When I preached my first sermon the listeners were kind; they complimented me (not least of all for my brevity, since I “ran out of soap” after ten minutes). But when Jesus finished his first sermon, the congregation tried to kill him.
All the Bible studies I have heard (and given) from this story have offered one explanation of this murderous response: Jesus confronted his listeners with their racism, their hatred of Gentiles. Perhaps this interpretation has prevailed because the sin of racism has been a pervasive characteristic of our national history and because an element of racism does play a role in what happened on that long-ago Sabbath.
But Jewish friends have recently suggested to me that racism alone may be an unfair reading of the evidence. There had always been a Court of the Gentiles included within the Jewish Temple. These friends point to the high estimation Capernaum’s Jews had for a Gentile centurion (Luke 7:1-10), and to another admirable Gentile, Cornelius (Acts 10). They offer the possibility that the root of the Nazarenes’ anger was Jesus’ refusal to do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum (v. 23). They were enraged because their “boy” wasn’t showering them with favoritism. What an ungrateful whelp! Too big for his own britches!
This new perspective teaches me how greatly I need to be open to new ways of hearing all Scripture. Jesus was challenging his listeners with new ways of looking at their faith heritage, a sign of a dynamic, living faith. Surely, during this season of tiptoeing toward the astonishment of God-in-diapers, we ought to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to fresh ways of understanding God, our Bibles, and ourselves.
Can you name instances when you changed your mind about a faith or moral matter because of something new you encountered?
Lord, help me be a life-long learner, a disciple willing to follow wherever you lead. Amen.