He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, 'This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.' And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, 'This is Joseph's son, surely?'
But he replied, 'No doubt you will quote me the saying, "Physician, heal yourself," and tell me, "We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own country." 'And he went on, 'In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
'There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah's day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a town in Sidonia. And in the prophet Elisha's time there were many suffering from virulent skin-diseases in Israel, but none of these was cured -- only Naaman the Syrian. 'When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.
They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff, but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away.
We are Poor so we can Be Free
The listeners became angry because they obviously recognised that this man was speaking the truth. Jesus spoke the truth and the truth was Good News. Yet the reaction was negative. The reaction was anger. The people listening to Jesus reacted angrily to Good News.
Jesus told the Jewish people in the synagogue on this day that they were not exclusively the chosen people. He explained to them that God had in the past gone to people outside their group to help them and to heal them too. He was revealing his mission. He was using history – the history that the Jewish people knew intimately to reveal what was going to happen now and into the future. It was Good News. However bizarrely this was probably the day the seeds of the crucifixion were planted. Jesus was crucified because he was not what the Jewish people wanted him to be. He didn’t say what they wanted to hear. He challenged them too much for their liking. He told the truth too openly
Really if you think about it, it was selfishness that led to Jesus being crucified. The people had become so entrenched in what they expected the Saviour to be and do for them that it lead them to kill Jesus because it was not what they wanted. He was not part of their plan.
Could we ever find ourselves in this same position? Could we react to the truth in a negative way? When our lives go in the wrong direction – perhaps when we are caught in addiction and those we love tell us the truth how do we respond? Are we open to the truth or do we not want the challenge that the truth brings us?
You see it can be easy to criticise the people who reacted to Jesus. However, we can be like them when we choose to ignore the life of Jesus – the words of Jesus – the actions of Jesus. When this happens – when we ignore the message of Jesus we become enclosed in ourselves or in our own selfish groups that agree with us and don’t challenge us and let us live whatever way we want. When that happens we fail to recognise Jesus in ourselves and in every person we meet. You see everyone we have talked to today; everyone we have seen is our brother or sister. They are our family. They are children of God like us. So the message that Jesus proclaims today is Good News for us all.
The spirit of the Lord has been given to us all. We have all been anointed. We are all poor in our own ways and so can be set free. We can receive new sight.
This is the tremendous joy in today’s Gospel if we truly recognise that we are the poor, the captives, the blind, the down trodden. Jesus has come for us today. This is not historical. This is Jesus alive today. This is Jesus talking today. He has Good News for us. He will set us free from anything that is binding our lives, anything that is wearing us down, anything that we feel has beaten us, Jesus will free us. A year of favour from the Lord is ours for the asking if we only listen to the truth, accept the truth and live in the truth.
Lord guide us in everything we say and do. Fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit, make us your instruments. Amen.