"Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that He was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone's acclaim and pleasure.
"He came to Nazareth where He had been reared. As He always did on the Sabbath, He went to the meeting place. When He stood up to read, He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah." Luke 4:14-17a (The Message).
They knew Him. He was already a well-known and well-loved figure in the region. After all, an unusual person like Jesus could not escape notice. He was talked about outside Nazareth. When He disappeared for six weeks, people wondered where He was. 'Have you seen Jesus?' they asked one another. 'Strange! No one knows where He has gone.'
Then, out of the blue He was back, chatting to groups of people here and there; telling them stories and teaching them about the kingdom of God. They were excited. The news spread. 'Jesus is back. He's a rabbi. He tells wonderful stories. Come and listen to Him.'
He fascinated them because He wasn't like the other rabbis. He seemed to know what He was talking about. He wasn't forever quoting this rabbi or that rabbi, and His yoke -- so different from the others! He spoke about God as though He knew Him; and His God didn't sound like the God the other rabbis spoke of -- always demanding and expecting them to keep this law and that rule to please Him. He actually called His God 'Father' and Father was generous and full of mercy and compassion.
Back in Nazareth, on the Sabbath, everyone crowded into the synagogue. Jesus was there and they wanted to hear Him. It was expected that He would have something to say. And He did. When the time came for the reading of the Scriptures, everyone looked at Him expectantly, so He stood up and was given the scroll for that day.
"Unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written, "God's Spirit is on me; He's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, 'This is God's year to act!'"
"He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down. Every eye in the place was on Him, intent. Then he started in, 'You've just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.'" Luke 4:17b-21 (The Message).
What? Did they hear right? Did He say that prophecy was being fulfilled right in front of them? That was something difficult to swallow. There's a difference between having a strong expectation about something and accepting someone's claim that he or she is the fulfilment. Many have made audacious claims about themselves, only to disappear like everyone else, leaving life to go on unchanged as usual.
What was different about Jesus' claim? What was He saying? 'I am the one on whom all your hopes and dreams are pinned. I have arrived to carry out everything your beloved prophet Isaiah spoke about. You can relax now. I am here!'
Can you imagine a well-known figure, someone who grew up in your neighbourhood, who went to school down the road, who played with your kids in the street, who climbed trees and rode bicycle and scraped his knees under your nose, standing up in church and saying, 'I'm the one God sent to tell you that it's going to be okay. I'm going to fix everything for you.'
How would you react?
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