Hometown Blues

Luke 4:14-21
Isaiah 61
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor..." - Jesus & Isaiah

Jesus explains why the good people of Nazareth rejected him with this, “No prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.” Yes, they drove him out of town. Why?

Luke gives us two reasons, both of which apply to us today.

Reason One: Jesus was becoming famous (and forsaking his hometown roots). We both envy and hate the people who leave town and make it big. Bob Dylan hasn’t been back to Hibbing, Minnesota other than for his tenth high school reunion, where he got into a fight at the local Moose lodge. Luke 4:20-30 invites us to picture Jesus leading worship for the first time back in his hometown 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 Cana. He’s being asked to do a miracle, along with preaching the morning’s message. People want to gawk at him. They also are ready to dismiss him as a fake. “We know you. You’re Joseph’s son,” they say.


Reason Two: Jesus is committed to lifting up the poor, showing love to those who are in prison, making a place for those who are strangers, and debunking the conspiracy theory that diseases (like blindness and COVID) happen only to those who are sinners. His message is pure social justice. Easily rejected as “unchristian” by many churches today.


These two reasons are not exclusive, but rather compound each other. The fact that Jesus went out to heal people elsewhere, first, before doing a few test miracles in his hometown, bothered everyone, even those who came to the synagogue that day hoping for a healing. That Jesus considered immigrants and Romans as worthy of his attention as his own folk was anathema.

People then, just as today, expect their religion to declare them as better folk than others who aren’t members of their church. Jesus proclaims good news to irreligious people. He forsakes his membership in the Nazareth synagogue. Not one of his disciples is from his hometown.

We like to say, “God helps those who help themselves.” When Jesus preaches good news to the poor, he negates our prejudice that considers the poor to be lazy.

Politicians court our votes, saying, “We can make America great again by keeping certain people out of it.” Jesus reminds the patriotic people of Nazareth that the prophet Elijah went first to a widow living on the other side of the border (Luke 4:24-27).

I can understand why the man with the red hat that says, "Make Nazareth Great Again,” hated Jesus’ sermon. Do I understand my own reluctance to receive these words?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."


see http://billkemp.info/content/jesus-and-wall).

Hibbin's acceptance of Bob was reluctant
Epiphany 3