The Jesus Who Offends   1 comment

Above:  View of Nazareth (1842), by David Roberts

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

As for me, brothers, when I came to you, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed.  During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ.  Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great “fear and trembling” and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the spirit.  And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

Psalm 119:97-104 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

97  Oh, how I love your law!

all the day long it is in my mind.

98  Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies,

and it is always with me.

99  I have more understanding than all my teachers,

for your decrees are my study.

100  I am wiser than the elders,

because I observe your commandments.

101  I restrain my feet from every evil way,

that I may keep your word.

102  I do not shrink from your judgments,

because you yourself have taught me.

103  How sweet are your words to my taste!

they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.

104  Through your commandments I gain understanding;

therefore I hate every lying way.

Luke 4:16-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, 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 has been given to me,

for he has anointed me.

He has sent me bring the good news to the poor,

to proclaim liberty to the captives

and to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

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 as you listen.

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 the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, 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 those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

The Feast of Saint James of Jerusalem, Bishop and Martyr (October 23):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-james-of-jerusalem-bishop-and-martyr-october-23/

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With this post the Canadian Anglican lectionary leaves the Gospel of Matthew behind, for, if we continue in that book, we will commence the Passion Narrative.  This is Ordinary Time, not the latter part of Lent.  So we begin readings from Luke, another commendable book.  The rejection of Jesus at Nazareth is set at the beginning of his ministry, shortly after the temptation in the wilderness.

It begins well.  Jesus enters the synagogue and reads from Isaiah 61.  Then he announces that the people assembled are witnesses of the fulfillment of that text.  So far, so good.  As verse 22 tells us,

…he won the approval of all.

Yet the approval had a short lifespan.  Some began to murmur; how could Joseph’s boy say such a thing?  Who did he think he was?  Even worse, from a certain point of view, Jesus proceeded to speak kindly of Gentiles.  As we read in verse 28,

…everyone in the synagogue was enraged.

Okay, there is probably some hyperbole here.  It is possible that not everyone approved of Jesus or then became enraged.  One or two people (at least) might have stood out from the crowd.  Yet Jesus did face rejection.

The audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile, so it is no accident that, of the three versions of this story (the others being Mathew 13:54-58 and Mark 6:1-6), this is the only one to include the Gentile element.  Its inclusion here testified to the inclusion of faithful Gentiles among God’s redeemed people, a fact which proved quite contentious in the early decades of the Jesus movement.  Our Lord’s brother, St. James of Jerusalem, who became a martyr circa 62 C.E., stirred up much controversy by insisting that Gentile converts to Christianity not have to become Jews first.  He died for this.

We read in 1 Corinthians that the Christian message is about Jesus–not any Apostle or evangelist–and that  it

should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

That power of God encompasses Jews and Gentiles, those who agree with us and those who disagree with us, those we like and those we dislike, heterosexuals and homosexuals, the native-born and the foreign-born.  If that offends us, we need to examine ourselves spiritually.

Have we, who have grown up immersed in Christianity, become so familiar with one overly simplistic, manageable understanding of Jesus that the full reality of our Lord and Savior offends some of our sensibilities?  I am convinced that the Jesus of my childhood Sunday School classes in rural southern Georgia was a domesticated fiction.  The actual Jesus was much more interesting–and even offensive.  That is my Jesus–a Messiah worth following and a character worthy of the title “Savior.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 14, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-2/

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Posted October 14, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 2, Luke 4, Mark 6, Psalm 119 Mem

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 17: Monday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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