Rejecting Jesus

Luke 4: 16-30
1 Thes 4: 13-18 / Psa 96

I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.
(Luke 4:24)

We cast Jesus from His ‘native place’
Every time we give in to sin;
If we want to imitate His ways,
Then let Christ our Lord live within.

Jesus went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and a scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ I tell you the truth,” He continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way. (Luke 4:16-30)

Reflection

The initial admiration of the hometown crowd in Nazareth took a sudden dramatic reversal, and turned to rage against Jesus when He talked about the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who ministered to Gentiles other than their own people. Elijah was considered by the Jews as one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. And yet he was rejected by his own people and even hunted by their king (Ahab) because he prophesied the 3-year drought in Israel, caused by the people’s unfaithfulness, worshipping Baal, the god of Jezebel (1Kings 17:1-24). The prophet Elisha, disciple and successor of Elijah, was also a prominent man of God, and like Elijah before him, also predicted a great famine that lasted for 7 years due to the people’s continued apostasy. He also performed many miracles, including raising a Shunnamite’s son from the dead (like Elijah), and the multiplication of loaves of bread (like Jesus) (2Kings 4). Naaman, a Syrian prince and enemy of the Israelites, was also healed of his leprosy by Elisha. These two Old Testament figures were precursors of Jesus, as they healed, performed miracles and prophesied for the people’s conversion.

Instead of seeking repentance, however, the Jews in Nazareth reacted negatively, and tried to kill Jesus, just as their ancestors behaved towards their prophets. The events in the Old Testament in fact prefigured the fate of the Jews because of their intransigence and hard-heartedness. The Spirit was with Jesus, as with the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and they were moved by His gracious words. The scripture was being fulfilled in their hearing, and yet the Jews chose to doubt Him and be cynical because after all, He was only a carpenter’s son. Because of this, as Jesus predicted, “…the kingdom of God will be taken away from (them) and given to a people that will produce its fruit” (Mt.21:43).

How true Jesus’ words are in today’s Gospel that “no prophet is accepted in his own native place”– that it is harder to evangelize our own kin than other people. Why is it so difficult to convince our own brothers and sisters, and even our own children to join our community? If it could happen to our Lord, Who performed miracles and spoke with authority, there is every reason it can also happen to us. Rejection comes in many forms, and even in the slightest way, it is always painful. This we experience with people who are close to us, but we just take it in stride to maintain our close relationship with them. We just tell ourselves, “He (or she) will encounter Jesus in due time.” In the meantime, let us just keep on praying for them.

We can also be guilty of rejecting Jesus, and not accepting Him in His native place, which is our heart, if we commit a grievous sin. Lord Jesus, help us to remain faithful to all of your commandments, so that you may always live within. Amen.

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