I was traveling last week, and I passed though a town displaying its name, population and proudly announcing it was the home town of an Olympic gold metal winner. You could feel the cities pride as if it was their accomplishment. Years after some notable feat or accomplishemnt those cities still take pride in the fact someone they knew rose to such fame.
Not so with Jesus as he returned to his native place. By this time in his mission to reconcile us to God, he was being sought out by people and he was drawing thousands to witness his deeds and hear his words. They came to him not onlly to listen to him but to seek healing, wholeness and yes even to know forgiveness was theirs. His words and his touch changed lives.
At the same time, his message about the Kingdom of God was both received and rejected. It has always been a choice for us as far back as the garden, we have had a choice to respond to God or not.
Last week, we heard two gospel stories about faith. One about a person who was prominent and well known and the other person was an outcast living on the fringes of society. It was not her choice to be on the fringes, but it was because the law demanded she could not have contact with anyone. Yet they had a common heed for Jesus to restore something they lost. One lost contact with all they loved because of an illness and the other was losing something he loved because of illness so they went to Jesus.
Today we have Jesus going to his hometown and as it is in every town there is illness, unforgiveness, sin, hatred, intolerance, greed, malice, envy and the pain of loss.
Why was he there? Why not go there, don’t we all have some affinity for our native place. It is there we will renewe friendshiips wiht the people we knew while growing up. The older generation would have patted his head and praised his skill at carpentry. It is there he will fine the people he played with as a child and it is there he would once again see the people he would have wept with as they experienced pain, grief and loss.
He did not go back there to be praised but to minister to them just as he did to the other towns and villages. Yet instead of seeing the proud town with a banner across main street welcoming back their most famous resident we see hardness of heart. His friends and neighbors were not rejoicing at his eloquence or his reputation for working mighty deeds. No, they seemed to look back at the Jesus they knew as a carpenter. A carpenter could never be this eloquent, so he must be a charlatan an undeserving of his reputation.
So here some questions the gospel raises for us. How can our concept of who Jesus is imapct his ability to work with power among us? Can the God who created the universe, who calmed the storm winds, raised the dead, who gave sight to the blind, fed thousands with a few fish and walked on water have his power to work miracles hindered by our lack of faith? How can we restrict the God who created all things? I am going to tell you we cannot restrict that God, but I am also going to tell you God works through us and with us. We are active participants in the display of God’s power in the Kingdom of God Jesus came to restore.
Just think, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. Yet, the disciples were only given a hand full of bread and fish and told to bring it to the people. Did they know more would be waiting when they got back to Jesus? Jesus did not have to take the boy’s bread and fish he could have had the food appear as did the manna for the people during the exodus. The woman of last week had to get through the crowd to touch Jesus. The people of Bethany had to roll back the stone to witness the rebirth of Lazarus. Don’t you believe Jesus could have commanded the stone to move by itself? As members of the Kingdom of God, as sons and daughters heirs to the kingdome we are to be active participants in God’s power at work within his kingdom.
We must put aside our concept of who Jesus can be to us because like his hometown friends we will restrict how he can change our lives. Just think of what they missed him doing among them that day because they could not open their hearts to accept him. We also restrict the forgiveness, mercy and love of God by our failing to believe in his promises to us. We also fail to have our mystical moment when the power of the Holy Spirit reveals to us the things of God because we do not allow the Spirit to work within us. We have developed a comfortable faith and we refuse to open our hearts to anything more. Yet there is so much more as Jesus said in the upper room “…I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear” ( Jn. 16:12). ”
When God works in a way that may astonish us like it did that day as Jesus taught in the synagogue we dig in and refuse to believe it is real. It cannot be real for the Jesus I know would not, could not do these things. I know Jesus, but I do not know that Jesus. My Jesus is the image I look at on the holy card or the figure hanging on the cross he is not able to speak to me or touch me or let me know he will hold me in my pain.
This is more than a gospel about little faith not allowing God to work in our lives. It is a plea to be one of the few who allow Jesus to work miracles in our midst because we join with him and cooperate with him. Let us be like Peter and do the impossible and go where Jesus is calling us to go and do the things he did and far greater. Let us open our hearts and hear Jesus speaking his desire to let him be who he is – the source of all we seek.