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Jesus anointed in Nazareth and was despised

Jesus Christ appealed to the sacred prophecy of Isaiah 61 when he took up the scrolls and confessed that he was truly the anointed of God. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” In a profound and prophetic way, Jesus accepted God’s commission to be God’s Messiah!

But despite all the prophetic statements and scriptural integrity, the people rejected the message of Christ. Luke records that the people “rose up and chased Jesus out of the city and brought him to the edge of the hill on which their city was built, so that they could throw him off the cliff.” The tragic story in the fourth chapter of Luke illustrates the violently violent way in which people who claim to follow God react inconsistently when God’s will conflicts with one’s own cultural comfort, status quo, or personal prestige within the community.

It is easy to imagine that the people of Nazareth were outraged because Jesus was questioning their own relative comfort and position. Traditionally, it is believed that the people of Nazareth who saw Jesus growing up as a child were on the margins of society. They were not wealthy and probably had modest means, if not outright poverty. Yet they also found themselves outside the heart of contemporary political and economic conflict. The oppressive occupiers of the Roman regime were well known, but hardly the dominant and terrorist presence known in places like Jerusalem. They felt the pressure of Roman subjugation, but not the daily humiliation and degradation that had come to define Roman dominance of Palestinian Jewish culture. In many ways, the people of Nazareth simply wanted to keep things as they were, not to cause trouble and not to disrupt the system they knew—even if it was a system that technically contradicted God’s will. The corrupt and distorted social norm they knew was better for them than accepting a radical system that took seriously the needs of poverty, discrimination, equality and justice.

But in this false reality of supposed peace and justice, the boy from his hometown, Jesus, dared to appeal to the Holy Scriptures to proclaim a new reality. It was not God’s chosen one to uphold Roman rule, its idolatrous presence, and the sinful corruption of many in the Jewish leadership. Such systems existed to advance the political regime, keep the powerful in charge, keep the voiceless at bay, and prevent equality and God’s justice from challenging accepted norms, standards, or assumptions. On the contrary, the Messiah of God dared to proclaim a different reality!

By copying God’s word from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus announced that the kingdom would be different under his rule. Jesus’ followers would be committed to fulfilling his mission. The good news of wholeness and salvation would be offered to the poor (not just preached but actually made available), those in bondage would be set free, those blind to God’s true vision would see again, all who were oppressed by the forces of evil, military domination, hatred and discrimination would go free, and for the whole world the Year of God’s Favor – often understood as the Jubilee Year in which debts would be forgiven, lands would be restored and freedom would be given to slaves granted – proclaimed. When the people of God chose to accept God’s commission for his ministry, they would turn against Jesus and try to have him killed. It would take three years, but eventually they would succeed. Jesus was murdered because people chose the status quo over God’s will in Scripture.