Why Are We Mad?

So our Gospel reading today is a continuation of the story from Luke last week, in which Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah in the synagogue where he grew up. He says that he has come to fulfill the scripture - to give sight to the blind and healing to the sick and freedom to those enslaved. He proclaims God's love for everyone.

And today's reading records Jesus' expounding on what the passage from Isaiah means - that God is loving to the Gentiles, to pagans, to those who are not the "chosen" from the tribes of Israel.  Jesus quotes the scriptures, the stories of how the prophets Elijah and Elisha in particular ministered to people who were decidedly not Hebrews. That God's care and desire for wholeness and redemption was for everyone, not just for them.

And then Luke tells us how that message was received by the people who heard Jesus, who were at first impressed with him. They became enraged. How dare Jesus suggest that God wanted these things - wholeness, healing, redemption, salvation - for everyone and not just for them.  They were so angry they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff.

Why is it that we don't want others to have the blessings that we have? What skin is it off our nose? Why can't we rejoice that we have a God who is so lavish with love, so free with blessings, so overflowing with mercy? Instead we look around at others and declare them unworthy to have what we have. We draw lines and say, I'm in but those people are out. God loves me and doesn't love them. I deserve my blessings and those other people don't deserve the same blessings I have.

If we ourselves are blessed, why do we get upset that others are blessed, too? If we ourselves are loved, why do we not want God to love others, too? It doesn't mean God doesn't love us. Nothing is taken away from us. And yet we just can't stand it.

God shows up, showing God's self to be unbelievably generous, and for that we are ready to do murder.  That is how it played out then, and again during Holy Week, and that's how it plays out again and again in every time since then. Lord, have mercy.

But then, we already know. The Lord does have mercy. Always.


Could it because, in his prophetic role Jesus was doing what prophets do and poking the Israelites in the eye with their intransigience? Add in the fact that this was "Joseph the Carpenter's kid" and the hackles just rose....
Oh, yes, indeed. Jesus in Luke is ever the prophet, and the people were having a "who do you think you are" moment, for sure. And in our time, many of us would rather follow someone who "thinks like we do" rather than someone who pokes us in our own eyes for our own intransigence.