Dealing with Rejections

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Epiphany 4
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 and Luke 4: 21-30
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
Luke 4: 24 (NIV)

I CHANGED YOUR DIAPERS

I happen to believe that the message of Jesus Christ is the greatest message in the world. It has the potential to change people and transform their lives. It can even change the world. In fact, it has changed the world. The world would be a very different place if Jesus had never walked the earth. And the really neat things is that, not only does it change our present world and our present lives, it also changes eternity. What else does that?

One of the things that all Christians desire is that the ones we love the most come to faith in Jesus so that they too can benefit from knowing him as Saviour. But have you ever noticed the most difficult people to take to the cross are the very ones that are closest to us? I experience that. It’s really, really hard to evangelize our own family. Children, not so much because as they are growing up, we have a fair bit of control over what they do and we can certainly introduce them to the church and the gospel message.

But that’s not so true with our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Have you ever wondered why that is? I think it’s because those we love the most are often the very ones who know us the best. And the ones we know that best also know the most about us. And let’s face it, it’s the ones that are closest to us also know most of our dirty little secrets and how incredibly human we are.

I remember one man, we’ll call him Kevin but that’s not his real name, who talked about what it was like trying to share the gospel with his mother. Kevin hadn’t been a Christian all that long but he desperately wanted to share the share his new faith with his mother. And so he went over for a visit and as they were sitting around the kitchen table visiting he said, “You know Mom that I’ve started going to church and it’s been really good for me. There are lots of really good people there and they do a lot of really good things in the community. The worship is fabulouns and messages are always very relevant and positive. I get a lot out of it and was wondering if you’d like to come along with me sometime.”

I actually thought that was a pretty good pitch. Kevin wasn’t being pushy and making an altar call at the kitchen table. He wasn’t being obnoxious. He just telling a part of his story and offering an invitation to join him in something that he found helpful. The only real problem was he was talking to his mother. And she was pretty sure she knew where this was going. She already knew that he had found religion and now he wanted her to go to church with him so that she could find religion too. Have you ever heard someone talk about faith that way? They almost make it sound like a disease: I got the flu; I got the mumps; I got a cold; I got religion. And that really wasn’t part of her plan. She wasn’t about to get anything. And so she looked at him straight in the eye and said, “Look Kevin, I appreciate what you’re trying to do but remember that I changed your diapers.”

Did your mother ever say anything like that to you? I know mine did. The other one she used to use quite often was, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.” But what do diapers have to do with inviting your mother to church? Nothing of course. It’s what they represent. Kevin’s mother was reminding him who he was and who she is. “I changed your diapers,” is a nice way of saying, “I’m older and I’m wiser and I know what you’re really like. I know your good points and I know all your faults as well. So if you want to get religion, go ahead. Just don’t go overboard and don’t expect me to get religion with you.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people who rails against religion. But, when understood biblically religion is a very good. Religion, in its truest form, is how we live out of faith in the world. Faith is what you believe. Religion is how you put that faith into action in everyday life.

Later Kevin talked with me about this experience. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that surprised because I’d heard many similar stories myself. In fact, it took me back to the time I invited my own mother to go to church with me after I came to Christ and got religion. It was really tough because she knew me so well and that made it difficult for her to take my invitation seriously. I was her kid. What could I possibly know at the tender age of fifteen that she didn’t already know? After all, she had changed my diapers.

JESUS & HIS NEIGHBOURS

So how do we deal with the rejection that we often get when we try to share the good news with those closest to us? The hardest people to bring to the Lord are the very ones we most want to go, the ones who are closest to us. But don’t feel too badly about that because Jesus had the same problem. Luke 4:21-30 tells the story of what happened when Jesus tried to share his gospel message in his own home town of Nazareth. Last week, Anne read the first part of Luke 4 where Jesus was asked to read from the Torah in the synagogue. In Luke 4:18-19 he read these words from the book of Isaiah:

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,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

This passage that Jesus just read is one of the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the Saviour of the people of Israel. It was well known by everyone. Everyone would have recognized it because they were all waiting for the Messiah to come. The problems starts in Luke 4:21 when Jesus says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He is applying this messianic prophecy to himself. In fact, he is saying that he is the long awaited Messiah of God. He has come to save the people. Remember that all the people in the synagogue know Jesus. They’ve known him since he was a baby and some of them may even have changed his diapers.

