How balanced has the Church been?
How did Jesus prove his credentials?
So, to rewind to the beginning of our story, we read of Jesus, at the very start of his ministry, arriving that Sabbath at his home synagogue in Nazareth, a place where he and his family would have been known and loved. After the customary reading from the Torah, Jesus was called up to read the Haftarah, verses from the Ketuvim (writings) and Nevi’im (prophets). He stood up for the set reading for that week, taken from Isaiah 62, verses 1 and 2, then sat down, according to the Rabbinic custom, and, for the first time in his home synagogue - to people who had watched him grow from child, to youth to man - commenced to preach, starting with the words, “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.
By doing so he cemented the heart of God into time and place. Here was Jesus, identifying with the promised Messiah of Isaiah 62 and announcing that the time had come for its fulfillment. But perhaps the penny didn’t quite drop, yet …
The young man started well. All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. They were perhaps amazed at the eloquence and the style of delivery. Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Doesn’t he speak well? A credit to his parents! Joseph, the humble carpenter (if still alive), must have beamed, as he sat in the congregation. Then the sermon took an unexpected turn.
There was evidently a back story here. His reputation was not unknown to his friends and family in Nazareth as he had already taught in other synagogues and had been praised for it. He had also demonstrated his calling through various healings, notably one in nearby Capernaum that remains unrecorded. So the initial positive vibes as he started his sermon in Nazareth were to be expected.
Then the bombshell. The penny dropped. This man meant business and was not going to mince his words just because he was with friends and family.
“Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' "
What was this? It seems that there were expectations here that Jesus had no intention of fulfilling. He was his own man, he was God’s man (and man’s God!)
But he was also the promised Messiah and one of the first things he did was to prove it, without a shadow of a doubt, to the religious authorities of his day. He was going to fulfil the divine mandate, as prophesised by Isaiah and proclaimed by Jesus in his home synagogue.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."
He was going to preach the good news to the poor. He was going to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, including healing for the blind. He was also going to release the oppressed. It would truly be the year of the Lord’s favour.
Next week we will see how he begins to prove his credentials …