Gospel: Luke 4:21-30
21Then [Jesus] began to say to [all in the synagogue in Nazareth,] “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ ” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
As the people hear Jesus retell the stories of Elijah and Elisha aiding foreigners, the people are beginning to get nervous. Imagine what the scene must have looked like—the men, gathered near the front of the synagogue, shifting their weight from one foot to another, casting glances to their neighbor. The women, outside the room, but looking in, were whispering to one another, asking the one next to them what this is all about. The congregation must have been uncomfortable. They didn’t like what they were hearing. “Why doesn’t Jesus want to help us?” they ask. “Why does he care about the people in Capernaum? They are foreigners! They aren’t like us!”
No, my sisters and brothers, the people in Capernaum weren’t like the people in Nazareth. They were different—not from the close-knit village of Nazareth. And, as Jesus spoke in the temple, the people of Nazareth were reminded that God—their God, the Creator and Covenant-maker—often sent prophets to foreign lands and foreign people to show the majesty, power, and grace of God. This angered the Nazarenes to no end.
They reach out for the familiar Jesus, the one they knew as the son of Joseph. They want a word from the local kid-made-good, the carpenter's kid who used to live down the block, who used to frolic in the neighborhood with the rest of the youngsters. It was difficult for them to understand that the Son of God, the bread of heaven, could be contained in the familiar form of this young man, whom they were used to seeing standing beside his father in the carpenter's shop. We can understand that, can't we? If someone here in the congregation was to suddenly get up and claim to be the Son of God, wouldn't we have a few questions of them?
"Sez who?!" Sounds familiar. Two kids are out in the back lot, playing a game, and one says, "You can't do that!" And the other replies, "Sez who?!" Someone tells us what we need to do, and our immediate reply to them is, "Oh, yeah? Sez who?!"
"Sez who?!" The people wanted to know the basis of Jesus' authority. They despised the familiar. Just a few paragraphs before, Jesus had come out of the waters of the Jordan, and the voice of God had said, "This is my Son, the beloved." A few pages later, he will take the disciples up on the mountaintop, and that same voice will again say, "This is my Son. Listen to Him!" But now, those whom we would think know Him best refuse to believe, refuse to hear.
It may be that we also have trouble hearing Him. We've grown up in the church. We've heard it so often that it just rolls off our backs. Maybe that's why some go looking for new religions - something new, something different. The claims of Christianity have become familiar, so we despise them. We mix in a little astrology, a little reincarnation, a little superstition, - maybe even a little politics. Our own ideas become more important than what He has to say. "I'll believe what I want to believe!" "It's my life - I can do as I please with it!"
"Sez who?!" "Sez me!," Jesus retorts. "Having eyes, they do not see. Having ears, they do not hear." Maybe we need to pick up our bibles once again, put aside our own preconceptions, our own ideologies, our own ideas of what ought or ought not be, our own prejudices - and let Him speak the authoritative word of life to us. The Father says, "This is my Son, the Beloved One. Listen to Him." He alone knows God's will and purpose for your life. He alone can show you the way to peace and joy. Only He can lead you back to the arms of your waiting Father. There is no other way home. "No one," He says, "can come to the Father, except through me."
"Sez who?!" Do we dare pit our authority against His? Do we dare refuse when He calls our name? Do we dare turn aside when He tells us to forgive one another, to love one another, to care for one another? Do we dare say, "No - I don't want to?" When He tells us to proclaim Him to the nations, do we dare say, "I don't feel like it right now. Let someone else do it?"
God's Word is life-changing; it is world-changing. It challenges everything else that we are tempted to put in place of God. It challenges our tendency to go along and get along. It challenges the way we tend to live for ourselves alone. It challenges our limited vision. It challenges the way we act as if the universe revolves around us - our needs, our desires.
The only real truth in this world is the truth of Jesus Christ. All other truth merely points to Him; all other truth is just facts that are sign-posts pointing to the Great Truth, the one who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life."
Who says so? Not me. I'm just a fallible, sinful man. I have no divine insight, no red phone to heaven. Yet I am bold to stand and speak with the authority of God before you today, to claim that it is His words that are being spoken here, that, as Paul said, "I speak with the authority of Christ himself." Not because I say so, but because He says so. He is my authority. And, by that same authority, I call on you to believe, to respond to His call, to live in faith, and minister in His name. "Sez who?!" Says Him. (Excerpts from sermons by Gary Roth, Peter Blackburn, Walter Harms)
Let us pray: Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.