“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled
in your hearing!”
Can you imagine what those final words of Jesus that we hear today might
have meant to the people gathered in the little synagogue of Nazareth
on that Sabbath day two thousand years ago! In fact, if we were to have
continued reading we would have heard that initially their reaction was
very positive. They spoke highly of Jesus and were amazed at the gracious
words that came from his mouth. But they were also a little puzzled, for
these were his neighbors; they had watched him grow up; he had played
with their children; they knew him well and so wondered what this carpenter,
the son of Joseph and Mary, could mean by “this passage is now fulfilled!”
Jesus responded to their wonderment and their questions and, using examples
from their own Scriptures, reminded them that a prophet is often not accepted
by his own people. With that their praise and their puzzlement turned
into rage and they drove him out of town, some of them even trying to
toss him off the side of the cliff. We know they did not succeed and,
in fact, Jesus went on to illustrate precisely how these words of Isaiah
were fulfilled in himself.
Time and again he proclaimed good news to the poor; he opened the eyes
of the blind and brought freedom to those who were held bound. He did
it quite literally, of course, when he smeared mud and spittle on the
beggar by the side of the road and restored his sight; when he called
Lazarus out of the tomb and had the shroud removed from him so he could
go free. But he did it also in ways his listeners in the synagogue that
day could little imagine: giving new vision to the hearts and minds of
people who thought they knew God’s plan for them, bringing freedom
to those imprisoned by their own sinfulness or by their harsh judgment
of those around them, proclaiming good news to those who were poor in
their own self-worth or in God’s reverence for them. Jesus showed
himself over and over again to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise;
the fulfillment of his people’s greatest hopes.
You and I stand in a place very different from that occupied by the
people who filled the Nazareth synagogue on that Sabbath day 2000 years
ago – and I am not speaking geography. We know that Jesus was correct
in what he said that day. We believe the things that have been recorded
about him and the great power that worked in him. The Scriptures were
fulfilled in Jesus and they are being fulfilled again today. In fact,
they have never stopped being fulfilled. It is Jesus who continues to
open eyes – eyes that have become heavy and closed to the good things
of life; to the signs of hope that exist among us; to the vision of peace
that seems sometimes around the corner and at other times light years
away; to the injustices and evil that continue to plague our earth –
many of them due to the chosen blindness of men and women who refuse to
see the truth.
It is Jesus who still proclaims good news to the poor anguished victims
of oppression; the good news of a new day; of trusted friends; of a loyal,
forgiving spouse; of a merciful God.
It is Jesus who never ceases to bring freedom to those held prisoner
by their own unforgiving heart; by their hatred and jealousy toward another;
by their fear and dependencies.
Today the Scripture is fulfilled in our hearing. Jesus continues to
be present and continues to do his work.
Many of the people of Nazareth wanted to silence Jesus. Perhaps they were
afraid of getting their hopes up too high – they had been disappointed
too often by those claiming to be the Messiah. There may be a similar
reaction on the part of many people today – we no longer have the
opportunity of driving Jesus out of town, however. We can just tune him
out, go elsewhere or seek a more convenient solution to life’s problems.