Sometimes We Want Vengeance Too

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)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

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 GodWater to WineA Farewell To MarsBeauty 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.”

What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Thanks to Brian Zahnd who pointed out that Jesus chose not to read the line about vengeance.
Luke 4:14-21, Isaiah 61: 1-3
Painting of Jesus reading from the scroll by James Tissot (1836-1902) is in the Brooklyn Museum. Public Domain.
Image of two hands from PxHere. Creative Commons.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2019.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2019.

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections, Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sometimes We Want Vengeance Too

  1. Donna Weber Fry says:

    Thank you. Just what was needed, at just the perfect time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: An Invitation to Pray Naked in Front of a Full-Length Mirror | An Everyday Pilgrim

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