Surprise in the Synagogue

            As the fame of Jesus grew greater and greater, His hometown became better known as well. Nazareth, that backwoods village filled with crude and uncouth people, had a famous son, an answer to the sneers of Palestine. Like hometowns of sports heroes, we can imagine a sign on the outskirts of town: “Home of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World.”

            But not so fast. While there may have been welcome banners and back slapping when Jesus came back home, it was not for His glory but for their own noteriety. It seemed only natural that such a famous person would be invited to do what it seemed He did best – to preach at the synagogue. There would be the priest and the older ones who remembered Jesus as the oldest child of Mary and His foster father Joseph. “Don’t you remember how He helped His mother when Joseph died?” they asked each other. “Do you remember how He asked questions that no one could answer?” Others would say, “I always knew He would make us proud.” It was, after all, a small town where memory skewed actual events to conform with the present day reality.

            So, Jesus was back home and now it was the Sabbath. He was to speak. Doubtless there were those who were waiting for their names to be called, to be thanked publicly by the Superstar from Nazareth. Then He spoke from Isaish 61:1,2.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
   because He has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

            There was stunned silence. Every eye watched Jesus as He rolled up the scroll and returned it to the attendant. In all their civic pride, in all their joy at having a good thing come from Nazareth, in all their claims to have made Him the man He was today there was nothing to prepare them for what He said next: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

            Jesus laid claim to a Scripture that only the Messiah had a right to own. Jesus was all they thought He was but in that sentence He told them He was also much, much more. But rather than accepting it, they tried to keep Jesus tucked into the memory of a little boy raised in Nazareth. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

            Sad little Nazareth. You tried to keep Him where you found Him and so failed to follow Him where He was going.