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21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”

22 Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?”

23 Then Jesus said to them, “Undoubtedly, you will quote this saying to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we’ve heard you did in Capernaum.’ ” 24 He said, “I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. 25 And I can assure you that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, when it didn’t rain for three and a half years and there was a great food shortage in the land. 26 Yet Elijah was sent to none of them but only to a widow in the city of Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 There were also many persons with skin diseases in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them were cleansed. Instead, Naaman the Syrian was cleansed.”

28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. 29 They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the crowd and went on his way.

Introduction: That Escalated Quickly

Previously on church:
Last week, we looked at the text immediately before this, where Jesus essentially reads his job description from the prophet Isaiah:
Heal the Brokenhearted
Release the Prisoners
Give Sight to the Blind
Proclaim the year of Jubilee.
And in this morning’s text, folks seem to start of at least saying “Yeah, that sounds great!”
Then, almost as quickly as possible, that same crowd is trying to throw Jesus off a cliff!
It’s kind of like that line in Anchorman, “That escalated quickly!”
So I want to kind of break down how this thing got so out of hand so quickly, and see what it might mean for us if we’re going to take Jesus’ teaching seriously.
Are we in trouble?

Bible Breakdown: Two Stories

Elijah

The Story:

1 Kings 17:7–16 CEB
After a while the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land. The Lord’s word came to Elijah: Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to take care of you. Elijah left and went to Zarephath. As he came to the town gate, he saw a widow collecting sticks. He called out to her, “Please get a little water for me in this cup so I can drink.” She went to get some water. He then said to her, “Please get me a piece of bread.” “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any food; only a handful of flour in a jar and a bit of oil in a bottle. Look at me. I’m collecting two sticks so that I can make some food for myself and my son. We’ll eat the last of the food and then die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go and do what you said. Only make a little loaf of bread for me first. Then bring it to me. You can make something for yourself and your son after that. This is what Israel’s God, the Lord, says: The jar of flour won’t decrease and the bottle of oil won’t run out until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” The widow went and did what Elijah said. So the widow, Elijah, and the widow’s household ate for many days. The jar of flour didn’t decrease nor did the bottle of oil run out, just as the Lord spoke through Elijah.

The Players

The entire country of Isreal is under a drought.
Elijah is a prophet in Isreal, so everyone would have been looking for him to either take care of them, or tell them how long this thing was going to last, or at least give them a little dose of hope.
And instead, he goes to an odd place.
Zarephath is a city in a foreign country.
So while the people of God are suffering in Isreal, Elijah heads out to look after foreigners?
And specifically, a widow.
Widows in the OT times were a group of people who had absolutely nothing to offer society, and so they were often ignored at best, or hated at worse.
And this particular widow has so little to offer society that she and her son are apparently ready to run out of food and die.

The Miracle

So Elijah has a kind of audacious request:
Give me something to eat!
This is an odd thing to be asking of a starving widow, that’s for sure.
But the insistence is that if you put a little bit of trust out there for God, God will take care of you.
Sure enough, it works.
She gives Elijah a bit of food, and her jar of flour and her bottle of oil last through the drought.
So God, through the prophet Elijah, shows his power over nature and his ability to provide for folks.
Even if it means that God provided in this example not for the people of Isreal, but for a foreign widow and her son.

Elisha

The Story:

2 Kings 5:1–19 (CEB)
Naaman, a general for the king of Aram, was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. This man was a mighty warrior, but he had a skin disease.Now Aramean raiding parties had gone out and captured a young girl from the land of Israel. She served Naaman’s wife.
She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master could come before the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his skin disease.” So Naaman went and told his master what the young girl from the land of Israel had said.
Then Aram’s king said, “Go ahead. I will send a letter to Israel’s king.”
So Naaman left. He took along ten kikkars of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. He brought the letter to Israel’s king. It read, “Along with this letter I’m sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his skin disease.”
When the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes. He said, “What? Am I God to hand out death and life? But this king writes me, asking me to cure someone of his skin disease! You must realize that he wants to start a fight with me.”
When Elisha the man of God heard that Israel’s king had ripped his clothes, he sent word to the king: “Why did you rip your clothes? Let the man come to me. Then he’ll know that there’s a prophet in Israel.”
Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots. He stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.”
But Naaman went away in anger. He said, “I thought for sure that he’d come out, stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the bad spot, and cure the skin disease. Aren’t the rivers in Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all Israel’s waters? Couldn’t I wash in them and get clean?” So he turned away and proceeded to leave in anger.
Naaman’s servants came up to him and spoke to him: “Our father, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? All he said to you was, ‘Wash and become clean.’ ” So Naaman went down and bathed in the Jordan seven times, just as the man of God had said. His skin was restored like that of a young boy, and he became clean.
He returned to the man of God with all his attendants. He came and stood before Elisha, saying, “Now I know for certain that there’s no God anywhere on earth except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
But Elisha said, “I swear by the life of the Lord I serve that I won’t accept anything.”

