Wednesday 21st February – Luke 4:21-32 ‘Home is where it’s hardest?’

Luke 4:21-32

I wonder what you think about your home town (or village or city)?  On one level, we never really get away from it: if you have a passport, it’ll be recorded as your place of birth for your whole life.  And often our place of birth shapes us in ways we don’t always expect, and maybe find it hard to articulate.

This was brought home to me in 2012, at the time of the London Olympics.  I was born and brought up in London, subsequently worked there, and overall have lived about 27 years of my life in various parts of the city.   But I moved away in 2008 and four years later was happily living in Bristol.  Then came the Olympic Opening Ceremony: I remember watching with Alise in our lounge and feeling this overpowering sense of homesickness – ‘that’s my city, why am I not there to be a part of it?’  You can take the man out of London, but can you ever take London out of the man…?

Jesus faces a similar challenge today.  He’s just announced to his home town the in-breaking rule of God through his anointed rescuer, which is pretty big stuff: how will the congregation react?  Initially, the response is favourable: ‘all spoke well of him’ (v22); but then it turns into something more like patronising surprise: ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’  In other words, can the Messiah really be a carpenter’s son?  From Nazareth??  The same Jesus we saw grow up, who got lost at the Temple, who has lived quietly here all these years, until just a few weeks ago?

Familiarity breeds contempt, so they say.  And Jesus feels it.  Ironically, the fact that they’ve known him all his life should make it easy for them to see the qualities that will define his ministry as the Messiah – instead, the reverse is true: ‘Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ Give us a real sign!

So Jesus challenges them by reminding them that God’s blessings are not automatically conferred on those who happen to live in the right area: whilst God has consistently blessed Israel, in previous times of national disobedience, God quite happily blessed others too, in Sidon and Syria.  Being the birthplace of the Messiah is no reason for a sense of entitlement.

Sadly, the Nazarenes weren’t ready to listen, and whilst Jesus got away unharmed (v30), he only returned on one more occasion to his home town, where he received a similar reception (Mark 6:1-6) – and, from this point, settled in Capernaum just down the road.

As you look back at your ‘home town’, some of you may feel gratitude for what it gave you; others may feel relief that you got away!  Perhaps many of us feel a mixture of both.  Our past matters: but it does not entirely define our present, nor our future.  God anointed Jesus’ ministry elsewhere: might he do the same for you?