When Jesus Altered Scripture
“Yeshua, would you do the honor of reading the text this morning,” the synagogue attendant softly asked, as his outstretched arm was offering me the scroll. I walked to the front of the room feeling a strange mixture of excitement and nerves. For the past few weeks I had been traveling around Galilee doing this exact same thing, but today is different. These are my people. This is Nazareth. This is where I grew up. These men here know me, and they know my rather checkered upbringing and all the scandal surrounding my birth.
But still, I’m feeling light today. I’m feeling full… full of my Father’s Spirit.
After all, it was only a few weeks ago that I returned from my time of fasting and prayer in the wilderness. 40 days of not eating was bad enough, but then I had to spar with the Satan at the end of it. So many temptations… but each time I was able to pull from the Scriptures to resist. Even when the Satan tried to use the Scripture against me, to twist it, I still outfoxed him.
And since then, since getting back to civilization, I’ve been on a roll. People are finally starting to respect me. Admire me. Listen to me.
My hands trembling slightly, I take the scroll and turn around to see the faces of friends, family, and other people I’ve come to know and trust and love. Looking down I could see that I was handed a section from Isaiah.
Phew. I’ve always liked Isaiah. I’ve always felt strangely connected to his words. As though he was able to sense in some way the mission I feel called to. He got me.
As I’m unrolling the scroll I can feel the butterflies inside me speeding up. My eyes come up from the scroll one last time to scan the room. Will these men hear me? Will they listen? Will they respect me like the others have throughout Galilee? Or will I continue to feel their patronizing crooked smiles as they placate me as the “illegitimate son of Mary the UnFaithful.”
Nervous, and seeking escape, I look back down at the scroll, determined to not look up again.
I take a deep breath, and begin to read:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me
I knew that was true. I’ve been more keenly aware of that recently that ever before. From that strangely beautiful baptism by my cousin John, to the time spent in the wilderness… I definitely feel God’s Spirit upon me.
Anointed… yes, that’s the perfect word for how I feel right now. I read on…
to bring good news to the poor,
Wow… yes… absolutely! I have always felt drawn to the outcast, the forgotten, the poor. Like I said, Isaiah gets me...
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound
This is it. This is why I’m here. I just know it.
My whole life has been leading up to this moment, and I can feel it. This is who I am, this is what I’m called to do. Now is the time, I just know it, when God is announcing healing, and love, and freedom… Good news! Okay, Yeshua, keep yourself together… keep reading…
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
And then I stop... mid sentence. Crap. Hold on… wait…
My eyes are glued to the scroll, refusing to look away just yet.
Proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor, yes, good... I'm down with that. So far so good.
But I knew what was next. I had this section memorized, but somehow it has still caught me off guard.
Suddenly, though I’ve read this sentence and said these words countless times, suddenly it no longer feels… right? Good?
What began, moments ago, as a mixture of excitement and nerves, has now morphed completely. The nerves have partnered with fear and resolutely wiped out any and all excitement. I don’t want to be here any more. This is not going to end well. I can’t read the next line. I won’t read the next line. Everything else resonated so deeply with me… within me… but not this. No, not this.
I stare at the words as I feel the stares of the men around me. I roll them around in my head again and again, refusing to say them aloud:
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor... and the day of vengeance of our God.
No. I can’t do it.
I don’t know exactly what Isaiah had in mind, but right now, in this moment, I don’t agree.
If the Spirit of God is upon me, and if the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor and proclaim the arrival of the Lord’s favor, then that makes sense to me. That I can do.
But I am not here to announce the vengeance of God. Sorry, Isaiah, that does not resonate with me. I can’t go there with you. That’s not me. That’s not my Father.
I finally compose myself (and, I think, finally closed my mouth… I’m pretty sure it hung awkwardly open this whole time). My mind was made up. Even though everyone will be wondering why I stopped mid-sentence, I know that’s what I have to do.
My fingers found their strength again as I rolled the scroll back up, preparing to return it to the synagogue attendant. He seemed a bit confused as I moved towards him; the rolling of the scroll was complete, but the reading of it obviously wasn’t.
Finding my courage again, and remembering the space I’ve been in lately, walking in God’s Spirit, I turned back around and sat down. Feeling the eyes of all, and sensing that they were expecting me to finish the Prophet’s sentence, to announce the coming vengeance of God, I slowly scanned the room, making sure I connected with each set of eyes before I spoke next.
Butterflies gone. Fear chased out by love. Peace had arrived.
That’s when I said,
"Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
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A creative imagining of Luke 4:16-21