The first Ordinary Sundays of the Liturgical year focus on the initiation of Jesus’ public ministry, which begin after His Baptism. We hear from St. Luke’s recollection of the time when Jesus entered the synagogue.
The Lord was handed a scroll from which to proclaim God’s Word. The people are amazed because Jesus applies Isaiah’s words to Himself, saying that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me.”
This was the first public action of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and it reveals how initially accepted Jesus was by His own people. The passage concludes with the fact that “all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth.”
Clearly the people were interested. The problem for them was that they had come to expect the Messiah to be for Jews only. They had made God in their image. After being amazed at His gracious words, Luke reports that Jesus challenged the people by asking them to recall how God had revealed the Messiah would save anyone that would accept Him. This was seen in the example of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who fed, were welcomed by even healed non-Jews.
This infuriates the people and they nearly shove Jesus over a cliff before He escapes. What a difference a few minutes make! The Spirit of the Lord is not one of perfect harmony because human expectations often get in the way. The Spirit of God requires His people to open their hearts to Him like the gentiles who opened their homes and trust to God’s prophets Elijah and Elisha.
Those who claim that Jesus “welcomed everyone” have it right when they indicate that anyone who wanted to come to Him — Jew or non-Jew alike — could and can, but they miss the mark when they mean that Jesus and God’s Spirit condone actions that are found in our will and not His.
When we meet opposition for staying true to God’s Word and God’s guidance by the Spirit He has left us, we shouldn’t be disarmed or deflated by platitudinous claims that Jesus welcomed everyone. The people in the synagogue sure welcomed Him until He challenged their expectations of a Jewish-exclusive Messiah.
Their expectation of God’s conformity to their image blinded them to the good Jesus could do.
In Akron, Ohio, a protestor was recently injured while demonstrating in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic. The other protestors were amazed that the nurses inside came quickly to the injured woman’s assistance. Thankfully the injured woman survived. The nurses didn’t conform to the image the protestors had of people who cooperate with an intrinsically evil act. Even those who do are capable of good.
Human expectations can be blinding. All we should expect is that God’s teachings in the Scriptures have not been amended; morals do not evolve.
Like anyone who loves another, God loves us so much that He wants us to love Him back.
Fortunately God’s love is so deep that when we sin, He knows we are still capable of good and He gives us time to repent by conforming ourselves to Him. Part of that process is to pray for, not condemn, those who persist in expectations for God to conform to themselves. That is something we all need to do.