Every culture has those that are in and those that are out. Every culture has those who bask in the glorious middle while others simply try to survive after being pushed out onto the margins. Jesus now comes to say that all are loved, that all can be recipients of God’s grace. Jesus comes and fellowships with those that had been isolated, alienated, and that there is no one for whom Jesus is not willing to die! That is such good news.
Yet the listeners of Jesus in his day do not hear this inclusivity as good news. They do not want to hear that there will no longer be Jew or Gentile, slave or free – but that we can all be one in Christ. They want to kill Jesus for that message. Friends, those people exist in our world today as well. This text reminds us that no church, no tradition, no denomination, no country can claim an exclusive hold on God. There is no demographic, economic, political, philosophical, or cultural limit to God’s love.
Finally, this story is also a tale of competing values. For his listeners, Jesus threatened a core value for them. For Jesus to say that God is at work outside the covenant people of Israel threatened a core principle that viewed Israel as being in a unique and exclusive relationship with God. When Jesus came to tell them differently; when Jesus came to elevate the notion of God’s love and grace and redemptive work to people beyond Israel’s exclusive claim on God, they just couldn’t accept it.
Friends, faith will do that to us. We all have principles and values. We all have ways of organizing our world into a set of principles and convictions that determines the choices we make. I do. My guess is that you do as well. The question is, what are we going to do when our values and principles find themselves in opposition to God’s grace and righteousness? The worshippers in the synagogue decided to shoot the messenger rather than question their conviction. What will we do when it is our turn?