Jesus Goes Over the Wall

Luke 4:21-30
No prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.

Luke 4:20-30 invites us to picture Jesus leading worship for the first time back in his home town of Nazareth. He's made a reputation for himself on the road. It's said he's been doing miracles in Capernaum. Making water turn into wine in Canna. Marrying gay folk in California, or whatever the first century equivalent of that would be. People back home are wondering about him. The grumpy old man who once caught a boy he thought looked like Jesus stealing apples from his tree, sits in the back of the sanctuary. He wears a hat that says, "Make Nazareth Great Again."

In that setting, Jesus doesn't need to preach on any hot-button topic to get people angry with him. He just has to appear to be caring more for other people than he does for his own people. As human beings, we expect people to root for the home team. I once almost got beat up for wearing a Steeler shirt in Cleveland. It is as people say, "keep it local." But this is the one thing Jesus failed to do. The verse we teach our children is, "For God so loved the world, that he sent his only son..." (John 3:16). Jesus came as a missionary to the whole planet. His parting words to his disciples were, "Go unto all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). 

In last week's blog, we saw Jesus dealing with the wall that exists between rich and poor (see http://billkemp.info/content/jesus-and-wall). Here he goes over the wall between us and those we consider foreign or different. He does this in two ways: First, by physically placing himself where he encounters the foreigner. Even though his travel was limited to where he could walk, he took his disciples over the border and into what is modern day Lebanon. He sat down and ate with outcasts, prostitutes, and tax collectors. He asked a woman of Samaria to give him a drink from the well, even though his speaking to her violated everything that he had learned growing up in Nazareth. No wonder his own people were angry at him.

Second, Jesus used the scriptures to show that all of the great people of the Old Testament went over the wall and lived with foreigners. Jesus' own stories, which have become our scriptures, always showed foreigners in a good light. We tell the story of the Good Samaritan as if it deals with helping the widow next door get her groceries. If you look at it in context, it has more to do with helping the Guatemalan refugee. Jesus asks us, "Who do you consider to be your neighbor?"(Luke 10:25-37). Every time we draw the circle to wall off those who aren't related to us, or the same race as we are, or of the same political affiliation as we are, Jesus goes over that wall and leaves us alone. Get angry if you want to, I'm just saying it.

We can learn to love those who are different from us
Epiphany 4