… He found the place where it was written: “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET AT LIBERTY THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED; TO PROCLAIM THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:16-22 NKJV)
How do you tell someone you are God? How do you speak the truth of your mission when, as Isaiah 53:2 says, “…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” How awkward is that? Jesus didn’t appear to be what He had just spoken of and the people were offended.
When you are about your “Father’s Business” on earth, how do you give your own job description? I am sure that many in the synagogue were trying to figure out how this nice young man who had grown up among them and always seemed very modest could now pull a stunt like this?
Think about Jesus’ mission and job description. It sounds glorious until you think about the setting and the need to announce this about Himself. How does a person do that?
Just imagine the thoughts that went through the people’s minds.
Perhaps they thought He is a young hothead, proud, or deranged. Blasphemy, was what the religious leaders accused. I am trying to imagine what I would say observing a similar situation today. Taking into consideration that we are not to be looking here and there for the Christ (He has already come), how would I have react if a hometown boy stands up and reads a prophecy directly linked to the Person and work of God and says, “This refers to me! I’m the fulfillment of God’s promise to you.”
Understandably, I would say, “How can this be?” I know you. You might be a nice kid, but you are certainly not divine.” I have a feeling my pride would be wounded greatly and I would be ready to knock some sense into this whippersnapper’s head. “Who does he think he is?”
On the other side of the coin, am I able to stand up and declare what God has called me to be? Am I able to embrace the work of my Father in Heaven? Can I without apology say, “This is my calling?” Am I able to walk into a politically correct social setting and declare without apology that there is only one way to God and that is through this man Jesus?
How do I handle the social awkwardness of this great truth? “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Perhaps, I would be tempted to philosophize about the truth and hope that everyone present came to the glorious realization on their own reconnaissance. (This is actually more than a “perhaps,” too often, it is a reality in my experience.)
Jesus knew what was in the hearts of men and women, yet He was bound to tell the truth about His identity and mission. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2Ti 2:13 NKJV)
Making this declaration on the basis of the truth, rather than ego, He stands and reads a glorious prophecy of God’s deliverance through the Anointed One and then sits down and says simply, “I am God’s gift to you.” And the gathered assembly found this glorious truth to be awkward.
I have been in situations where the truth of my faith feels very awkward. Recently, I stood in front of a group of prison inmates and testified of my faith in Jesus and my confidence in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God. Afterward, one of the inmates spoke quite adamantly to the fact that He disagreed with the certainty which I professed. Our conversation ended cordially, but encounters like this, make it tempting to take a more subtle approach in the next service.
I find that I am often tempted to move the truth of my position in Christ to the background of my conversations. When I meet new people, I try to find out a bit of what they believe before letting them see what I believe.
In another setting, I was sitting in a barbershop waiting for a haircut. I engaged in conversation with a gentleman who was also waiting. Our casual conversation about the weather led to a reference to climate change and from there to a discussion of who is responsible. One thing led to another, and somehow we had now got to the uncomfortable subject of origins.
The gentleman, who identified himself as a 4th grade school teacher, pulled away from the subject of religious things and wasn’t willing to commit himself to that discussion. This was my cue then, to sort of forget to mention that I am a minister. Our conversation went smoothly as we cruised the surface of a variety of issues, all the while skirting the issue of faith. All was comfortable until I climbed into the barber’s chair.
He had the audacity to ask me what I do for a living. Well, there was nothing to do but to tell him that I am a minister and my focus of ministry was sharing the Gospel of Jesus in prisons. The gentleman with whom I had been speaking was sitting there and a part of the conversation. So, after I had neglected to share truth with him, God graciously and with a sense of humor, guided me into a situation that I was compelled to witness for His life changing power.
Embarrassed? Ashamed? Awkward? I was all of those things because I had not been bold enough to share until I was in the corner. God was gracious with me on this one, it turns out that both the Barber and the other gentleman were believers in God, both were church goers. I don’t know that either would have claimed a personal relationship with Jesus, but the long and short of the story is that I did share the truth with them. We did explore what the power of God does in a life. But why did I find the truth so awkward to share?
Jesus cannot deny Himself or His mission. He is about His “Father’s Business” and as such convenient or inconvenient, He will speak the truth. It is so important that the world know His Father, that His own comfort is secondary.
He even anticipates their unbelief and rather than softening the blow, He states what they are thinking and then proceeds to challenge their unbelief. This is not an “in your face” type of thing but in gentleness He challenges them to consider His claims and their own reasons for doubting or rejecting this truth.
So, Jesus could have took the Sabbath easy by doing what the people expected and give them another sedative from the law and the prophets. He could have allowed them to continue in religious and social security with a nice little talk that reinforced their established thought patterns. He could have simply been nice and let them wander in error. Instead, He spoke the truth and what began as a gentle teaching time in beautiful cultural tranquility ended in the “church” trying to push the teacher off of a cliff.
Am I able to speak the truth, even if I am certain that it will be awkward and unsettling to those around me? Jesus did because He was about His “Father’s Business.” I keep coming back to the question of “Whose business am I about?” Perhaps the way I handle the awkward truth could be a good indicator.
God help me to remember that this life is not about me and my comfort but is rather about your business in the lives of men and women. You desire that all should come to repentance. Help me to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord because the day of your vengeance is near at hand. Help me to speak the truth because people need to know it. Lord, may I never yield to the temptation to deny you. You never deny yourself. Live through me and grant me boldness to speak the truth of who I am in Christ.