Good News All the Way
A blog by Rich Harter
Director of Evangelization
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. (Luke 4:14-30)
Let’s face it, on some level each of us wants to be seen as the chosen one. Deep down we long to be recognized by someone near and dear to us as the most highly favored and loved. And we get our wish when a parent, teacher, or boss commends us for being uniquely special in some way. Our gifts and accomplishments are noticed so our hearts soar. We find this special recognition to be very good news.
But then some time later our ego bubble inevitably bursts. In talking with our sibling or co-worker, we find out that they too have been designated as special and outstanding for some reason. Calculating according to the human economy, this good news given to the other person somehow diminishes our own. With this subtraction, we begin to feel that there is a little too much good news going around.
A similar dynamic happens when Jesus brings his good news to the synagogue at Nazareth. The people of his hometown are happy to hear him speak the words of their beloved prophet Isaiah. This is the story of what God does for them, his chosen people. The poor hear good news, captives receive liberty, the blind see, and the oppressed go free. For these Nazareth Jews, their specialness has been confirmed.
At first they are amazed at his gracious words, but soon the mood changes as the good news unexpectedly expands. Jesus proclaims that he is the Prophet Messiah in whom these words are now being fulfilled. The hometown boy is God incarnate, coming with good news for sinners, outcasts, and, like Elisha and Elijah, even Gentiles. This is just too much good news to handle, so Jesus is driven to the precipice.
As disciples of Jesus, we need to resist limiting the largesse of the Good News. We need to boldly follow him as he breaks through our acceptable favored boundaries, and goes to the marginal broken ones where his hope, healing, forgiveness, and liberation are most needed. Jesus is teaching us that, in the beautiful world of the divine economy, there is always more than enough Good News to go around!
Join the Discipleship Conversation:
When have you thought that the news of Jesus just seemed too good?
How has Jesus come to you with good news in times of poverty, blindness, bondage, and oppression?
What part of the Good News is hardest for you to follow as a disciple?