1 John 4:19-5:4
Luke introduces the Lord Jesus Christ in his role as God’s Anointed, our Teacher and Redeemer at Nazareth, and take up his work at Caparnaum later. What was said and done at Nazareth is for St. Luke a cameo account of what will ensue in the entire life of Jesus.
St. Luke puts a composite quotation from Isaiah in the mouth of Jesus:"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives… to let the oppressed go free…" Jesus then flatly proclaims: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
His hearers were amazed. "Is this the son of Joseph, who grew up among us? Where did get all this? How dare he claim to be the Anolinted One predicted by the prophets?"
Then the atmosphere became threatening when Jesus declared: "You are saying: "Prove yourself, do here what we hear was done in Caparnaum!" Jesus then informs them. "You can no more lay claim on my powers to cure than did the Jews who saw Elijah and Eliseus work miracles for pagans."
And that was too much! "We’ll show this upstart his rightful place. He thinks he can insult us. Why, in claiming to fulfill the scripture he insulting God! Stone him, throw him off the cliff." They rushed him out of town to the brow of the hill and would have cast him down, but he calmly turned on them and walked through their midst.
What did St. Luke have in mind by opening Jesus’ mission with this incident? St. Luke clearly sees this introductory incident as a comment on the entire career of Jesus. It was his way of illustrating St. John’s insight; "He came unto his own, but his own people did not accept him."
Is there a message for us in this incident? Jesus apparently thought so! After his first sharing with Apostles what his fate would be as the Messiah of God, he warns the Apostles and all, including us: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Nazareth will be fulfilled on Calvary.
Jesus warns us to be ready every day for whatever trial or hardship may come our way. Bishop Oscar Romero was well aware that he was under the gun and his Calvary came while he was reoffering the Sacrifice of Christ. The Jesuits and their servants were shot to death as they lay sleeping in their courtyard!
The vast majority of Catholics will not be challenged to die for their faith. But we are all challenged to live it. To turn against God when failure, hardship, loss of job, loss of health, death of loved relatives or friends happens is to reject our faith, our commitment. It is joining the mob at Nazareth, the scorners on Calvary.
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.