Has someone you know ever done something so surprising or out of character that it caused you to wonder if you know them at all? We get an impression about the people we know and use that impression to predict how they will react when faced with some situation. When they act differently to how we expect them to, we get surprised, shocked and even outraged at times. How about Jesus? We’ve grown up in a society where there are Christian churches everywhere and we have easy access to a bible. Isn’t Jesus someone we think we know well?
Our reading today comes from the incident in the Nazareth synagogue where Jesus is teaching. Having read the promises of God that one will come to restore Israel and liberate the people, Jesus then announces that He is the one who will carry out this task. There’s great excitement that such a person should be one of their own, someone they know. Said excitement turns to anger when Jesus points out that God’s grace is to be extended to everyone, not just those they think deserve it. They drive Jesus out thus missing an opportunity for a blessing. They thought they knew the Messiah and how the Messiah would act. They were therefore unable to accept what He was saying to them.
I wonder if our familiarity with Jesus causes us to think that we can determine what it is that Jesus would or would not do. Throughout the history of the church, there have always been some groups that have been denied grace only to find that over time, God’s Spirit moved the church to accept them. It turns out God’s grace is radically inclusive and is wider than any doctrine or practice of the church. We are fortunate that we are called to be representatives of God’s grace and privileged to be the instruments through which it is shown. But this privilege does not give us the right to determine who should receive it. If God’s grace is sufficient for all people, it is up to us to show it to all people. Jesus surprised many in the synagogue that day with the scope of God’s grace, perhaps we should be humble enough to accept that Jesus may surprise us these days?