Insiders and Outsiders
If you don’t believe there’s such a thing as “insiders” and “outsiders,” try wearing the wrong color when sit in the section at the College Championship Game. Most of this hometown pride is all in good fun, but when the “outsider” vs. “insider” game becomes about race and religion, things can get tense fast. And this isn’t something invented by the 2016 Presidential Campaign.
Jesus Himself almost got Himself killed in His hometown when He reminded a Nazareth synagogue that in the days of Elijah and Elisha, the LORD met the needs of pagan Gentiles, not Jews.
“All were speaking well of Him and marveling over the words of grace that came from His mouth. And they began saying, ‘Is this not the son of Joseph?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Of course you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Physician, heal yourself. We heard what happened in Capernaum. Do those things here in your home town!’ He then went on, ‘Count on it, I’m telling you the truth; no prophet is accepted in his hometown. In the days of Elijah there were many widows in Israel when the heavens were shut for three years and six months and famine intensified all over the land. Elijah wasn’t sent to any of them. Instead he was sent to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon (1 Kings 17:8-16). And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet, and none of them were healed except Namaan, the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1-14).’
When they heard these things the people in the synagogue became enflamed with rage. They rose up and drove Him out of town. They led Him to the edge of a cliff on the hill on which the city was built. They intended to throw Him off the cliff. But He passed through the middle of the crowd and went on His way.” - Luke 4:22-30
In an instant this crowd turned from lauding the teaching of their hometown boy to questioning how this son of a local commoner could claim such divine authority and then challenging Him to prove Himself, even bringing up the rivalry between Nazareth and Capernaum. Now I would expect the meek and lowly Jesus to calm all this down. Instead, He goes right to the core of the heat. Like John the Baptist He exposes their exclusive pride as “God’s people,” and uses their sacred history to prove that God’s heart is open to “outsiders,” those who the Nazareth Jews would refer to as “dogs.”
The synagogue crowd suddenly begins to play the same role that the devil did in a previous episode. They take Jesus to a high place, and this time they don’t tempt Him to jump. They try to throw Him off.
If I keep all this in the past and think only in terms of first century Israel’s hatred of the Sidonian and Syrian “outsiders,” then I can keep it safe as only a Sunday School story. Things get intense, however, when Syrians like Namaan need our help today as they seek asylum from the present Syrian War. Does my anger rise up against these outsiders? Based upon this episode in Nazareth, what should my response be?
LORD, I pray for these refugees and I’m thankful for believers who respond not in anger, fear, and rejection, but in love. I pray for friends who are helping refugees not only here in the U.S. but in the Middle East and Europe. Use their life and words to reveal that Jesus died and rose again so that men and women from every race and tribe can be born into God’s family. Help me keep relationship with my Moslem friends who live close by.
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