This morning, I was reading in Luke 4. As I read the account of Jesus’ first recorded sermon, I thought about how “successful” it was in light according to the way we often think of success (i.e., whether or not it produces some positive response).
In a Nazareth synagogue, located in the community where Jesus was raised, Jesus read a portion of Scripture from Isaiah 61. After reading the Scripture, Jesus sat down and stated, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”
So far, so good. Luke notes, “Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips.”
If Jesus would have finished there, we would have described it as a “successful” sermon. But Jesus didn’t finish there. He continued …
Undoubtedly, you will quote this saying to me. ‘Doctor, heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we’ve heard you did in Capernaum.’” 24 He said, “I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. 25 And I can assure you that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, when it didn’t rain for three and a half years and there was a great food shortage in the land. 26 Yet Elijah was sent to none of them but only to a widow in the city of Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 There were also many persons with skin diseases in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them were cleansed. Instead, Naaman the Syrian was cleansed.” (Luke 4.23-27, CEB)
These words produced a response alright, but it was not a positive response. Jesus spoke the truth and the truth struck a nerve. Luke describes the congregation’s response …
28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. 29 They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the crowd and went on his way. (Luke 4.28-29, CEB)
Preaching (and living) like Jesus is dangerous work!