Listen to how they respond. In Luke 4:22 (NIV) it says, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.” These people, who have been Jesus’ neighbours for years and years respond in two ways. First, they show their appreciation for how well-spoken he is. They are amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. But then they do a quick about face and say, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” It’s like they put the brakes on in their brains and do a u-turn. “Wow, we’re really impressed by you words. But wait, didn’t you grow up down the street? Didn’t you play with our boys when they were young? Didn’t you build the bench that is sitting in our kitchen at home? How could you possibly claim to be the Messiah? You’re Joseph’s son and we know you and we know you family. So get off your high horse and come down to earth” And one person from the back of the room adds, “And I changed his diaper.”

You see, it doesn’t matter how well Jesus speaks, it doesn’t matter how wise and gracious his words are. And later on, it won’t matter how many miracles he performs in his ministry, to the people of Nazareth, he will always just be the carpenter’s kid. So, how can they ever be expected to take him seriously?

And let’s note something else. It wasn’t only Jesus’ neighbours who had trouble accepting him as the Messiah. His own family may have had the biggest struggle. Listen to Mark 3:20-21 (NIV). In this story Jesus is still in Galilee near Nazareth: “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

Even Jesus own family thought he was nuts and tried to stop him. When you think about it, that should not be a surprise really. How would you respond if one day, at the supper table, your brother or your son came up to you and said, “Guess what? I’m the Christ and I’m going to save the world.”

You’d say, “Sure you are. Now pass the ketchup – French’s ketchup.” You’d think they were nuts too. And rightly so. So let’s not be too hard on these people because chances are that if we were in their shoes, we’d respond the exact same way.

A PROPHET IS WITHOUT HONOUR

The funny thing is that Jesus almost expected it. Back in the synagogue now, let’s hear what he says to the people round him in Luke 4:23-24 (NIV):

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”

This is a tricky passage so let me try to explain what’s going on here. First of all, while this is very early in Jesus’ ministry, it is not at the very beginning. In tells us in Matthew 4:13 that the first place Jesus set up his ministry was in Capernaum which isn’t all that far from his home town of Nazareth. While there in Capernaum, Jesus had taught and preached and performed miracles. No doubt, news of these miracles got back to Nazareth. That’s where the proverb, “Physician, heal yourself,” comes from. It’s something like our modern day proverb that says, “Charity begins at home,” What that means is that before you go helping others, first help your own people. So, what the people in Nazareth are saying is, “Hey, before you go performing miracles in Capernaum, how about performing a few miracles here in your own home town.”

What that indicates to us is that a lot of these people are there in the synagogue that day for the wrong reason. They want to see a miracle. They want to see a show, to be entertained by this local boy whose fame was all over the countryside.

But Jesus will have none of it. And so he throws another proverb right back them: “Truly I tell you that no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” “If you want to believe me,” Jesus says, “you can believe me. But I’m not going to put on show for your benefit and amusement.”

And then Jesus gives two examples of what he’s talking about. In Luke 4:25-26 (NIV) he references the story of Elijah providing the widow of Zarephath with food during a famine: “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.”

And then in Luke 4:27 (NIV) Jesus references the healing from leprosy of the Syrian army commander Naaman: “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

In both of these stories the respective prophets Elijah and Elisha did for foreigners, non-Israelites, what they could not do for their own people. At least, that’s the implication. There were all kind of starving people in Israel and yet Elijah fed a widow in Zarephath. There were all kinds of people in Israel who had leprosy and yet it was Naaman, a Syria, who was healed by Elisha. Why? Because a prophet is without honour in his own country. Just like in Jesus’ case, the local people just could not bring themselves to believe that one of their own could perform miracles.

PLANTING SEEDS

The upshot of all of this is that Jesus has called them out. He’s painted the people who watched him grow up for exactly what they are. The reason they aren’t going to see any miracles is because they really don’t believe. If they want to see miracles then they first have to believe. It doesn’t work the other way around. Miracles will not lead to belief. But belief leads to miracles. Don’t ever forget that.

The people’s reaction to this rather harsh criticism is almost expected. Luke 4:28-30 (NIV) says this: “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 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. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”

Jesus calls a spade a spade and, in typical human fashion, the spades don’t like it. And the reason why they don’t like it is because they probably know that what Jesus said is true. They were not honouring Jesus because they could not see past the boy who grew up down the street. They simply could not believe that he could possibly be the Messiah. And so, what did they do? They drove him out of town and tried to throw him off a cliff. Not a very nice thing to do a local boy they had known all their lives. It just shows how angry they were.

But what happens? He walks right through them and goes on his way. That last line is not a throw away line. It’s there for a reason. First of all it tells us that Jesus’ ministry is not yet over. God still had lots of things for him to do.

