Who’s in charge here?

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[Jesus] rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.

25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”

28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way. Luke 4:20-30 [NLT]

Cactus | Phoenix, AZ | January 2022

We were working on the installation of a new/rebuilt organ. That required renovating the choir loft and designing some things that needed decisions in order to proceed. The man doing the work was not my biggest fan, and yet for some reason had taken it upon himself to do the work. He was rebuilding the risers, and making a way for the organ to be positioned in a new configuration. During that process, he looked at me and asked, in effect, “Who’s in charge of these decisions?” I suppose it was a good question, but it was not unbiased. In fact it was his way of challenging me and some of the decisions that had been made. 

The people in Nazareth did not ask who was in charge on this occasion. They simply took matters into their own hands – or at least tried to – and took Jesus to a nearby cliff in an attempt to throw him off. They were asserting their power and “in-chargeness.” They had decided that Jesus could not be allowed to be in charge of them and their religion. 

As if. As if people could tell God what to do. As if Jesus will let anyone but the Father in heaven determine his moves and manner. As if they had any idea of what they were wishing for. As if Jesus was going to let anyone take his life from him apart from his will. He shows it here when they attempt to throw him off the cliff. And he makes it clear when he speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd later in his ministry: For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18) 

It’s not that Jesus is unwilling to die. In fact he will die for the sins of the world. He will give his life willingly – even for his enemies. His death will be far worse and more horrific than a fall from a cliff. But it will be on his terms. It will seem as though the devil and all who wished to end Jesus’ life and influence had won. It will appear to be a remarkable and lamentable defeat. And when Jesus walks through the crowd in defiance of their desire to throw him off the cliff, it looks like a remarkable and glorious win for Jesus and his reign and rule. 

But things are not always as they seem. And that includes also Jesus’ intent in challenging his hometown folks. He isn’t interested in inciting a riot. He doesn’t want merely to make them angry. He wants to point out their need for a different attitude toward God, faith, repentance, and grace. 

Sometimes we live under the illusion that we are in control of all things. In fact we have control over very little. And the sooner we recognize this, and align ourselves with God’s truth and purposes, the sooner we will experience the abundant storehouse of God’s grace. He is not only in charge. He is full of grace and truth and love and faithfulness. I, for one, am glad he’s in charge. 

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