Luke 4:13-30                                            “Rejected”


            Driving along in the middle of the night along a deserted country road you come to an intersection with a four-way stop. In all directions you can see for many miles that these is no traffic. You are traveling at 55mph and are weary and only want to get home as soon as possible. Do you stop at the stop sign? Do you just keep going? Do you slow down and cover your brake as you glide through?

            What if your daughter who is presently in driver’s training is sitting next to you in the car and is watching your every move? Does that make a difference? What if you know that the police like to stake out that intersection at night with the hope of catching those who might run the stop sign? What if you had previously been ticketed at that very stop sign for having run it at night? What do you do?

            Now consider that forty or fifty years ago when those roads were put in that there was somebody who gave careful thought to that intersection and made the decision that there was an implicit danger at that intersection, that people could lose their lives there. That person decided to pay the expense of having four stop signs put in to safeguard your very life. That stop sign that you are getting closer to as you drive in the night was put there to save your life. It was put there because somebody cared enough for you that they wanted you to get home safely that evening. When you think about it in those terms, you begin to take the stop sign a little more seriously. You realize that it was put there for you, to help you be safe, to get you home in one piece to your family again. You begin to respect that fact that someone cared enough to put it there for you. You slow down. You come to stop. You thank God for the stop sign. You continue safely on your way.


            The inspiration for this sermon this morning needs to be credited to the noted theologian Brian McLaren who in his book A New Kind of Christian makes the observation that “neither conservative evangelical Christians nor social justice minded liberal Christians are. . . .taking the Bible seriously today.” [p.55] His sense is that both sides tend to look at the Bible as a kind of a signpost that may or may not be taken seriously rather than considering why it is that God has given us His Holy Word and why we must take it seriously. God had a very sincere reason for giving us these Holy Scriptures—the scriptures are to save our lives. They are to make sure that we make the journey safely home to God! Amen.

            I hope today to give all of you a new way of looking at the Bible. However, I realize that many of you may already have this understanding. So for you I hope this is a confirmation of your love of the Word of God and for the spiritual journey that you find yourselves on.

            The scripture that was read publicly this morning shares the story of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth going to the synagogue and reading Holy Scripture from the Prophet Isaiah. At first the crowd of scholars and others are well pleased with his reading.  The scripture is the prophecy about the anointed one of God proclaiming the gospel of healing and freedom that is to come in the year of the Lord. He tells the crowd that today in their hearing this Scripture is fulfilled. The crowd is still pleased to hear these words form Jesus.

            However, Jesus continues on by saying that the message from the Scriptures will not be heeded by those sitting there. He raises the point that Elijah’s prophecy in his time was only heard by the widow of Zaraphath—outside of Israel—and by Na’aman, the Syrian.  The response of the people in the synagogue is to remove Jesus to the edge of the city where they were going to do him harm. Yet, Jesus walks through the crowd unharmed and continues his ministry elsewhere.

            Now, I want us to think about this with our hearts this morning. God made sure that this episode of Jesus’ ministry was put into the Holy Scriptures for us today for a sincere reason. We must hear and understand that the Son of God himself was in danger of being killed by his own countrymen, for they did not agree with his interpretation of Scripture! I want us to think about this with our hearts this morning. Don’t try to keep the irony in your head. Just understand that issue was that the people just simply did not want to hear what they did not already understand from the Scripture, and that they were willing to kill to keep from hearing what they did not want to hear. Honestly, there was a violent reaction from those people to hearing the actual Word of God.

            Jesus’ response we must also understand with our hearts. He walked away. The man who could bring Lazarus back from the dead, cast out demons from a man at Gerasa, who could feed the five thousand, walk on water, be resurrected, and bring down the Holy Spirit—this man walked away from these people. One would have expected that he could turn their hearts, make them understand, save them as he had been sent by the Father in heaven to do. Instead, he walks away without looking back.

            What were those people from the synagogue saying while they were bringing Christ out to the hill to throw him down and be rid of him? The Bible does not tell us the actual words. They might have been saying something like: “Jesus, you don’t know the Scriptures at all like we do.” “Jesus, your life is not based on the Scriptures like ours are.” “Jesus, you do not love the Scriptures like we do.” And, although the crowds never threw him down the hillside, I know that my Lord felt pain for what was said. I know that it cut Jesus to the quick.

