As we close out week three of our journey through the book of Luke, I want to look at a strange moment from early in Jesus’ ministry that I had no knowledge of before reading it recently. Jesus is doing some teaching in his hometown of Nazareth, and while at first he’s well received, he starts dropping some uncomfortable truth on the people. Namely, the idea that sometimes God moves mightily not just at home in the lives of His people, but afar in the lives of foreigners. The people aren’t exactly receptive to this, as you’re about to see.
Luke 4:28-30 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.
First of all, can we just agree that this is a GROSS overreaction? People have told me plenty of things I didn’t like in my lifetime, never once have I tried to PUSH THEM OFF A CLIFF! It’s a seemingly absurd reaction, but it’s this absurd reaction that really made this verse catch my attention. The truth is a dangerous thing, and believe it or not, people can and often do react very poorly to hearing it. These people of Nazareth are one example of it, but really Jesus’ entire ministry is filled with the exact same reaction.
The truth does not always line up with where we are in life. I wrote last week about realizing that I wasn’t properly observing fasting in my life. This past weekend I had a powerful moment with a close friend where we mutually realized that we weren’t living up to where we need to be as men of prayer. These aren’t fun moments, they’re definitely not comfortable. But the moment when the truth hits us and we realize that we’re not living according to it, those are defining moments. You’re forced to a side. There’s no avoidance of the truth in these moments, we either comply and change so that our life lines up with it, or we rebel and fight against it.
John 17:17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
The truth makes us holy. And if we’re going to be made holy, it means we have to give up some of what we are and some of what we do, which we don’t wanna do. When we fight against the truth, we’re fighting against the process God has that is trying to make us holy and set apart for His special purposes (the process is called sanctification). In this verse from John here, Jesus is praying directly to God, and I just love anytime we get these moments where he talks about scripture. What is truth? The word of God is. And it takes no prisoners, it does not soften its edges to make us feel better. Sometimes it crashes into us like a truck. It has broken me in half before, it has brought me very low when I thought I was very high. The reason why it works for me is because I serve the one who wrote it, and so when I don’t align with the truth, I’m willing to submit to whatever process it takes to get myself in agreement with the truth. Eventually. I will sometimes tend to wrestle with the truth for a time, often going through a bad period in life and in my faith as I do it. Finally, I realize that fighting the truth is making me far more miserable than just accepting it and conforming to it. And when I do accept it and adapt to it it’s always beautiful and wonderful, thus making me realize how foolish it was to fight it in the first place!
But that’s not the case for everyone. I’ve seen bizarre reactions to the truth. I’ve been yelled at for telling someone I was going to pray for them. I’ve had trash thrown at me for telling someone about Jesus. I’ve been laughed at, written off, argued with, called a liar, called a fool, and the fact is, my experience spreading the truth of Jesus to strangers is very limited. It’s not something I’ve done a lot of in my life. Most of my ministry is either in the church or with people who are already believers.
There are a few things I want to say about this. First of all, expect it. Jesus CLEARLY tells us that the world at large isn’t going to be welcoming to those who follow him and speak his truths.
John 15:19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.
Expect bad reactions to the truth. That’s the first point. Second point? Love them all the same.
Matthew 5:44-45 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
I love the heart of Jesus. He is the most illogical being in existence and I love it, I really do. It makes no sense to love your enemies, and praying for those who persecute sounds ludicrous. And yet that’s how he loves. People spit in his face, tortured him, ripped his beard out, nailed him to a cross, stabbed him in the side. They were brutally murdering him even though he never did anything wrong. And he said “forgive them father, they know not what they do.”
That’s his heart, and we are called to emulate it. And I’ll let you in on a secret. The greatest emotional freedom you’ll ever find is praying for your enemies and those who have wronged you. There is more power in that than in just about anything else. I encourage people to do it constantly. You can complain to me about someone, confide in me about how they’ve done you wrong, and I will listen and sympathize and empathize, but at the end I will ask you if you’re praying for that person, and if the answer is no I’ll strongly encourage you to do it.
The truth of God breaks all that is imperfect, and we’re all quite imperfect. We’re conditioned to hate a thing that breaks us, and so we need to understand that when those who aren’t walking with Jesus react badly to the truth, the reaction makes sense in their mind. The truth is hurting them, and instead of submitting to the painful process of aligning with it, they rebel against it. We need to understand that reaction so we can speak to it, so that we can still love the person who is having it, even if that person happens to be us.
Why does Jesus break us? Because we have flaws, and in order to get rid of them and fix us, sometimes he has to get those bad parts out of us. I’ve been truly and fully broken a few times, and as lowly as I felt in those times there was an absolute and unmistakable beauty in it. At my lowest, Jesus has always been at his absolute nearest to me, and every broken time is followed by a climb to strength, blessing, and power. The truth can hurt for a moment before eventually building you into a better version of yourself. A temporary pain for an eternal gain.
I love all of you very much. It blessed me greatly to see the beautiful things God had to say about the truth today, all inspired by this one verse in the book of Luke. I hope you all have a safe and wonderful weekend, and as always, please feel free to send me prayer requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or just email if you have questions or want to talk.