Transfixed, the people marvel
at the eloquence streaming from Jesus’ lips.
With his words, Jesus dreams of those in prison going free.
In this reverie, those who are poor receive good news!
In fact, a year of favor comes to everyone!
This dream, Jesus exclaims excitedly,
has come true today!
The year of favor begins today!
The people respond:
Then they begin to think about the situation a bit more.
Wait! They say to each other.
The person who just spoke,
isn’t that Mary and Joseph’s kid?
C’mon! We know Jesus!
We were here when Jesus was just an awkward teen.
We know he’s not all that.
Have we been beguiled by him?
The carpenter’s son? Mary’s son?
Their awe turns to distrust
as they begin to think more cynically
about the words that had streamed from Jesus’ lips.
Jesus responds to their cynicism:
“Undoubtedly, you’ll quote me the Proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’
Do here in your own hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.
But the truth is, prophets never gain acceptance in their hometown.”
Jesus is not going to play favorites with the hometown.
There will be no special treatment
for those who had known him since childhood.
No showcase of skill.
The crowd had such high expectations.
Those expectations now dashed,
they end up disappointed. Angry. Indignant.
Who does this Jesus think he is anyway?
The crowd rises up, drags Jesus out of the town,
and prepares to cast him over a cliff.
Can we just pause here for a second?
That is an intense reaction.
The crowd doesn’t like what Jesus says,
so they decide to deal with that emotion
by throwing him off a cliff.
That is how they responded to their discomfort.
The crowd doesn’t like what Jesus says and that is it.
They already know it all.
I want to know:
Where is their sense of curiosity?
These people have a preconceived notion of what Jesus will do:
perform miracles. Entertain, not challenge.
Offer a quick fix, not a slow solution.
They want Jesus to speak eloquently,
but still behave like the docile Jesus they remember.
What if children grow and change?
What if Jesus doesn’t fit into the box of what we expect?
What if God is inviting us to have more curiosity?
When we lack curiosity,
we have a limited view of our surroundings.
Take my houseplants for example.
I received an African violet as a gift several years ago.
I looked at the leaves and I knew:
those are African violet leaves.
Now, African violets don’t like their leaves or flowers to get wet,
so I ordered a special African violet pot so I could water them from below
They just bloomed recently with beautiful magenta flowers.
They bloomed on tall stems and the flowers bloomed backward.
I finally got curious about my plant this week.
I looked it up and discovered this: it’s not an African violet!
It’s a cyclamen or a Persian violet.
I just fit this plant into what I knew,
rather than becoming curious about the plant itself,
which ended up opening my mind.
Maybe there is more to our surroundings than we realize.
Maybe we, too, have limited views of the earth and its people.
What I love about Jesus is that
Jesus doesn’t stay there, on the cliffside,
confined by people’s assumptions.
Instead, Jesus slips through the crowd and continues on his way.
Jesus is on the move.
Now I am curious:
Do you think the crowd took time to think when they got angry at Jesus?
Do you think they took the time to consider
why Jesus’ words made them angry?
Did they take the time to consider what would be the best response
from a point of emotional excellence?
Sure, responding dismissively, angrily makes them, makes us, feel good in the short term; however, it does not make us feel good in the long term.
Reactivity is the short, easy journey.
It turns us all into someone that we would not be otherwise.
Someone, at times, willing to push Jesus off a cliff—because who can believe he talked to us like that? We aren’t going to take any of that nonsense!
Yet, how does Jesus respond to this malice?
Jesus goes for a walk!
Jesus takes the lengthier journey; he moves along on his way,
remembering to breathe, to move, to not stay stuck.
Jesus invites us to consider processing
the messages we hear more thoughtfully.
There is a space and time where we can move beyond reactivity.
To bothering. To thinking. To learning self-control.
As I contemplate Jesus’ walk, I realize that Jesus’ walk takes time.
We hear about the steps Jesus takes to slip out of the crowd,
but after that, Jesus keeps going. For how many hours? For how many days?
Faith is this. Faith is “Listening for a long time in the hope that there is something different to hear. Faith is the opposite of dismissiveness. Faith is the slow journey.”
That is the journey that the crowd seem unable to grasp for now.
However, later Jesus’ mother will find him, even at the cross.
The disciples, too, slip away, with Jesus.
And maybe later, some people will regret what they have done,
regret the way they hit the easy buttons and feel-good buttons so readily.
Then, they may begin to breathe.
Their posture shifts
s their shoulders move back,
and their diaphragm expands.
Questions come to them.
Well, maybe they don’t know everything.
Maybe the wildness of God yet has something to show them …
A walk beckons them.
A walk with Jesus.
A walk like Jesus’.
Jesus moves straight through the crowd and walks away.
Jesus knows life holds more.
Jesus knows that there are still treasures yet to be found!
Treasures within us!
Maybe we also have limiting thoughts about ourselves.
Maybe we, too, make assumptions about our own souls.
We think we are the African violets,
that we already know who we are and all we contain.
Yet, Jesus sees beyond that.
Come on the journey with me, Jesus beckons.
Leave boxes. Leave labels.
Leave them and discover treasure:
your gleaming heart and your shining soul.
Will you perceive it?
That there is more?
To you? To others?
We are more than our reactivity.
We are more than our worst impulses.
Sometimes it takes a long time to realize this.
Yet, Jesus walks right past our assumptions
that how we act and react measures our value.
Rather, Jesus journeys persistently to our soul,
until at last we shy-ones, we messed-up ones perceive our worth.
Jesus’ dream has come true. Today!
You are God’s favored one.
And all of your neighbors, messed up as they are,
are God’s favored ones, too.