Luke 4:21-30 – My Paraphrase and a Reflection

And [Jesus] began speaking to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it read.”

And all spoke well of him and admired the words of grace that came from his mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

And he said to them, “No doubt you will tell me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard done in Capernuam, do also here in your hometown.”

And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet finds approval in his own country. Moreover I tell you of a truth: many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was shut three years and six months, so that a great famine was upon all the land. Yet unto none of them was Elijah sent, only to Zarephath of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was made clean, save Naaman the Syrian.

Then all who were in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with rage. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and led him to the precipice of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could cast him down headlong. But he, passing through their midst, went on his way.

——–

In a paraphrase of a biblical verse, the former pastor of Riverside Church in NYC, William Sloan Coffin once said, “”You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you-uncomfortable.”  Aldous Huxley, the author of the novel “Brave New World” went even further when he said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”

This passage from Luke does both for different people.  It makes me uncomfortable when I consider how narrow-minded and parochial the church and Christians (including myself) can sometimes be.  And it made the people in the synagogue  positively furious . . . so furious, in fact, that they try to kill Jesus after only his first sermon!

I am reminded about a retreat that Barbara Brown Taylor once attended and then wrote about. The retreat leader asked participants to think of one person who best represented Christ in their lives. While many had the usual complements for those special persons who had “been there” during the “hard times,” one woman hesitated before answering. When she finally spoke she said, “I had to think hard about that question. I kept thinking, ‘Who is it who told me the truth about myself so clearly that I wanted to kill them for it?'” (Christian Century, March 18-25, 1998)

One more tidbit for thought comes from  Fred Craddock in his commentary on Luke, from the Interpretation series:

Jesus defends his ministry to outsiders by offering two Old Testament stories. Both Elijah (1 Kings 17:8-14) and Elisha (2 Kings 5:1-17), prophets in Israel, took God’s favor to non-Jews. That those two stories were in their own Scriptures and quite familiar perhaps accounts in part for the intensity of their hostility. Anger and violence are the last defense of those who are made to face the truth of their own tradition which they have long defended and embraced. Learning what we already know is often painfully difficult. All of us know what it is to be at war with ourselves, sometimes making casualties of those who are guilty of nothing but speaking the truth in love. For Luke, the tension that erupts here and will erupt again and again elsewhere is not between Jesus and Judaism or between synagogue and church; it is between Judaism and its own Scriptures. [p. 63]

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