The Players

Elisha is the (unfortunately named) successor to Elijah’s office of prophet.
He’s approached by Naaman, who once again is a foreigner.
Not only that, he’s a general in the army of an enemy.
This is someone that not only do the people of Isreal dislike, they are actively out to try to kill these people!

The Miracle

Elisha has this guy go wash in the Jordan river, which even back in OT times had this kind of significant healing property to it.
It’s why John baptizes folks there.
Naaman doesn’t want to wash in the Jordan, he’s kind of expecting a bigger light show.
But his servant eventually talks some sense in to him, and he does what Elisha says.
And he’s healed of his leaprosy.
Naaman tries to pay Elisha for the miracle, but Elisha won’t have anything to do with cash.
First of all, he’s not about to be on the enemy’s payroll.
Secondly though, this was all about showing God’s power in the world.
Which once again, the point of this story is that while there were a whole bunch of people in Isreal that could have been healed of leoprosy, God chooses to act through the prophet for this foreign invader’s benefit.

Everyone’s Problem- The General got Particular

Recap-

So Jesus starts with this job description:
Heal the brokenhearted
Set the captives free
Give sight to the blind
Set Kingdom Economics in place.
And everyone starts out happy about this!
I think even last week, as we were walking through how this could be a job descriptions for us as apprentices of Jesus, we were on board with the message, right?
But then Jesus tells these two stories.
God chooses to work not through the people who assumed they were on the inside...
But actually chose to work through those who were hated outsiders.
Essentially Jesus says “Are you still going to be ok with this job description if the people that benefit aren’t…you?
Are you ok with healing the brokenhearted immigrants of your land?
Are you going to celebrate seeing captive sinners who have wounded you go free?
Are you prepared to have your eyes opened to the problems of people it’s far easier to ignore?
Are you ok with the Kingdom Economy, particularly if it’s going to cost you something and benefit someone who’s never worked a day in their life?
Because that’s what the job description is all about, Jesus says.

We’re ok with the gospel in general

In general, most folks are great with a God who is all about love and forgiveness
In general, most folks are over the moon to be praying for God’s blessings.
In general, most folks think that everyone should be recipients of forgiveness.

We struggle when it gets particular

What if the person who has done reprehensible things with young people comes to know Jesus, and find forgiveness? Can they get that forgiveness from us?
What if the undocumented immigrant winds up being the recipient of God’s blessings while we continue to struggle? Would we be ok with that?
What if God is challenging us, calling us in fact, to preach good news to people who have harmed us and wounded us?

No wonder they wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff!

Apprenticeship

Let Jesus Stir us Up

As a life long people pleaser, I left out part of this story...
Jesus could have stopped while everyone was happy with him, couldn’t he?
He didn’t need to tell the story of Elijah and the widow.
He didn’t have to remind them of Elisha and Naaman.
He didn’t have to put a particularity to God’s grace and love.
He could have just accepted their praise and moved on.
It’s not the crowd that gets mad in this story.
It’s Jesus that makes them mad.
Jesus I believe is always working to stir us up.
There’s a phrase that’s not in the Bible but everyone assumes is:
Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
But while that’s not in there, I think it’s a part of what Jesus is all about.
Right when we are at our most comfortable...
Right when our faith is on autopilot...
Right when we think we understand how the world works...
Jesus shows up and, with a healthy amount of compassion I think, stirs our hearts up.
Let’s be honest, this is uncomfortable!
We’d be a lot happier if Jesus would just leave us alone, wouldn’t we?
But when Jesus starts to stir us up, what would happen if we…let him?
Instead of looking for the nearest cliff, what if we let Jesus challenge our closely held beliefs?
Instead of assuming that God’s blessings are only for us, what if we listened to the particularities of Jesus’s message?
Instead of locking ourselves in to our stagnent faith, what if we were open to Christ’s stirring in our midst?

More of him, and less of me

Work on opening our hearts to those we’ve closed it off to

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