When I look at this painting of Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth by James Tissot, I see a lot of anger. I can understand why. When Jesus read those beloved words from Isaiah 61 about the Spirit of the Lord being on him, he didn’t read the next line.
This community was suffering under the oppressive Roman regime and praying for the Messiah to come and “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God.”
If I’d been there and Jesus omitted the part about vengeance, I’d be mad too.
I remember when I was treated badly by someone I worked under. Two of my young male colleagues heard about it and offered to beat that person up for me. Of course, my friends wouldn’t do it. But it felt good to be understood and supported.
I think of people who have the power to ruin other people’s lives and do. I think of one who ruined mine. Ruin is a strong word. I can look back now and see the good that came out of what happened. But at the time, ruined was exactly how I felt, and a day of reckoning was exactly what I wanted.
If I’m honest, that’s what I still want when someone abuses their power and hurts me.
The day my friends offered to beat up my oppressor, my anger was too big to hide. But with smaller offences, it’s easy to push anger aside and pretend it isn’t there.
But this story, this painting invites me to meet Jesus in it.
I imagine myself as one of those men, sitting in the synagogue seething. Jesus, after reading from the scroll, comes down and sits beside me. All the others fade away. It’s just me and him. He takes my hand.
“Tell me about it,” he says. I don’t bother trying to convince him that it’s no big deal. He doesn’t care how big or small my anger is. He is intent on fulfilling what comes next in Isaiah 61:
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
A friend loves at all times,
and a sister is born for a time of adversity.
–Proverbs 17:17 (NIV, adapted)
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I’ll never forget hearing Brian Zahnd preach on Luke 4:14-30 and explain why the people of Nazareth were so angry at Jesus. Brian Zahnd is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Brian is the author of several books, including, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Water to Wine, A Farewell To Mars, Beauty Will Save the World, and Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. In a recent post, Brian said, “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb the world to peace.” He calls us to hope and to join the non-violent, inclusive love mischief of Christ. He ends the article with this, “Following the Jesus way of loving enemies and doing good to those who hate us isn’t necessarily safe and it doesn’t mean we won’t ever get hurt, but it does mean the darkness won’t prevail.”