Luke uses today’s gospel passage to mark the beginning of
Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has just returned from the desert and
began teaching in the synagogues across the region. Doing this,
he amazed people and word began spreading about him. (See Lk 4:15,
the verse immediately before today’s gospel.) Today’s
passage begins as Jesus goes to the synagogue in his hometown of
Nazareth, like he did literally hundreds and hundreds of times before.
There, his townspeople are the first to hear who Jesus is and what
he came to do.
They are amazed, admiring, curious, thinking, “Jesus says
he is the anointed one who will give sight to the blind! Wow! Could
it be that Joseph’s son is the messiah!?” Now, when
I first return to my everyday life after an experience that brings
me closer to God, I don’t proclaim I am fulfilling Biblical
prophecy. But, similar to Jesus, I often do return to my world and
“wow” the people around me – with the insight
I can share, or the peace and contentment and newfound energy others
notice about me.
But, then Jesus does something very unusual, certainly not what
I would expect. Jesus told the townsfolk that he was the Anointed
One who would cure the blind. Responding out of admiration and curiosity,
the townsfolk (his own people!) ask him to cure the blind - show
them an example of the prophecy being fulfilled. Now, when I am
in this situation and I just captured an audience, after telling
them I could do something, I would…..well…I would really
“wow” the people by doing what I said I could do!
Jesus, though, does not do this. He does not meet their expectations.
Instead, as he will do time and time again, Jesus challenges people
to grow past their expectations. In this case, Jesus tells his own
people that he will do no miracles, signs, or wonders; he goes so
far as to equate himself with other prophets who were not accepted
in their native land.
So many times throughout my life, when I did not feel understood
or accepted by my loved ones or those interacting with me, I took
comfort from today’s gospel passage. I would think to myself,
“See, I am just like Jesus! No prophet is understood in his
own land by his own people. So, I can feel better knowing I am like
Jesus because my loved ones don’t understand me or accept
me either.” There may be some good truth to this – it
can be difficult for our loved ones to see us with fresh eyes.
But, looking deeper into this passage, I will think twice before
I equate myself again with Jesus here. When I am loved and admired
and the people around me ask for more, I don’t respond like
Jesus and say no. I give them more! When people ask me to back up
my words with actions, I don’t respond like Jesus. I strive
to give people what they ask and want from me. When I feel love
and admiration and praise, I want to soak it in and bask in it.
I don’t want to challenge people then. I vastly prefer to
challenge people when I feel unloved, unaccepted, misunderstood.
Maybe this passage has some new lessons for me about how my identity
is tied to others in ways Jesus’ identity was not. His identity
came from the Father. He did not need to act in accordance with
people’s expectations to validate who he was. Maybe that is
his challenge to me today: knowing he is the Anointed One, can I
work harder to meet what God calls me to be instead of concerning
myself so much with the expectations of others?