Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Revealed in Rejection" International Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending January 31, 2010

Purpose: To acknowledge that Jesus' message challenges our presuppositions and demands a response

Scripture Text: Matthew 13:54-58 (NRSV)

Matthew 13:54-58
(54) He came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? (55)Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? (56)And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’ (57)And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.’ (58)And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

One of my favorite pastors used to say, “The most difficult part about preaching is thinking you can say anything that will impress your wife.” It is difficult to make an impression with those that know you best. That is the situation Jesus is in when he returns to his hometown of Nazareth. After the Diaspora, synagogues were established in almost all Jewish communities, and they were the cultural center as well as a center for teaching and sharing in the history of the Jewish people.

Jesus had probably attended the synagogue many times as a boy and young man, but prior to this he had never been asked to read from the scripture as far as we can tell. I experience some of the same thing when I return to my own little country church and the little “snotty nosed kids” that I knew when I was a young man are now the leaders of the congregation.

It is hard for us to accept that people are anything different than what we remember. When my wife and I were first married we went to a small church, but this small church was the home church for one of the leading evangelist in America at the time. He was known in church circles all over the world but if he happened to be home on a Sunday and chose not to come to church, he was the biggest sinner in town, according to some members. Of course, he felt, if he came, the pastor would automatically ask him to preach that morning, and he could not win.

In order to get a better understanding of this event you need to read it in Luke 4:16-30, in that passage we find that Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2a, which says "The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour,” When he had finished reading the passage he sat down and simply said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus had just told them he was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and they should recognize that he had done all of the things mentioned in this passage. Of course this created quite a stir amongst the congregation and the leaders of the synagogue. They knew very well he was the brother of James, Joseph, Simon and Jude and his sisters, and the son of Mary, in fact wasn't he a carpenter's son. Where does Jesus get off trying to pass himself off as something other than what he was; “a carpenter's son.”

Probably for the same reason, our home town evangelist, never held evangelistic meetings in our church, Jesus “did not do many deeds of power” in the Nazareth community. It is difficult for us, because of our presuppositions, to receive the message that God is trying to communicate to us. Maybe that is why we hate to hear even constructive criticism from friends and family, we cannot separate the message from the messenger. We pay good money to hire a stranger to tell us what our friends and family already knows about us. Jesus could perform miracles and interpret scripture, but in Nazareth he will always be a carpenter's son. We should not make the same mistake! Jesus was God incarnate, and He came to redeem mankind and to proclaim “the year of the Lord's favour,” He came to us and He brought God's grace with him; the long-suffering Jesus became one of us. The fact that Jesus did not finish the passage from Isaiah that says “and the day of vengeance of our God” shows both his grace and His coming again, as judge.

If you read the entire story from Luke you will see it was not just Nazareth, but Jesus refers to the entire Jewish nation, when he speaks of the fact that there were many widows in Israel when Elijah went to Sidon to minister to a widow there, and there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, but none was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian. Jesus is preparing them for the fact that He has come to the entire world, not just to Nazareth and Israel. Just as Nazareth rejects Jesus, so does all of Israel. Do you get it?

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