A favorite pastor once shared that the Jewish faith has a word for the Torah that means many-sided gem, suggesting that each time you approach it you see something different. It is one of the things I love about God’s Word.
The story of Jesus launching his ministry in Galilee offers a great example and some valuable lessons.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.Luke 4:14
Jesus returns to Galilee following his baptism in the Jordan River and 40 days of temptation in the desert.
Scripture tells us Jesus is moving by the power of the Spirit. From deprivation to abundance. From desolation to community. From death to life. In fact, the Jordan River literally connected the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee.
Here he is back in the center of it all, surrounded by family and friends, among “believers.” Isn’t that where we all like to be? This is the spot God chose for Jesus to reveal his identity and purpose, to launch his ministry.
Jesus is not just quoting Isaiah 60, but in speaking it he is fulfilling the prophecy itself. Wouldn’t you think these folks would be the most likely to get it?
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news (the Gospel) to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.Isaiah 60: 1-2; Luke 4:18-19
Instead they respond: Isn’t that Joseph’s son?
Jesus calls out their faithlessness, reminding them that Elijah did not prosper the widows of Israel, but instead a widow from Zarephath, a Canannite (pagan) town. And Elisha did not heal the lepers of Israel, but instead Namaan the Syrian (who found healing in the Jordan River, the same water in which Jesus was baptized.)
Where Do You Call Home?
How do we apply this story to our lives?
As shocking as it is to read that a town of Israelites–who like Jesus were led from the desolation of the desert to abundance by the power of the same Spirit, who were given the gift of his word, and who were familiar with Jesus–could miss this and miss him, the reality is even worse. They not only rejected Jesus, they tried to send him off the cliff.
I saw them in us this week as I read with sadness a report on how America is losing its religion. A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed that just 30 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 38 say belief in God is very important to them.
This scripture reinforces for me why God calls us to serve in places other than home that have not yet heard the name of Jesus, rather than among those who have heard, but rejected him. Jesus instructed his own disciples (Matthew 10:14), “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”
Our country was founded by Christians seeking of religious freedom, yet we are increasingly abandoning God and the abundance that comes with knowing him and the power in his name. In this way we, like these Galileans, are building our town on a cliff. And we would do well to remember that it won’t be Jesus who goes off the edge.
[They] led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through their midst and went on his way.Luke 4: 29-30