There’s lots of foolish people doing foolish things in the bible. The foolishness of man, is unfortunately, more the rule than the exception. Especially when it comes to how we relate to our creator.
As time goes by, there is this gradual shift in how I view these mistakes. When I started reading the bible, I would contemplate how this indicates foolishness that happened thousands of years ago.
As time went by, I began to see that the world just hadn’t changed much. I would see the foolishness of others and see this as the echo of things that went on a long time ago. I would draw these connections between the greed, short-sightedness, and sin of people living now and people living then.
It would have been fun and easy to stay in this stage. I could have simply pointed my fingers at the modern-day pharisees and pharoahs, and felt all superior and holier-than thou.
But as I continue to grow spiritually, the thing I notice increasingly, is that the most important connections are not the ones that are outside of me. It’s fun to insightfully analyze the errors of others. But the most important analses are the errors of my own self.
Its not that important that there are other people in the world who act like pharisees and pharoahs. It’s not my job to single-handedly fix these people. It’s much more important that I not act like a pharisee or a pharoah myself.
And so I was reading in the book of Luke, today. Jesus walked into the temple and he pulled out a scroll. And he read the words of one of the prophets, applying them to himself. He told his listeners,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Previously, in this chapter, Luke tells us that “He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” Within a few short chapters, though, we’re told, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”
And so the question becomes, “How did the people’s hearts toward Jesus change to quickly?”
It’s clear by reading the verses between that one of the reasons for this switch is that in this instance, Jesus is reading in his home town. Jesus himself observes that ““no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
One of my whole points is that my job isn’t to criticize others so much as question myself. And the questions I have to ask myself are, “What prophets haven’t I accepted because they were in my hometown.”
Who in my own life has come with a Godly mission but were people that I refused to take seriously, because I knew them well enough to have seen them make mistakes before?
But there’s something else that cuts even deeper than all this.
Jesus says that prophets aren’t accepted in their home towns. And the people listening to him give him the oppurtunity to say some more. They apparently aren’t so bothered by this part of the confrontation.
He continues speaking. Just before he is run out of town, Jesus says, “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
It’s then that the people get all riled up.
They liked it when Jesus was talking about liberating them. They were excited by the idea that he might set them free. It was only when they were reminded that there were others worthy of liberation, that sometimes God messengers travel to far away lands to do their healing, that they began to be upset.
Initially, today, my reaction to this was quite spiritually immature. The first connection I made was to other people today. I thought about how there are many people who pray and focus on their own material needs. These are easy straw-man victims in my imagination. One of my favorite mental pastimes is emotionally assaulting defenders of the prosperity gospel.
But then I realized that I sit in church, sometimes, and I listen to pastors and others speak about a world that needs us. They draw our attention to physical and spiritual needs half a world away. Or they proclaim the importance of spreading Jesus’ news to those who don’t really know it.
And there have been times that I have heard these things, and I have not even realized how pathetic I am, to sit in my seat and think, “I am hurting. I am really hurting. And nobody knows. Nobody cares. What about me? What about me?”
As I sit here, now, I can see that my pain matters. But I can’t deny my affiliation with the people who rose up when Jesus had the audacity to suggest that others’ pains matter, too.