“Welcome home… Now, go jump off a cliff!”

A young man stood up in his home congregation. He was known by all of them. He had come from a humble, one might say poor, family. But he had learned a trade and excelled in his schooling. They had heard he had given up carpentry to be a teacher, something that made them proud. Sure, his family had a murky past… but lots of families did. But he was one of their own, and they were proud of him.

The minister offered him the chance to speak, since he had returned home for a visit. So he stood up, opened the Scriptures, and began to read the passage for the day:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

What a beautiful reading from one of their favorite prophets. Isaiah’s words are always so poignant, aren’t they? they were thinking to themselves.

And then he closed the Scriptures, sat down, and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And at first the people were excited and marveled at his words. But as he continued he made them irate, then indignant, and then downright angry, especially when he talked about God working among foreigners. And because of his words they tried to kill Jesus, the one who had grown up in their midst!

“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

What a tough, depressing story! While it is a story I love and cherish, I also hope to never have to repeat it in my own life. I worked at my home congregation for approximately two years as an apprentice, but no one ever tried to throw me over a cliff! I was treated with love and respect. But when God’s message becomes uncomfortable, people do things completely out of their character. They can become angry, harsh, violent, even murderous.

Welcome-home-doormat-001

Welcome home!!! Now, go jump off a cliff!

Jesus came to teach about the Kingdom. He proclaimed that God had sent him to bring hope, healing, and restoration. He came to restore shalom, a Jewish word that stood not just for peace but also prosperity, hope, completeness, and wholeness. It was a return to the way things were meant to be. Jesus was going to help the helpless, strengthen the weak, give freedom, and celebrate the Jubilee. And they wanted to kill him for it!

But when God’s message becomes uncomfortable, people do things completely out of their character. They can become angry, harsh, violent, even murderous.

But Jesus’ message was too important to let a little interference stop him. He continued journeying and teaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The Kingdom comes close when hearts are changed and lives are restored. When shalom is established in the midst of a broken world, then the borders of the Kingdom grow a little larger.

God wants us to understand the purpose of his Kingdom. May we greet his message with far better results than those experienced in the synagogue at Nazareth!