- Jeremiah 1:4-10
- Psalm 71:1-6
- 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20
- Luke 4:21-32
It is difficult to speak God’s Word. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we have countless stories of prophets being rejected and ignored by the people they were sent to speak to. Many of them were persecuted, imprisoned, exiled or killed.
Jeremiah’s message was not just for Israel, but for all peoples and nations. His words were intended to uproot and destroy false human structures so that the way would be clear to build and plant what God intended: “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:10).
Our gospel continues from last week in which Jesus announces that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21) as he quotes from the prophet Isaiah. Those in the synagogue were initially amazed, but it soon turned to skepticism, followed by anger as they recognized how Jesus was challenging previous beliefs.
Luke’s report brings the starry-eyed Christian down to earth with a thud. It previews something that will take place often in Jesus’ lifetime: his words will fall on deaf ears. Nor is rejection of Jesus’ message a phenomenon peculiar to his day along. Many centuries later, Thomas Caryle wrote: If Jesus were to come today, people would not crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, hear what he had to say, and make fun of him. Why haven’t 2,000 years changed things? A high-school boy volunteered an answer: Why don’t I take Jesus’ words more seriously? I guess because if I did, most of my friends would reject me, just as many of Jesus’ friends reject him. And I guess I couldn’t take that just now. Jesus left Nazareth with a deeper awareness of not only what lay ahead of him, but also what it meant to be a prophet. To be a prophet meant to expose himself to rejection – even death. –Mark Link “Rejection” from The Seventh Trumpet: The Good News Proclaimed (Argus Communications).
The idea that the Word of God is for all people – the poor and the oppressed – shook (and continues to threaten) those who were in positions of authority. Jesus tells stories that suggest God’s grace. Like rain, it falls where God wills, touching all – Gentiles as well as Jews. Today’s readings remind us that there is a cost to discipleship. To speak and act in God’s name sets one apart.
- Why do the people of Nazareth want to cast Jesus out of the city? What do you think they are really rejecting? Why?
- The proverb about prophets in their own country in verse 24 is a familiar one. What are some other examples of prophets rejected by their own people?
- What can we learn from the experiences of both Jeremiah and Jesus about the role of a prophet?
- In what ways does contemporary society, like the people of Nazareth, welcome the “gracious words” of Jesus? In what ways does society reject them? Why?
- What are your responses to Jesus’ words?