            And, if you have ever found yourself in a similar situation, in a group of people who are telling you that your understanding of Scripture is wrong, that your life is not Biblically based, or that you do not love the Word of God; then follow Christ! You just go ahead and follow Christ! You turn your back and walk away. Do not look back, for there is nothing you can do. Carry on as Jesus did, continuing to heal, bring peace, and love to those who will accept this grace.


            The famous theologian George Barna wrote: “The Bible is not a document of antiquity revered as a reference manual for those in search of guidance regarding lifestyles and values. . . .[It is a story] of intimacy with the supreme being.” And to that idea I would just add that the Bible is not just any kind of story—it is a love story. It is the story of God’s love for us that we would be created in the first place, given a covenant out of love, given forgiveness out of love, and given eternal life out of love, and given this Bible out of love! God’s love for us gives us this Bible! And, our response should be a response of love back to God for this gift.

            I want to paraphrase here a bit of the book from Brian McLaren I mentioned earlier:

What if instead of reading the Bible, you let the Bible read you?. . .Think of a scientist preparing to dissect a northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens. How would you describe his attitude toward the frog? That scientist would be objective. He wouldn’t have any feelings for the frog. It’s just a routine dissection; it’s objective science. He would be curious. He would be looking for something. He would be trying to compare the frog’s anatomy with a fetal pig’s anatomy or a rat’s anatomy. Maybe he would be looking for an abnormality, some tumor or something.


Now, think of a detective at a crime scene. How would you describe his approach? The detective would want to prove something, looking for evidence for or against, and wanting to avoid contaminating any evidence by his own presence.


Now, think of a teenage boy meeting a girl at the mall. How does his attitude or posture differ from that of the scientist or detective? For the boy, there is fun in it, a sense of personal investment, a feeling of adventure. There’s less caution, less holding back. But in another way, there is holding back, because he wants to make his move and then leave her room for her to make her move. It’s less aggressive, less controlling, and more relational. We need to approach the Bible more that way. We need to flirt with it and let its message romance us. [McLaren, pp.56-7]


            We need to get serious with the Bible! We need to be in love with it. We need to have a real relationship with it. We cannot look at it so objectively that we come to dissect it in order to prove some point that we think we have that is more about ourselves than it is about God. 

            We have to understand that there was no such thing as the “scientific method” when the Bible was given to us by God. There was no such thing as “CSI Jerusalem!” There were no encyclopedias.  However, there was love and relationship and intimacy! And, this is the proper lens through which we need to see the Bible.


            I once had an employee working under me at another church that would not show up for work on time. When she did show up, she would punch the time clock and then go down to Starbuck’s for coffee. Nobody ever seemed to know where she was.  So, we called a personnel committee meeting, sat her down, and told her that it was an expectation of her employment that she actually be on site. Her response was to point out that her job description did not say that. So, the committee added that to her job description.

            Everything seemed fine for a while at least. Then, she started disappearing again. I would search the church for her and find her with other staff having a [quote] “meeting” [unquote] in the balcony of the sanctuary. This once more came to the proper committee that she hold her meetings in her office that was provided for that purpose because nobody knew where she was when she was up in the balcony or some other part of the church and hosting private meetings in off places was just bad church policy.

            Again, her response was that she fulfilled to the letter her duties as described in the official written job description that had been agreed upon by all parties. So, as I recall, another addendum was added to the official job description, stating in essence that she needed to be in her assigned work area during her workday.

            To make a very long and tedious story short, it became such that every month there was a different issue with this employee and every month she stated that the problem was not with her but with the official job description--that had since her hiring tripled in length

            From this experience I learned that whenever a relationship, no matter what kind of relationship, becomes legalistic and words keeping piling up upon meaningless words that there is something drastically wrong with that relationship. And in that particular case I learned that the real issue was not good communication, nor adequate job description, it was nothing less than she did not love her work.  For if she had loved her work, she would have wanted to be there doing what she loved rather than looking for meaningless points to get out of what she was hired to do while still getting the paycheck every two weeks.

            So it is with the Bible that it cannot be just a very long list of what you should do and what you can get away with. Nor, should it be somehow negotiable. It is not a reference guide to being a Christian. It is a love story that Christians are in love with.  It is the Good News that, yes, is written on pages but is also written on our hearts and flows from our lips in adoration! It is the living, breathing Word of God for our lives.