Sunday February 10, 2019
Sermon: Jesus Insults?
Scripture: Luke 4: 14 – 30
In this scripture passage found in Luke chapter 4, it very much sounds like Jesus is insulting those present in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. The people certainly take offence – to the point of dragging or pushing him to the brow of the hill on which Nazareth is built to push him over the cliff’s edge!
Would you ever think of Jesus insulting anyone? Have you ever been insulted? Have you ever insulted anyone? Either way, it doesn’t invite happy feelings or memories, does it? You have to be really angry or really upset with someone to insult them, and you are equally upset and usually angry when you are insulted.
When I divorced my first husband many years ago and remarried my husband Terry, my mother wouldn’t come to the wedding. Religion got in the way. I was brought up strictly Baptist and divorce was a no, no. My Mom didn’t recognize Terry in my life for many years. Was I insulted? I was more disappointed and exasperated at the time. But later, when my mother had left the Baptist church for a stricter religious group called The Gospel Hall, they were sending Bibles into Communist Russia at the time, hiding the Bibles in suitcases, and I wanted to contribute. I offered money to support this cause, but my Mom refused to take it. I wasn’t a member of The Gospel Hall. She didn’t want my money. Was I insulted? Yes, a little. I was a Christian, just like her, I wanted to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, just like her group. What was the problem? Religious perceptions got in the way. Just like our Jesus passage.
I asked a businessman who had his own store, was he ever insulted by his customers? Sure, he said. What did you do, I asked? I would laugh at them, ignore them, or kick them out, he said. Well, that Jewish synagogue crowd in Jesus’ day was trying to kick him out!
An article on the internet was brought to my attention this week. It’s entitled: Jesus Was Not Nice – and You Shouldn’t be, Either. It’s still there if you want to read it. I can send you the link. The article basically states the difference between being nice and being kind. That true love is always kind, that God is love, Jesus is love, and Jesus is always kind, but not always nice. Love doesn’t require you to be nice if you are asked to give up what is right, what is just, what is good and true. Being nice often focuses on outward consequences to yourself – your image – you don’t want to appear badly, you want to be liked, you may give up your principles at all cost, you don’t want to ruffle feathers and you want to avoid conflict. Your politeness, your image, is very important to you when you want to be nice.
When you’re kind, a desire for others’ well-being takes precedence over yourself. Kindness responds to the needs of others. Kindness may involve pleasantness or unpleasantness. You may need to give advice or discipline which isn’t happily received, but you’re being kind to warn someone about their behaviour, or decisions, or whatever it is which is misguided, or untruthful, or harmful. If someone’s drunk, you’re not going to let them drive home however much they argue with you – you’re being kind to keep them safe. Most of us are parents – did your kids like your interference or advice when it didn’t fit in with their plans? Being kind may create opposition or conflict. No one likes to hear that they are wrong. But we should never sacrifice our principles of what is right and good just to appear nice. We can be kind by lending a helping hand but also calling people out when necessary.
We are always to stand up for righteousness. Just like Jesus. He is our teacher. He had no patience for religious hypocrites or people who took advantage of others. He called the Pharisees, the strict religious group of the day, “You brood of vipers!” He called them out for their cruelty and oppression. He called people out for their apathy and resistance to repent: “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long will I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” He called the disciples out for their inattentiveness and lack of perception: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus was not afraid of what people thought, and he wasn’t afraid of conflict. He broke Jewish laws and their Sabbath rules. He touched the untouchables. He ate meals with society’s rejects. What Jesus cared about was righteousness. He stood for the kingdom of heaven, for repentance and salvation, forgiveness and hope. He came to tell the truth, to heal, and to save lives.
And this is what he meant on that day in the synagogue in Nazareth, when he proclaimed that he was the “anointed,” which means the Messiah. In telling the Jewish crowd that the prophets Elijah and Elisha brought salvation to others outside the Jewish nation, Jesus, referring to himself as a prophet, is meaning that he is going to bring his salvation to other nations and to other peoples. Jesus is bringing the kingdom of heaven and hope to all. The people in that synagogue didn’t understand Jesus’ meaning – their religious perceptions caused them to revolt. But Jesus’ words are always meant to teach. To instruct. Jesus always wants to reveal himself more clearly.
If Jesus were in our midst today, right now this morning, if this were the synagogue in Nazareth, what would Jesus say to us? Jesus would be kind – even if what he said was uncomfortable to hear. Would we be brave enough to listen? We would be willing, certainly, to hear lovely compliments, but what if Jesus called us out on something? What if he sounded insulting? Would we be brave enough to accept his words?
Quiet Meditation Time
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we ask that you reveal yourself to each of us this morning. What would you say to us? Please speak your messages to us. Let us be open and not afraid. Let your Spirit guide our thoughts and minds. Amen.