4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 9-12): Prophets Along the Way
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
Last week we heard Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returning to his hometown of Nazareth, and proclaiming the Word of God. In the people's hearing, he says, the Word of God is fulfilled. He has come not just to proclaim the Word but to do the Word. In the Gospel this Sunday, we hear the people's reaction to what he says.
The eyes of all were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
The people seem fascinated by Jesus. Someone they have known all their lives is not likely to amaze them, but here he is fixing their attention! It seems incredible that these gracious words can come from the mouth of Joseph's son. Who would have thought it?!
Nazareth is not a big or important city; it is actually a pretty small town, relatively unimportant. In fact, the apostle Nathaniel reportedly says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The people of Nazareth are probably thrilled to realize that this guy, this Jesus they have known all their lives, is someone important. And he is theirs.
Jesus said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”
These words of Jesus seem a little strange. The people have not said anything like these things yet. Jesus seems to be anticipating what they will say. What does he know about these people?
'Doctor, cure yourself'—what does that mean? It might mean, 'fix yourself, Jesus, before you try to fix us.' Jesus might know that these people think he has issues of his own, and should set himself right before God before looking to them. The people think they know him. They know what he should do.
'Doctor, cure yourself', could also mean, 'Doctor, your work is here, with your own people.' Jesus might know the people will point out that Nazareth has people in need of healing and forgiveness. He should not leave to go elsewhere. They know what he should do.
‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ Apparently there are rumours about what Jesus has already done. Perhaps Jesus knows the people will demand that he prove himself. They think they know him.
Or perhaps again, Jesus knows the people want him to stay in Nazareth. Perhaps he knows they are thinking, 'Do your good works here, Jesus. Why are you doing them in Capernaum?' The people want to tell him what he should do.
Again, the people have not said any of these things yet, but Jesus anticipates trouble.
“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.
If Jesus is correct in thinking that the people will say these things, then he knows they think they know best—they think they own him. They want him to do their will, not God's will. Jesus reminds the people of two stories of prophets in the Bible.
But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.
There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.
Elijah and Elisha, both prophets of Israel, follow God's will. In both of these stories, they help Gentiles who do not belong. Would Elijah have been popular with the widows in Israel? Would Elisha have made friends among the people with leprosy in Israel? Probably not. Being a prophet does not seem to win popularity contests. Doing the will of God does not seem to win friends.
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove Jesus out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.
Apparently, Jesus is correct about these people. They are not impressed with him. They do not like him pointing out the truth. They do not like realizing that they do not own him.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
This is, perhaps, the most important line in the Gospel for this Sunday.
In the midst of these people who think they know him,
in the midst of these people who think they own him,
in the midst of these people full of rage,
Jesus passes through.
He goes on his way. He goes on the way of God.
This is important for us because at our baptism, this prayer was said,
He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation,
so that, joined to his people,
you may remain as a member of Christ,
Priest, Prophet and King,
unto eternal life.
We want to remain a member of Christ unto eternal life—the fullness of life with God. Apparently, along the way, we are meant to be prophet.
Along the way, prophets may not be accepted in their hometown.
Along the way, they may not be very popular.
Along the way, they may not win hundreds of friends,
but along the way, prophets do the will of God.
Prophets are owned by no one, and prophets absolutely have One True Friend—the one who passes through all this noise, and continues on his way. And guess who continues along right behind him on the way?