some time to pray with Luke 4 this week. Imagine what it must have been like to be sitting in one's hometown synagogue, listening to the rabbis reading scripture, and teaching. Picture Jesus in his usual spot, the rabbi hands him the scroll, he reads it then says one of the most shocking things anyone has ever heard. Your brain tries to process what he just said, then you try to process why he would say it. It doesn't fit with anything you know about him, about his family, about the Torah. If you were a 1st century Jew, how would you react?
As a 21st century Christian, I have the luxury of history and scripture. I get to feel indignant when I read how the people Jesus loved and trusted treated him unfairly when he made his big announcement. I get to feel sadness because they missed the opportunity for the redemption he offered them. I get to feel my heart cry out for myself as I consider how many times in my life I have ignored Jesus' offer to liberate me from my own self-centered sinfulness, when I should have run to him screaming, "Forgive me, Lord, for I am a sinful woman."
I will be spending some time this week just sitting at Jesus' feet, incredulous of his public announcement and basking in his excitement to share it with his favorite people.
This photo was taken from the Madian Project webpage. This church is believed to be built over the ruins of the synagogue in Nazareth where Jesus studied and prayed growing up, where he made his big announcement shared in Luke 4.