Tag Archives: Rejection

God’s People, part 192: Shaking Dust

Read Mark 6:7-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day.”  (Matthew 10:15, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Shaking-Dust-FeetPart 192: Shaking Dust. The pain that Jesus must have felt when he was rejected by his hometown of Nazareth, is easy enough to imagine. Think about your hometown. More than likely, you have fond memories of growing up there. I am sure you can remember the not so good things about it too; however, most of us look back to our childhood and to our hometowns with a positive nostalgia. It is the place, for better or worse, where we grew up and discovered who we are.

I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for all of the experiences I had growing up where I did. The good, the bad and the ugly experiences all helped me to become who I’ve become. The same undoubtedly is true for Jesus of Nazareth. So, when his own hometown kicked him out of the synagogue and tried to throw him off a cliff, I can only imagine the pain and sorrow that caused.

It was following that event that Jesus sends his twelve disciples, who in this moment become apostles (meaning “sent”), to go town to town preaching the good news, healing the sick and casting out demons. This was a big undertaking for them. All of the teachings of Christ, all of the things he taught them and they hopefully had learned, were going to be put to the test.

As he was preparing them for their mission, Jesus instructed them to go into towns and rely on the hospitality of a single household in each town. If the place household accepted them and listened to the Gospel message, then they were to bless that house and the people in it; however, if the household rejected them or their message, they were to “shake the dust off their feet” and leave. Jesus then stated that doing such was, “ to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate” (Mark 6:11, NLT).

What’s more, Jesus didn’t just say that for the households either. He was also referring to the towns. In Luke 10:14, he put it this way, “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.” He then added in verse 15, “I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day.”

Ouch. Why did Jesus compare Sodom and Gomorrah to those towns? Because the predominant sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was their lack of hospitality. They refused to listen to the message of the angels God sent, thus refusing to listen to God, and they wanted to rape Lot’s angelic guests rather than treat them with dignity, respect and hospitality.

Just as Jesus did with his own hometown of Nazareth, he was telling his disciples to shake the dust off their feet and to move on from places that reject them. It wasn’t worth arguing or trying to prove one’s point, or lingering around in hopes that they would change. Rather, shake the dust off and move on to those who are receptive and hospitable.

This instruction from Christ should challenge us in two ways. First, we should unashamedly be witnessing our faith in Jesus Christ to others. We should be sharing the Gospel message and we should not worry about being rejected. If that happens, let it be. Move on from those people and focus on the ones who hear the Gospel with eager ears and open hearts. Shaking the dust off our feet should not be done judgmentally, for who know what seed might grow at some point; however, time is short and the message is urgent. Let God deal with the people who will not hear it.

Second, we should be challenged to be a hospitable people. We should never live our lives in a way that reflect Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember, those cities were not destroyed because of homosexuality (as it is often misconstrued); rather, those cities were destroyed because they were so corrupted by evil that they could care less treating strangers/foreigners with respect, dignity and hospitality. They saw people as objects to use for their own pleasure and satisfaction.

Let us not be such a people. Let us instead be a people who are sent into the world representing Christ’s love and hospitality. Let us be a people who love others, who share the Gospel, and who show radical hospitality to all, even those who are rejecting us.

In fact, that is exactly the effect of shaking dust off of our feet in those situations where we are being rejected. In that moment, we are simply showing hospitality and acknowledging that the people rejecting us don’t want us there. Thus, we remove ourselves and go to a place where people have open ears and open hearts. Begin to model this in your life and embody the radical hospitality of our Lord and Savior.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Radical hospitality does not discriminate. It knows no sexual identity, gender, race, ethnicity, ability, or any other label used to divide us. It is one and the same to all.

PRAYER
Lord, transform me into a radically hospitable person by your sanctifying grace. Amen.

God’s People, part 191: Hometown

Read Mark 6:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff…” (Luke 4:28-29, NLT).

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Hometown_StorefrontPart 191: Hometown. There is something special about the town in which one grows up in. For me, I grew up in a fairly small town in Sussex County in the northwestern part of New Jersey. During the time I was in seventh and eight grade, my hometown had population of around 4,977. The town is geographically small, being nearly 4.6 square miles.

It was a sidewalk community meaning that one could walk from place to place on sidewalks and as I kid I used to walk from place to place with my friends. We’d hang out at the park, walk to the library, or go bowling at the Bowling Alley. Sometimes, we’d pop into the diner when it was still opened and have coffee and a bite to eat.

There is something special about one’s hometown and the nostalgic memories that surface when one reminisces about times gone by and all the experiences one had. Certainly, for those who didn’t move on a constant basis, people’s lives are rooted in the places they grew up. The good, the bad and the ugly. It is also true that those who moved around a lot as a child can feel like they don’t really have any roots. Hence the Alice Merton song Roots, in which she sings: “I build a home and wait for someone to tear it down. Then pack it up in boxes, head for the next town running. ‘Cause I’ve got memories and travel like gypsies in the night. I’ve got no roots but my home was never on the ground…”

I am sure that Jesus was very much rooted in his hometown of Nazareth. It is there that he grew up. It is there that he played, that learned his faith from his mother. It is there that he came of age and became a member of the local synagogue. It is there that he learned the carpentry trade and it is there that he experienced his call to become an itinerant rabbi.

