Monday, April 18, 2016

A Prophet's Hometown

So what has God done for you lately? What has He been doing in your church?

Well, uh....uh....hmmm. He is, uh, amazing and, uh, He does stuff all the time. At least, that's the answer that most of us are likely to give. Maybe we have an example or two of something truly amazing that God has done - someone who beat cancer, maybe. Or someone who got a new job. Or something like that. But for most of us, the answer to the question of what Jesus is doing is, well, generic.

He's doing good things, let me tell you. Amazing things. Incredible things. 

Oh really? Like what?

For all the stories the Gospels tell about the good, amazing, and incredible things that Jesus did while He walked this earth with His disciples, these stories are anything but generic. He fed thousands - with a specific number of loaves of bread, a specific number of fish. A specific number of baskets of leftovers in each case. He healed many - gave sight to blind men, opened the ears of the deaf, loosened the lips of the mute, reformed the disfigurements of the crippled, gave life to the dead. He preached words of truth, of hope, and of mystery - and we are given His teachings, His parables, to hear for ourselves. He died on the Cross - standing trial before the leading authorities of the day, stumbling on the road to Calvary, speaking with thieves on either side of Him, crying out to His Father from the Cross.

Tell me again about your generic Jesus.

There is one example, one good example of a generic Christ in our Gospels, and that is in this tiny little section that tells us what happened when Jesus went back to Nazareth in the course of His ministry. The people there, it turns out, knew Him a little too well. They were far too comfortable with Him and His story. "So He could only do a few things among them." That's it. "A few things." The only few things we are not told in specifics in all the Bible come in the place where the people were most sure they knew who He was.

So maybe the problem we're facing in our own faith, in our own churches, is that we think we know Jesus a little too well. Maybe the reason we're not seeing the amazing, specific testimony of the living Christ is because we are far too comfortable with the very idea of Him.

When Jesus comes to our churches, where are we? Are we lining the roads, crying out to Him, calling out to the Son of David who is passing us by, as our only hope for healing? Are gathered on the hillsides, longing to hear Him speak? Are we gathered by groups, waiting on His holy bread to be passed around, waiting on Him to somehow satisfy our appetites before the long journeys ahead of us? 

Or are we in Nazareth, where we boldly proclaim that we know everything there is to know about this Jesus - He's the son of the carpenter, isn't He? Mary's son. Yeah, that's the boy. He's the brother of James. Yeah, yeah. That's Him. This is the kid that was busy making birds out of mud and helping in His father's shop when He was little. He always hung around the synagogue, pretending to be one of the big boys. Always spoke when it wasn't His turn to speak. Always said things that made people either scratch or shake their heads. Yeah, we know everything about this Jesus. He grew up around here. He's one of us. 

And He does "just a few things" in this place.

It's heart-breaking to consider, but I think this is true about where many of us are at. We've become so comfortable with the idea of Jesus. We think we know so much about who this Son of God is. Son of God...son of the carpenter. His stories are told, but they almost feel like rumors. It's hard for us to buy into them. He did what? He couldn't have. We know all about Him. We know who He is. These are just whispers, just rumors, just stories the world is telling about Him. 

We're almost arrogant in all that we claim to know about Him. And yet, in most of our churches, we've nothing more than a generic Jesus. He could be any boy. He could be any man. He could be any son of God. He does good, amazing, incredible things, but we can't put our finger on any of them. 

It's sad, really. Because the more we think we know about Him, the more generic He becomes, and the more generic He is, the more we realize that this is not the Jesus we want. This Jesus, this generic Jesus, is not worth believing in. 

And you know what? We're right. He's not. And that's when we walk away. 

Because any good man can do amazing things sometimes. Any good man can be incredible here and there. We might hear rumors about any good man. But the Son of God demands details. And when we lose the details of who God is, even when we lose them to the specifics of who He is, we lose Him entirely. Gone. Just like that. 

Our God is no generic God. He does not just do amazing things. He does specific amazing things - He gives sight to the blind, opens the ears of the deaf, loosens the tongue of the mute, stands the lame on their own two feet, casts out demons, gives life to the dead, reforms the disfigured. He carries His own Cross up a lonely hill, stumbles, falls, cries out, and dies. He speaks words of truth and grace, but specific words of truth and grace - in parables, in teachings, on real hillsides where He breaks real bread and divides real fish and collects real baskets of leftovers. 

And the only place we don't truly know any of this is Nazareth. Is His hometown. Is the place where we are so sure we know so much about Him that we no longer listen to the testimony of who this Jesus truly is. 

Don't be so comfortable with Jesus that you can't hear His stories. Don't know so much about Him that you've closed His book. Don't think you are so certain of who He is that you can't hear the people crying out to Him. Don't be Nazirites.

Be beggars. Be sinners. Be blind men crying out for mercy. It is only these who have ever known the truth of the living God, the testimony of Jesus of Nazareth, who did so many good, amazing, beautiful, and very specific things everywhere but in His hometown. 

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