There’s something amazing about coming home. Familiar sights, sounds, smells and situations come flooding into your senses as you near your destination. You can almost (though I don’t recommend it) drive with your eyes closed. Coming home for some is a pleasant experience, for others one of great pain. Joyful and sorrowful memories leave you conflicted. Where situations have been ‘resolved,’ the ‘anxiety’ level lessens, where mistrust and suspicion continue one may find actual physical symptoms redeveloping.
In Luke 4:14-30 Jesus returns to the province of Galilee, to the small community of Nazareth “where he had been brought up.”
a) Notice the Expectations and Disappointments of the Hometown Crowd
When he taught in the area synagogues, ‘everyone praised him.’ (Lk 4:15)
When he read from Isaiah 61:1,2 in the synagogue of Nazareth, “the eyes of everyone were fastened on him.” (v.20) As he began to teach – “All spoke well of him” and “were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” As he concluded the same sermon “All the people in the synagogue were furious.” As the service ended, they purposed to throw the preacher off the cliff!!!
I’ve had a range of experiences in my own community and know that congregations at home know me ‘warts and all.’ I’ve made my share of leadership ‘bad’ decisions and stirred the ‘ire’ of a community by my own foolish actions. No death threats were experienced in the making of this life (thus far) and for the most part my experience heading home was overwhelmingly positive. Even in visits in recent years, which due to busyness are not too frequent, I find great joy in connecting with as many people as possible. With the wonders of social media (like Facebook) and emails as well as the infrequent use of the telephone, I still interact with many people with whom I’ve had the joy of sharing many life experiences.
b) Notice the Anticipated Rejection of Jesus
Jesus “knew all men” and “knew what was in a man.” (John 2:24-25)
He quoted the well known proverb – “Physician, heal yourself,” and knew the expectations of his local community. He knew the Scriptures well and cited the experiences of the prophets Elijah and Elijah. God directed these leaders to leave their own people “the Jews” behind and to bring the touch of grace to a Sidonian widow and a Syrian military leader. These two brief examples were not received well! Though clearly stated in the scrolls of God’s ‘chosen’ people, they proved a rebuke to the congregation in Nazareth.
The touch of God for us is unpredictable. One individual, who seems so aloof and disinterested, even hostile to the things of God, repents and becomes a serious Christ-follower. Another one, more compliant and even for a time joins in the activities of a local bible believing fellowship, turns away and becomes a God-hater!
It is important but challenging to “let the light shine” in one’s home community. I joked with a colleague recently that many times I have a “hit-and-run” ministry now. My version of the translated old Latin expression – “I came, I saw, I conquered,” is “I came, I preached, I left.” Granted I may have further opportuniies to interact (particularly if I’m trusted to return), but my ministry there may be a ‘one-off.’ God has called me though to live for Him on my street, to interact graciously and wisely with neighbours and those in my circle of influence so that “they may see my good works and glorify my Father who is in heaven.” To that end, I’m asking God to protect me and to help me be the salt and light Christ has called me to be. Every Christ-follower is invited to join in this same holy, life-long calling!