2/1/04, Ep4C

“Rejection in His Own Hometown”
Luke 4: 21-30

hey held Jesus in high esteem as long as he was telling them what they wanted to hear, but as soon as he began to contradict their presuppositions they rejected him. My twenty-one year old tabby cat, Ginger, is the same way. As long as we don’t break her obsessive compulsive routine she is just fine. However, if we do not let her outside on time, or start making the morning coffee before feeding her, she fusses. This mob in Nazareth was exploding out of sinful human anger toward Jesus because he did not seem to measure up to the little ideas and images that they had incorrectly come to expect in the promised Messiah. They wanted a military ruler, a king, who would cast out the hated Roman occupying army and re-establish their Hebrew Kingdom.

Our miraculously preserved story allows us to re-live one of the saddest events in the entire life of Jesus as he is rejected in his own hometown. The neighbors who knew him best had heard of his miracles, sermons and fame from several months of ministry in other towns of Palestine; and now "the local boy made good" had come back home. His friends and neighbors seemed to initially affirm him and were amazed when he began to speak in their synagogue. They were not even turned off by his initial hint of Messianic fulfillment. "All who were there spoke well of him and were amazed by his gracious words that fell from his lips. But they began to whisper among themselves, ‘How can this be?' they asked. 'Isn't this Joseph's son?” (v. 22)

When Jesus continued to speak, making the point that God was going to extend his grace to Gentiles also, and not only to Jews, they became enraged, carried him out to a cliff and were ready to throw him to his death. But, he simply slipped away right through the midst of the mob. Sometimes victory comes in a situation that seems hopeless.

John Wesley, whose ministry reached out to poor people who had been systematically excluded from the state church, often encountered angry mobs because he was challenging the social order. He was not allowed to preach in some churches because of his evangelical message that all persons were of sacred worth and everyone who would confess Christ could become a Christian, even without the blessing of the established official state church. Wesley contradicted the expectations and images that the government sponsored church held. Wealthy mine owners and merchants hired thugs to attack Wesley. His response was to preach to them about Christ until they got quiet and dispersed. He was never physically harmed. He stood up to, and won the respect of; his detractors even thought he was only five-feet-three inches tall and weighed 128 pounds.

Sometimes the weak win. Sometimes seeming losers are victorious. In Christ, we too can look beyond the skirmishes to the final victory. Although Jesus was rejected by many as he continued his ministry in Palestine, and even suffered greatly during the rejection by his own people again as he hung on the Cross, Jesus won the greatest victory of all when the stone was rolled away from his tomb. Isn’t it true that the darkest hour is just before the dawn? Many of us have been caught in situations that seemed hopeless but the power of God has allowed us to pull victory out of the teeth of defeat. As Winston Churchill repeated to the people of the great British people during the seeming defeat by the Nazi Empire, “Never give up! Never give up! Never, never give up!” Or, as Yogi Berra says, "It ain't over 'till it's over!" Sports fans know that this is true. Tonight's Super Bowl winner will probably be the team that captures the momentum and runs the ball right through the middle of the opposition's defense, with the greatest enthusiasm.

I learned from my high school football coach, Lee J. Stone, to never give up. I will never forget the championship game of the when our the much acclaimed Asheboro Blue Comets were trailing the Albemarle Buckaroos by a field goal with less than a minute on the clock and they had possession of the ball on their twenty yard line. Coach Stone yelled from the sidelines, "Boys, never give up!" And suddenly we dug in as never before! As a defensive right guard my job was to try to get the ball as soon as it was snapped, however Mickey Strayhorn, beat me to the quarterback who fumbled the ball. Then Strayhorn kicked the ball into the end zone where Bobby Bulla fought for it only to see it slip out of his grasp. Several Buckaroos frantically went for the bouncing ball but Bulla knocked them back as I was able to dive onto the ball; thus getting credit for the touchdown that won the trophy as the buzzer sounded ending the game.

I wish I could have phoned Mickey and Bobby to make sure I got this story straight. But Strayhorn was killed at age 21 in an automobile accident, and Bulla was killed in the jungle of Vietnam. I am still sad over their premature deaths, and feel guilty that I have had such a wonderful life, but there will be a day when we will understand the random nature of events on this current level of life. Only God is big enough to be in charge even amid the chaos that is seemingly a fact of our lives. Those who believe that life has to be simple and orderly for God to exist have a too small image of the Almighty. This is the core of the current debate between the teachings of C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud that was featured in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Faith and Values section. The fact is that the ball bounces randomly and that only God knows who will finally recover the fumble. Life is a maze and we will never be in control, accidents will keep on happening, but through it all we can survive, as Jesus dealt with his rejection in his own home town, and whenever this life is over for us we will share in his resurrection. And, we are able to meander through the maze of the real world because our hand is in His hand and His Spirit has been implanted in our eternal souls. Jesus knew that and has shared it with us.

So, we stay in the game, not knowing which way the ball will bounce, and aware that we will encounter defeats along the way, but having an awareness of final victory by the Power that is at work within our lives. We win some and we lose some too, but the Hope of Glory gives us fortitude, because we know we will see our Master face to face!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
2/1/04, Ep4C