Having been baptized by John in the last chapter, Jesus is now led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he endures a time of testing and temptation at the hands of the devil. He goes from there back to Galilee to begin his public ministry.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day …
Sometimes Christians fall a little short (or even a lot) by attending church on Sunday, but letting that be about all there is to their Christian life. More regular or deeper fellowship with other believers is not high on their list of priorities. Daily encounters with God through the Bible or prayer are seldom had.
And then there is another kind of problem. One frequently encounters professing Christians who rarely if ever go to church at all. Once in a while a person is willing to admit that it is just through negligence or laziness or what used to be called sloth. If you’ve ever had the good fortune to see a genuine mammalian, tropical sloth in action, or sloth inaction, you understand why the word applies. If this is your problem, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath. It was his custom according to Luke 4:16. Make it your custom too.
Worse yet is the person who says in a somewhat self-satisfied way, “I am a Christian and think highly of Jesus, but I do not take part in a church.” This person sees no need for the fellowship of the saints, the regular teaching of the Scriptures, or the exercise of his or her gifts in the context of a local body of believers.
Frequently, this person has been wounded by a church or its leaders and sometimes more than once. That’s sad, really, but so often true. We should not lightly brush off a person’s deep struggles or too quickly minimize their experience.
The same truly wounded person should still take a lesson from the custom of Jesus. If anyone knew of the hypocrisy of religious people, it was Christ. If anyone could afford to do without an empty religious tradition, it was Christ. He was rejected in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he grew up, and almost killed by those people here in Luke 4. Later, in Capernaum, he encountered a demonized man at a synagogue service, who then began shouting at him and made Jesus the center of attention.
The truth is, we need a weekly dose of God’s people, with all their good, bad, wonderful, stupid and terrible qualities. Since the days of the New Testament, Christians have gathered together on the first day of the week and there is no compelling reason to change that custom now. Learning to get along with all these imperfect people is one of the main ingredients in our spiritual growth.
If you don’t find encouragement with other believers, find a church and go there to be an encouragement to them. If you find hypocrisy, make it a point to be the least hypocritical person in the room.
And then, on top of everything else, humbly admit that you may have a problem. Perhaps your previous wounds have made you overly judgmental or somewhat too critical of others. This is understandable, but it still is not good. Maybe you are a little too afraid of what may or may not happen again. Understandable again, but it is no way to live. If you honestly talk about your issue you are likely to find someone else there who will know exactly what you are talking about and might have some encouragement for you on that level. In other words, this sort of wounding happens a lot, so you are not alone in your experience.
Once again, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath. It was his custom according to Luke 4:16. Make it your custom too.
Everyone in Nazareth knew Jesus. The town wasn’t that big and Jesus had lived there most of his life. When he came home and taught in the synagogue, the response might have been positive. I’m the sort that loves it when guys from my hometown of Buffalo, NY, or my current home of Indianapolis make it big in one way or another. Imagine if one of your local boys turned out to be the Messiah!? It doesn’t get any bigger than that.
Alas, that was not the case.
Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Familiarity can go two ways. They clearly knew enough about Jesus and his “mighty works” to put two and two together. It was an informed decision. But they also had enough information to imagine that their unbelief was justified. “He’s just a carpenter, right?” “And his mom, brother and sisters are just normal folks. We’ve known them forever.” If they had anything privately against the family, say suspicion surrounding the circumstances of Jesus’s birth, or some minor scuffle with a one of the brothers, these things would not work in Christ’s favor.
They were still wrong. Jesus was and is the Christ, the Son of God (Mark1:1). Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)
We can make the same mistake today. People reject Christ due to familiarity. They grew up in a Christian home or they know any number of Christians that they find unimpressive. Or they pay Christ a bit of lip service while not accepting the Jesus we find in the Bible, because, well, they know a little too much, they believe.
This also happens in churches to otherwise solid believers. It is more subtle, but the same basic thing. The longer we know a pastor, a worship leader or the overall atmosphere of the church, we are faced with a continuous decision. We can stay faithful for the sake of the relationships and continue to help build the ministry – or not.
Maybe we’re kind of bored with the music. Maybe we wish they would stress our favorite doctrinal stance a little more then they do. Maybe we like the decor of another building or the neighborhood in which another church is located. We can go on.
Familiarity can increase commitment, cultivate brotherly love and build trust. Long, old friendships are usually the best we have. Or, we can collect evidence that something is seriously wrong. If they did it with Jesus, we can certainly do it with other sinners saved by grace.
Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christ
Part 8 of 14
No philosopher, king, scientist or superhero can save humanity from sin. We need a Savior and that is what God has given us.