Read Luke 4:14-21

“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:20 NLT)

buddy_christ1Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”.

As was mentioned in the previous two devotions, following his baptism and wilderness experiences, Jesus returned to Galilee. This was a place that was familiar to him and, no doubt, a place that he could return and feel confident enough to test the waters, so-to-speak. Yet, Jesus was not naive and he knew that returning home would present other challenges for him. Sure, he knew the area and he knew the people. He knew what their hopes were, he knew what their fears were. He knew what they enjoyed most and he also knew what they struggled with in their day to day lives. Jesus had an intimate and personal knowledge of those people. Yet, they knew him as well and they knew his family.

That’s not to say that everyone in Galilee, which is only 21 km (13 mi) long and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide (a total of 53 km or 33 mi in circumference), knew who Jesus was. But they would have known he was one of their own by his very village attached to his name (Jesus of Nazareth), let alone by his mannerisms and the way he talked. So, when Jesus shows up on the scene preaching words of wisdom and performing divine miracles, the buzz about this miracle worker and teacher rises up quickly and spreads throughout the region. This makes Jesus’ return to his own village a precarious one.

The people of Nazareth did intimately know this son of a carpenter and so, when they hear the reports of all he is doing in their region, they get curious, prideful, and excited for the homecoming of this “son of Nazareth.” When Jesus arrives in their town, they are all ready to hear him read from and expound upon the Scriptures. They’re not really listening to the words of the prophet Isaiah, as much as they are listening to their own excitement at the propsect that one of their own, a hometown boy (if you will), might actually be the promised Messiah come to deliver the people of Israel from foreign occupation. They wanted to claim him as their own and yet, because of their vested interest in him and the reports circulating about him, they were cutting themselves off from what God WAS ACTUALLY DOING. Hence why, in verse 24, Jesus states that “a prophet is never accepted in his own hometown”.

Jesus hadn’t come to make them proud, or give them something to continue reporting on; rather, he had returned home to the people he loved and knew so intimately in order that he might show them how they needed to change (not a popular message, I know!), in order that they might become agents of the Kingdom of God rather than slaves to the Kingdom of this world. This is a vitally important message for us as well. After all, we who go by Christ’s name consider him to be one of ours, right? We consider ourselves to be in with him and we report on how “awesome he is”! Christian athletes praise Christ for being their Lord and Savior and for helping them win games. Christian artists praise Christ for their artistic talents. Christian politicians praise God for their political gains and, truth be told, to garner Christian support. Yet, where is Christ in all of this? Is Christ merely a namesake that gets us what we want? Is Christ merely a name to drum ourselves up with? Or is Christ the one who comes to us and demands that we change in order to be true representatives of the Kingdom of God? Regardless of where you are on this, whether you accept this Jesus or not, God cannot be deceived and certainly knows a tree by the fruit it bears.

“Even children make themselves known by their acts, by whether what they do is pure and right.” (Proverbs 20:11 NRSV).
Lord, help me to see past the hype and the reports of who you are in order that I may see who you truly are and who you are calling me to be. Amen.

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