Holy Land Day Three (Monday): Mt. Of Precipice
Today our band of Holy Land pilgrims will be visiting (among many other sites) the Mount of Precipice, a cliff just outside the city of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.
After Jesus is baptized by John, and then tempted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, according to Luke, he returns to Nazareth and is invited to read Scripture and teach in the synagogue.
Jesus reads a prophecy from the prophet Isaiah:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In a stunning claim, Jesus tells the crowd that this messianic prophecy was fulfilled through him. Then when they begin grumbling that he's nobody special ("Isn't this Joseph's son?"), and how dare he make the extraordinary claim that he is the Messiah, Jesus goes on to chide them for their unbelief.
This was a bridge too far for them. The crowd gets angry, and then the following happens:
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.I've preached a lot of sermons, and I know for a fact that some of them have rubbed a few of my former church members the wrong way over the years. But I've never had a congregation try to throw me off a cliff after I preached, thank God!
I like to imagine what happened in that moment. Did Jesus turn and face his accusers at last, as he stood there on the edge of the cliff? Did his eyes burn through them with holy fire? Did he offer them a Clint Eastwood style thousand-yard stare that caused them to back off?
Or did he look on them with sadness? Did the grief in his eyes cause them to stop in their tracks?
They were his friends. They were his neighbors. People who had known him most of his life. He had grown up with some of these people, shared meals with them, attended weddings, funerals, played, laughed worked alongside and perhaps even cried with many of them.
And they rejected him.
So many of us say we are a friend of Jesus. We declare that we know him. We will even offer up that we've been walking with him for most of our lives. But when Jesus makes demanding claims on our lives, when he declares his true purpose, and it doesn't line up with ours... how do we respond?
Do we reject him and his words? Do the claims he makes about himself and about who we are called to be as we follow him fill us with shame and anger? Or do we turn toward him, choosing to follow him, deciding to believe?
May you find the courage to follow Christ even when the way he is leading turns your world upside down. May you be loyal and true to Jesus even when the demands of discipleship call us to give up all our notions of who he is, and what he came to do.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.