My wife is a local preacher and the one thing she dislikes is preaching in her own church. I guess the famous words of Jesus echo in her ears as she’s preparing her sermon: No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.
Actually, the last time she was there - a couple of weeks ago - the service was very well received, but we can imagine how nervous Jesus was going back to Nazareth and speaking in front of his family, friends and neighbours.
Mark and Matthew only tell us that his message was not well received, but Luke goes further and tells us that - although at first they were surprised how eloquent Jesus was - the congregation quickly became enraged and tried to throw him off a nearby cliff. The implication is that they bundled him out of town towards the cliff face but apparently the nearest cliff is at least 20 minutes walk from the synagogue and perhaps not as close by as Luke imagined. Be that as it may, Luke’s seems to want to heighten the drama of the story. Like Jesus we will often find that the Christian message is rejected by those we know or love. In Jesus’ case it was his lack of formal education that caused doubt but, knowing our foibles, our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours may feel that we don’t walk the talk sufficiently well to convince them! Nonetheless, we have to persevere and not be discouraged.
Like Jesus we will sometimes find that living and preaching the Gospel is a risky thing to do. On this occasion he was spared. Perhaps, in the end, the people of Nazareth couldn’t bring themselves to hurt one of their own. But, of course, Luke’s readers know that Jesus will eventually be rejected and crucified.
It’s interesting that Luke introduces us very early in his story to the dangers which Jesus habitually faced. Sometimes the crowd wanted to proclaim him as their king - which in itself was dangerous enough - but sometimes their mood could turn ugly. Proclaiming and living the Gospel will always involve an element of challenge and risk. It’s not a safe or cosy thing to do. If we feel too comfortable - as a congregation or as individuals - perhaps we’re not really following Jesus.
On this occasion Jesus emerged unscathed, but that wasn’t because he had been given safe passage by God through all life’s difficulties and troubles. It was simply because his hour had not yet come. His destiny was to die in Jerusalem, not in his hometown. What is our destiny? To keep out of trouble or to look for opportunities and confront them head on? Luke seems to be inviting us to ask what Jesus would do if he came to our hometown.