But it also implies something else. It tells us that Jesus was not through with these people yet. What he had done in the synagogue that day was plant seeds. He had made his neighbours angry but, again, the reason why they were so angry was probably because they knew he was right. And so in their minds he sowed seeds of doubt. Maybe they had it all wrong. Maybe Jesus was something special. Maybe they needed to think about it.

But Jesus didn’t just plant seeds of doubt. He also planted seeds of faith. We know that because some of the very people who doubted him the most, finally came to faith themselves. Do you remember the story I mentioned a few minutes ago about Jesus family going to fetch him because they thought he was nuts? Guess who eventually came to faith? Mary his mother did. Remember that she stood at the cross and watched her son die following him until the very end.

And then there was James, Jesus brother. James is the very same man who wrote the book of James in the New Testament. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. It was James who presided over the early councils of the church when they discussed, discerned and made decisions about what kind of church God was calling them to be. Peter and Paul may have been the most prolific evangelists in the early church but it was James, the brother of Jesus who led the entire movement from Jerusalem.

The seeds that Jesus planted in his own home town eventually bore fruit in those who were closest to him. And that also should not be a surprise for as it says in 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV): “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” Jesus planted seed. Others watered them. And God made them grow.

So it is with those who are closest to us. It is not our job to convert them to Christ. It is our job to plant seeds of faith into their lives by what we do and say and how we act toward them and others. Seeing the difference that Jesus makes in our lives will help them to yearn for the difference that Jesus can make in their lives as well. So keep planting the seeds. And never give up. Trust in God to bring those you love to faith so that you can spend eternity with them.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Gracious God, we come to you out of our need to give you thanks and praise for the wonders of your love and compassion. You have blessed us so abundantly that it is hard to count how many ways you have touched our lives. We thank you for bright winter days when snow glistens in the sunlight. We thank you for birds that feast at our bird feeders. We thank you for the opportunities for ministry that come our way. We give thanks, especially, for your unconditional love. You are so good to us. No matter what we do, you forgive us and call us back to your path. Thank you that nothing in all Creation can separate us from your love which is given to us in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Holy God, how great and awesome you are. In those times when we become impatient and anxious, help us to remember that you are working out all things for our benefit. You see things from a different and more holy perspective than we do. Therefore, even though we may not always understand your ways, we know that you will do what is best for us. We can rest confidently in your unfailing love, mercy, and grace regardless of circumstances.

We lift up in prayer the politicians of the land who are often asked to do very difficult things and make difficult choices under great criticism. Touch them, O God, with your Spirit and lift them up that they may discern and do your will which is right and good and just for all people.

We remember those who mourn, asking your special mercies on the family and friends or Betty Webster whose funeral will be on Tuesday. May they feel your strength and experience you peace which passes all understanding.

We pray for those who are sick, at home in hospital, especially Lyle and Sharon, and ask that you would bless all of us with your Healing Spirit. Heal our bodies, restore our souls and renew our spirits by the power of your love.

Father God, enable us to keep our needs and desires in their proper priority, and not be distracted by frivolous, foolish, or unnecessary concerns or fears. The way we live our lives is by choice, and we choose to focus our attention on you and your way of doing things. We know that as we draw closer to you and to one another, we will better understand your will and purpose. You are our God and we give you praise, honour and glory in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

February 3, 2019 / Epiphany 4

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 71:1-6; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 4:21-30; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

CALL TO WORSHIP

God is our Refuge and Strength;

the One who walks with us and hears our prayers.

God is our Shelter and Shield.

We come to worship the One who is with us always.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Loving God, your strength is mighty and your compassion boundless. Your words are dependable and true. Your promises will never change or fail throughout all generations. Thank you for providing a firm, foundation on which to build our lives in an otherwise changing and unstable world. Come to us in our worship to renew our lives and refresh us a new measure of your Spirit. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of Mercy, we know that temptation is always near, waiting for an opportunity to be acknowledged. Come to our aid and strengthen us against the plans of the Evil One. Enable us to lay aside our own plans, wishes, and desires when they conflict with what you have planned for us. We trust you to always look out for our good. Give us the wisdom to discern your leadership and direction in every decision that we make, trusting you to direct our paths… Amen

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Praise be to God who does not leave us in the pits of sin but raises us to new and renewed life in Jesus Christ. As we unburden ourselves of our sinfulness we are freed to soar to the heights of heaven. Thanks be to God that we are forgiven.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

Our gifts, our offerings, our lives we bring to you in the full trust that they will be put to your good purpose. May they be used to bring justice to all and to share the Good News of the Gospel of Salvation. Amen.

COMMISSIONING Our Holy God has touched our hearts. It is time for us to touch the lives of others in Jesus’ name.

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