I am the daughter of Fred. Fred was a hard working cost-control accountant for Owens Corning Fiberglass. He was an excellent bean-counting number-cruncher. I am also the daughter of Nancy. Nancy began a career as a front office clerk in a high school and eventually became the school’s chief financial officer, managing a multi-million dollar budget and overseeing contracts, building projects, and the like. The daughter of Fred and Nancy should have an affinity for math, yes? No. I recently saw a meme that explains exactly who I am. It was two monkeys having a thoughtful conversation. The first one said, ”Name a book that made you cry.” The second one responded, ”Algebra.” Yep. The daughter of Fred and Nancy is the second monkey.
Jesus had the same problem. People tried to judge him as the son of Joseph and Mary. Unfortunately, their preconceived notions of who he should be did not match up to the reality of being the Son of God, and their disappointment was tangible … and violent.
Luke 4 (Common English Bible)
21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”
22 Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?”
How often do we put each other in a box? How often do we think we know someone by simply observing very tangential bits of information? Do we continue to make assessments based on gender, color, age, appearance, and socio-economic circumstances? You betcha.
Jesus went on to do exactly what Jesus was meant to do. He schooled them.
23 Then Jesus said to them, “Undoubtedly, you will quote this saying to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we’ve heard you did in Capernaum.’” 24 He said, “I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. 25 And I can assure you that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, when it didn’t rain for three and a half years and there was a great food shortage in the land. 26 Yet Elijah was sent to none of them but only to a widow in the city of Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 There were also many persons with skin diseases in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them were cleansed. Instead, Naaman the Syrian was cleansed.”
Jesus points out that their rejection of him was more about them than it was about him. Their unspoken ”demand for a sign” was met with his reminder that prophets, healers, and even the Son of God don’t respond to that. In referencing Naaman, Jesus reminds them of the humility of the gentile Naaman, who approached Elisha in faith and did exactly as Elisha instructed, setting aside pride and cultural divisions as he put himself completely under the prophet’s authority. Obviously there was none of that in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, where Jesus’ ability of speak with grace was immediately suspect.
28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. 29 They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the crowd and went on his way.
This is a great reminder to us today to look beyond labels. The challenge is to reconsider someone whom you dislike. Are your feelings based on true experience, or prejudice? Have you made assumptions? Have you given them a fair chance? Do your preconceived notions of their heritage prevent you from seeing them as they truly are?
Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamt of time when people would assess each other by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. We still have a long way to go.
God calls us to accept our brothers and sisters without judgement or bias. I bet you know someone who deserves a second look. Go, and make amends.