“When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath” (Luke 4:21)
Why should men love the Church, why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget
She is tender where they would be hard and hard where they like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin and of other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming up systems so perfect that no one will have to be good.
T.S. Eliot’s lines from his play, The Rock, summarize the common emphasis of this Sunday’s texts. It is hard to hear God’s Word. We sinners are notoriously bad listeners. The Word tells us truths we would rather ignore; it forces us to deal with areas of our life we would rather keep hidden from view. Listening to God challenges our pride, self-sufficiency, and ignorance.
The Old Testament lesson is God’s commissioning of Jeremiah, easily one of the Bible’s most disliked people. Jeremiah hasn’t even been told what God would have him say, and already he is concerned about people who won’t listen to him. “I an1 only a youth,” he says, “I do not know how to speak” Behind his words lurk the unspoken fear, “and if I do speak, no one will give me any respect.”
Jesus is speaking at the synagogue in Nazareth. He has just announced that he is the fulfillment of God’s ancient prophecies. The people are initially excited, they are ready to greet this new moment in God’s plan. But the excitement won’t last.
Jesus is too familiar. They think they know him well enough, and when he challenges their pride with a few choice examples of God’s generosity to outsiders, they are ready to send him off a cliff.
Of course, there is another way. Eliot’s poem continues, “But the man that is will shadow the man that pretends to be.” “Do not be afraid of them,” God tells Jeremiah, “for I am with you to deliver you.” Israel will be plucked up and broken down, built and planted through Jeremiah’s word, even when the people oppose him. Jesus will survive to preach another day, and the crowds at Capernaum marvel, “for his word was with authority.” God’s Word is mighty and it will do its work The question is: will we try to escape or let it change our hearts?
Look it Up
Jehoiakim responds to Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 36. How does God’s Word do its work despite the king’s best attempts to silence it?
Think About It
What should you pray before you hear the Scriptures read in church this Sunday?