Monday 2 November 2009

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (31/50) – His Prophetic Call to Israel: He Came To His Own...

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the thirty-first of the fifty emails, this one written by Margaret Killingray.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and news of him spread… he went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue… He stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.
Luke 4:14-17

It was an ordinary Sabbath, with the people of Nazareth in the synagogue together. Except that day a young man they knew, the son of a local carpenter, had returned to the town. They had heard widespread praise of his teaching in other parts of Galilee and now he was in their synagogue, about to read from Isaiah.

Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Luke 4:17-19

And then he said, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’.

Here at this local event in the local synagogue, Jesus spoke to the people and they responded. At first they spoke well of him, pleased with the success of a local man, looking forward to seeing some miracles, perhaps. But he continued to speak, challenging them to see that just as Israel had rejected the prophets, so he too would not be understood here in his home town. And as Elijah and Elisha had gone beyond Israel to the Gentiles to perform their miracles, so too Israel would find that God’s new kingdom would bless the poor, the prisoner, the outcast, and the Gentile. This was too much for them, and they became so angry that they tried to kill him.

Here and many more times, the gospel writers report Jesus’ challenges to Israel, and especially to her leaders. They were waiting for the restoration of the Davidic kingdom, for a proper and complete return from exile, for a Messiah who would throw out the Gentile conquerors, restore Israel’s ancient borders, restore her ethnic purity and enforce her laws. Jesus, Israel’s true Messiah, challenged them to a different agenda – to seek the lost sheep, take back the repentant sons, care for the widows and orphans, welcome the alien and stranger, demonstrate to the world the love and mercy of their God and recognise his Lordship. He challenged them to look at their own history and to open their ears to the prophets of their past, to Isaiah and to Amos, to Jeremiah and to Habakkuk.

Some would indeed respond, but, then as now, many would be blind and deaf to the Saviour of the world.

Margaret Killingray

For further reflection and action:

1. In Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11 Paul deals at length with the status of the Jews who have rejected Christ. These are difficult chapters and a good commentary helps us to understand them. But reading 9:1-5, 30-33 and 10:1-4 will give you a flavour of Paul’s argument.

2. Do you have friends and family who are content with their view on life and are indignant at attempts to present the gospel to them? Why not find two or three Christians and pray regularly together for the Holy Spirit’s work in those lives and for wisdom and discernment in your approach.

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