Yet, there is a more dark and pernicious side to one’s hometown too. There is a side that is more hidden in the proverbial dark basement that doesn’t come out until the moment one begins to question the order of things. Jesus found this out in his hometown. Hometowns love their own, so long as they stay exactly in the place they’ve always been.

Had Jesus remained the carpenter from Nazareth, no one would have had qualms with him. But the Jesus that returned to Nazareth following his baptism and temptation in the desert was not the same Jesus that had left Nazareth seeking the will of God. The Jesus who returned was not the carpenter, but the Son of God focused to draw people unto himself so that they might be saved.

This Jesus healed. This Jesus taught. This Jesus drew a crowd and, in front of that crowd, called the religious, community and political establishment, as well as individuals, to account for their waywardness. This Jesus claimed that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy on the coming Day of the Lord, and this Jesus was claiming to be THE MESSIAH, the promised one who would deliver Israel!

The Nazarenes could not accept that precisely because they thought they knew Jesus. He was the carpenter’s son, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and his unnamed sisters. How could Jesus be the Messiah? How could he dare to come into the synagogue and preach us. Who died and gave him that authority?

It’s easy for us to point a finger at Nazareth and question them on their disbelief, but are we any better? How many of us think we KNOW Jesus? Yet, do we really KNOW Jesus? Would he walk into our homes and churches and feel at HOME? Or would he find us to be an unwelcoming place? Would we change our hearts at his guidance and direction? Or would we kick him out of our sanctuary and try to throw him over a cliff?

The challenge for us is to NOT be that kind of a hometown; however, in order to avoid that we need to expose the underbelly of our homes and places of worship. We need to stop seeing ourselves as sinless and in no need for improvement. We need to stop labeling little Joey and little Betty as being x, y, and z; rather we need to accept people for who they are in the moment, not who we think they are based off of who they once were.

Finally, we need to challenge ourselves to be open to critique and we need to be self-aware enough to admit when we’ve been called out for being in error. Yes, we need to be discerning and not all critique is true or honest; however, we need to at least hear the critique in a balanced and reflective way before we could ever be able to discern if it is from God or not. Be open to the correction of the spirit and be an exception to the rule that a prophet is not welcome in his/her hometown.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Be careful that you are not the one rejecting Jesus because He doesn’t meet up to your qualifications; rather, we need to open ourselves to Christ so that, by grace, we may be conformed to his expectations.

PRAYER
Lord, mold me and shape me into the disciple you’re calling me to be. Amen.

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 12: Response

Read Luke 4:22-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in His own hometown.” (Luke 4:24 CEB)

 Recently, 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”.

Part 12: Response. In every movie I have ever seen of Jesus, when it comes to the scene in the synagogue in Nazareth, the people become outraged when Jesus utters the words, “Today, the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The people are infuriated that this carpenter’s son could dare call himself the fulfillment of this prophecy. “How dare he call himself the Messiah and act as if we don’t know who he truly is. He’s Joseph’s son, is he not?” And of course, the people throw Jesus out of the synagogue and seek to stone him.

In reality, this portrayal in the films is far from the truth. Luke tells us that after having claimed that the words of Isaiah had been fulfilled in the moment he read them, the people “spoke well of him and [were] amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips.” (4:22 CEB) So, in reality, the people were excited he read those words. Their initial response was one of affirmation and support. They “spoke well of him” and were impressed that this son of a carpenter was so well spoken. They were also excited that this son of Nazareth might possibly be the Messiah.

Yet, things took a turn for the worse as Jesus didn’t stop there in order to accept the accolades. Rather, he challenges them and tells them that they’ll no doubt want him to perform a miracle like the ones he performed in other towns around Galilee. He then predicted that he would not be accepted by them, for he was coming to them a prophet. In other words, he was coming to them as a voice crying out against them and the ways they were playing a part in the impoverishment, blindness, captivity and oppression of the suffering among them. Not only the people literally suffering in the streets and jails, but all people including themselves.

Then Jesus pointed them to two examples in the Scriptures where other prophets were sent by God, not to the people of Israel, but to outsiders. Rather than performing miracles for those who supposed themselves to be “people of God”, God sent the prophets to peform miracles to those who were supposed to be Gentiles who were “under God’s curse.” In other words, according to Jesus, God was about to pass Nazareth by because they had hardened their hearts to God’s call to change. They weren’t interest in changing their ways. They weren’t interested in being a part of the solution. They weren’t interested in anything but sitting idly by and awaiting the arrival of one who would change the world while defending their own status quo.

It is at that moment, at the realization that this Jesus was not an ally but someone who came to speak against them, that they grew enraged and wanted to throw him off of a cliff. That was there response to Jesus’ Manifesto of change. The question for us is this, what is our response? Does Jesus go to far in calling us to subscribe to this manifesto? Will it require too much of us, make us too uncomfortable, and cause us to change our worldview? Or will we embrace it and allow the Christian Manifesto to manifest itself within us, to change us, and altar the course of our lives? Ultimately, that choice is left up to you: will you try to push Jesus off of a cliff, or join him in bringing about the Kingdom of God in the world? The choice is yours.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Christians should be ready for a change because Jesus was the greatest changer in history.” – Ralph Abernathy

PRAYER

Lord, prepare me for the change you are bringing into my life and help me be a part of the change you are bringing into the world. Amen.