Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ministry responses can send mixed messages.


And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.

Luke 4:31-32

What makes this wild acceptance in Capernaum so amazing is the context in which the story is told. In just a few verse back (Luke 4:28-31) the synagogue in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth had tried unsuccessfully to publicly execute Him for His teaching there. He was rejected at home and accepted in Capernaum.

Jesus had announced His mission to the people who knew Him best on earth, His friends, family, and neighbors. He read Isaiah’s prophecy (see Luke 4:18-19) and announced that God had brought it to fruition right then and there with Himself. The crowd had doubtless heard Jesus before. He was thirty years old. He had faithfully attended Sabbath with these people since a child. It was probably not the first time He had been called upon to do the reading from the sacred scrolls. In fact, their first response was to remark on his gracious words (Luke 4:22). But Jesus went on to illustrate from the scriptures how the legitimate prophets had been rejected by the very people God had sent them to proclaim His message to, and He would be no different. That is when the atmosphere in the room went from cordial to out of control. I love how when they drove him to the edge of the hill at Nazareth intent on tossing him down and stoning Him, He simply, calmly passed through their midst and left them standing there in a rage.

Luke’s gospel has the authentication of Jesus' message take place after the Capernaum synagogue acknowledged His authority. It is at that point that demonic confrontation is met with rebuke and healing. And the people cannot get over His authority (Luke 4:32; Luke 4:36; Luke 4:42) so much so that they are the antithesis of Nazareth. Jesus’ hometown wanted Him to leave… permanently. These people wanted to keep Him from leaving altogether (Luke 4:42).

If Jesus received such a wild mix of receptions to His ministry, what should I expect today? Many reject Him, some as violently as His own home town did. Others can’t get enough and just want more and more of the gospel, of the teaching of the Word, of the work of the Holy Spirit, and of the joy of the Lord that attends all these things. Jesus revealed Himself to both groups of people, but stayed where the He was received as Lord and Christ. 

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