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And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding region. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. And He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
20 And He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all the people in the synagogue were intently directed at Him. 21 Now He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 And all the people were speaking well of Him, and admiring the gracious words which were coming from His lips; and yet they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23 And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! All the miracles that we heard were done in Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 But He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a severe famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many with leprosy in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and brought Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, so that they could throw Him down from the cliff. 30 But He passed through their midst and went on His way.– Luke 4:14-21 [NASB]
One of the best books on leadership that I’ve ever read was written by Edwin Friedman, Failure of Nerve, Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. I read it when it was first published shortly after his death. One of the teachings of the book was the twin dynamic, “Define yourself and stay connected.” You might know someone who is very well self-defined and really doesn’t care if you or anyone else likes him or what anyone might think about her ideas. You also might know someone who is so deeply caring and connected that she becomes a chameleon; you never really know where he stands. But to do both is a valuable ability.
Jesus clearly defined himself. He would not let Satan define his ways or words. He did not let his home town friends fit him into their mold or become their source of vicarious fame. But he was not aloof. He engaged people, sometimes challenging, other times inviting them closer. He knew who he was, and was committed to living out his true identity as the Son of God. He also cared deeply about people and gave himself to teaching, healing, loving and caring for people. He deeply connected with people’s hearts and hopes.
As he interacts with these home town folks here, you might wonder about the latter. He seems to poke at them, almost inciting them to the point that they want to throw him off the nearby cliff. He challenges their presumptive claim upon God’s favor. He tells them, in effect, that they should expect no favors because of their inside connection with him, or their status as Israelites. God’s favor is spread far and wide in Jesus. And he knew that if they thought they had a special claim to it, others would assume incorrectly that they had to wait in line.
Perhaps that’s the lesson we are to learn when our prayers aren’t answered while other’s are. Our loved one is not healed, and someone far from God is. I don’t think this is a punitive thing on God’s part. But it may be a lesson to others about the far reach of God’s grace and the breadth of his love.
When we do receive the special touch of God’s grace we can be deeply thankful that God looked upon us with his favor. We don’t deserve it. That’s the nature of grace after all. But it is so sweet when we do receive it. That’s because Jesus knew who he was, remained true to his true identity, and deeply connected with people who received his grace in humble faith.
Lord give me such a humble faith, so I can define myself as one loved by you and connected with you for all eternity.