Summary: It is hard to come home, but why did Jesus come looking for a fight?
4 Epiphany C Luke 4:21-30 28 January 2001
Rev. Roger Haugen
If you grew up in a small town, you know about small town rivalries. The hockey teams that play just a little tougher when playing a certain town. The anger at the boys because the girls want to date boys from the other town. Won’t send our children to school in that town because once the school goes, next is the elevator and soon the entire town is gone.
But in North Battleford, we know nothing about that! And all the people from Battleford bristle! I hear of stories of how angry the people from Battleford when a new settlement across the river began and had the audacity to call themselves “North Battleford”. And to think that it has grown larger. There is some pride still in people speaking of “Old Town.” Yes, we know a little about small town rivalry.
And so here we have Jesus coming home. Small town boy makes good and comes home. You can see the headlines! You can feel the excitement! Joseph’s son, the one who has been healing and preaching — causing a stir wherever he goes. Let’s have a parade! It’s Joseph’s boy! Come on Jesus give us a show of your power! Make us proud of you! Let us rub shoulders with you.
A bit like Corey Scwab showing up at the neighbourhood rink and having the kids shoot pucks at him. Imagine being able to say you scored a goal on Corey Schwab! Fiona Smith skating with the Sharks hockey team. Give us a chance to touch your greatness. Yeah Nazareth! Yeah North Battleford!
So why does Jesus pick a fight? How ungrateful. Corey Schwab would let the little guys think they scored a goal. Why does Jesus have to rub their noses in it? He did so much in Capernaum, is it too much to expect him to give us a little show in Nazareth?
I guess it is hard to come home. How many of you have gone home and discovered that it is as though you never left? Part of the stress of holidays like Christmas is that people revert to behaviours of their adolescent years. Adult children gather around a Christmas table and pick up the roles they had 20 years previous. There is a pull to keep things the way they were. There is some stability in what is known, even if it no longer applies. I have seen a grandmother going home turning into a little girl in the presence of her mother. You might be the president of large corporation in charge of hundreds of people but your father expects you to be the boy who left home.
Is not this Joseph’s son? Maybe the same for Jesus. He may have felt the expectations and knew that so much had changed — that to expect the “same old” was contrary to his mission. Let’s have a parade but let’s have it for the right reason — the Messiah has come. The action isn’t in what was, the action is in what will be, the Kingdom of God is coming, the Messiah is here to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, healing to those in need!
Just maybe, Jesus knew that the people wanted to hold on to the safe, the predictable, quaint history and traditions. Jesus knew the danger of that. To do so would be failure to see the Messiah, failure to be a part of the Kingdom of God which was breaking in upon them. Jesus knew that to expect some special treatment because they knew Jesus for such a long time, simply wouldn’t work. I suspect they felt they deserved some special treatment. They knew some of his family secrets, they knew him when he was a boy, they were comfortable with their image of Jesus, and he should know that.
And Jesus sticks their nose in it. Why was Elijah sent by God to Zarephath? Why did Elisha cleanse Naaman the Syrian? These are not part of the in-crowd. They did not know Jesus like ‘we” know Jesus! There is no special treatment. We need to give up any pretense to deserving anything!
I once told the president of a congregation that a lot of the best Lutherans weren’t born that way. I don’t remember what the conversation was that led me to say that but I do remember thinking I might be choked. There is something in each of us that thinks we earn some special treatment. It reveals itself in reminding new people that they are new, expecting special deference at meetings because we hold a position, or have been here a long time. To be not given due regard makes us angry.