Coming Home & Confronting Rage

by susan on January 25, 2016

throwing stonesThen he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. – Luke 4:21-30, NRSV

When is the last time you felt rage?
Not just disappointment.
Not just frustration.
But the kind of anger that makes you physically feel like you could kill someone.

Rage can consume us.

There’s road rage. There’s religious rage. There are rage-filled rallies to take back what belongs to us: Our neighborhood. Our country. Our world.

Rage fuels violence which fuels more rage and violence… and on and on it goes.

Still. I’m stunned to find this word in our scripture passage for today. I’m surprised to find it in a story describing Jesus’ return home. I’m disappointed to find it describing the behavior of Jesus’ family & friends right after leaving church!

It’s like cutting someone off after leaving the church parking lot….that never happens.

In the Greek, rage is thumos and it means an outburst of passion. It’s our violent reaction to something that has touched a nerve deep within us or something that has not gone our way.

In only a matter of minutes, the hometown crowd who heard Jesus preach moved from adoration to an all out attack on him. They moved from: “Good job, son.” “Way to go, neighbor.” “Is that really Joseph’s boy?” to “Let’s throw him off the cliff!” (what people did right before stoning someone).

It’s an abrupt shift. It consumes them just that quickly. Can you relate?

Rage can consume us.

Crazy enough, everything was going fine up to this point. People were praising him, affirming his preaching, and celebrating his return. Everything was going fine until Jesus starts bringing up the past. Everything was going fine until Jesus starts talking about “outsiders”.

Talking about “outsiders” does tend to unravel conversation. Just try bringing up immigration reform at your next dinner party with extended family & friends!

We may be surprised by their rage, but I doubt Jesus was surprised at all. He knows these people. He grew up sharing meals with them, playing and learning and listening alongside them. Jesus knows these people and he knows how they remember the past. They remember how God has saved them from slavery and they are looking for God to do it again. It’s all about them being saved, favored and chosen.

Jesus knows they have forgotten some important details and some important people.

He reminds them about the widow at Zarephath. Remember? There were plenty of widows in Israel who could have helped out the prophet Elijah, but God gave help through an outsider.

He reminds them about Naaman. Remember? There were plenty of lepers living in Israel, but God sent Elisha to heal a Syrian.

God has always been about moving beyond our borders, beyond our boundaries, beyond our comfort zones to relentlessly include those whom we think are “outsiders”. I know you think it’s all about you, implies Jesus. It’s not.

That’s what fuels their rage. They get it. Many people say they didn’t get it. I think they did and that’s why they were so angry!

If they are going to join Jesus, if they are going to be part of this new thing that God is doing, they are going to have to DO something. They are going to have to join “outsiders”. And, that was unacceptable: They don’t deserve what belongs to us. They haven’t earned it. They’re too dirty. They don’t look like us or talk like us or worship like we do.

No, Jesus. We’ll have none of that!

While they are busy trying to stone him, Jesus, instead of retaliating, slips silently away. His mission is beyond their grasp. He moves on.

See, part of me wants him to blow them up: those awful, evil, hate-filled people. Jesus doesn’t have time for that though. He’s on a mission of love, of mercy, of healing, of setting captives free. He’s going to be with the “outsiders”. He’s going to become an outsider.

What fills you with rage?
Maybe you, too, are realizing it’s not all about you.
You don’t have the market on God.
God is not there to endorse your hopes and dreams.

God has hopes and dreams that can be beyond our grasp at times. They always involve those we assume are “outsiders”.

The only way to be a part is to follow Jesus and to
be consumed with love, not rage.


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