21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Reflection: When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
The stiff arm, as seen above, is a move in football intended to keep someone at an arm’s length to push them away and prevent them from tackling you. But did you know that the stiff arm is also practiced spiritually? This is done when God tries to do a new work in us and we resist because of fear or an unwillingness to change. We try to keep God at an arm’s length or try to push God away altogether. We can see the evidence of God working and even be amazed at first – just like the crowds who heard Jesus in his hometown. But then something about God’s work triggers a defensive response in us because it hits too close to home in an uncomfortable way.
Change is difficult, especially when it demands from us the humble willingness to repent. Jesus is clear that if we do not turn from ourselves and toward God, then God will find those outside of the inner faith circle to work within and through. God’s purposes will be accomplished whether we participate or not. The invitation to participate in God’s purposes is an act of love and grace on the part of God. God desires our cooperation, but will not wait indefinitely on us.
Think of what those in Jesus’s hometown missed out on by giving him the spiritual stiff arm. Have we ever been resistant to the movement of God because it scared us or challenged our autonomy? Human history is filled with examples of us lagging behind God’s progress or getting out ahead of God in a direction God does not want us to go. Has God called on you to answer a specific calling that you are hesitant to accept?
The opposite of the spiritual stiff arm is raising your hands in willing receptivity to God. Perhaps we all need to exercise a different posture with God. This week, try lifting your arms (either figuratively or literally) when you go to God in prayer. Receive what God intends for you. Don’t let Jesus pass through your midst and go on his way. Follow instead and find God’s will for you. God’s will will always be the right move.
Journaling Focus: Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
There are many promises in the Bible. We can trust that if God has made a promise, God will fulfill that promise. What are some promises from Scripture that God has kept and fulfilled in your life? As you journal this week, recall a few of these promises. Then write a brief description of how you have specifically experienced God’s faithfulness in those areas. And be on the lookout! God is still int he business of keeping his promises!
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Listen to the song, Have Thine Own Way, Lord. This is a beautiful rendition by Johnny Cash. It is an unedited studio session recording, and there is one stop and restart (because it was too high for Johnny!). Think about what it means for God to truly have “absolute sway” over your life. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’”
Jesus rightly identifies himself as the Healer in this passage. Why we receive physical healing sometimes when we pray and why physical healing does not come at other times when we pray, we do not know. Suffering is an inexplicable reality in our world. But our only hope is the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Such grace is sufficient for us in every moment, as Paul reminds us. God is in the business of healing. Christ Jesus is our Great Physician. This week, pray for healing. Do not try to figure out the why and why not. Simply pray in trust and thanksgiving. You might just open yourself up to a new experience of healing that you’ve never known.
Meditation Focus: They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
I look at these words and I wonder about the manner in which they were spoken. In the context of this passage, they seem to be said in a derisive manner – such as, “How can this guy be so special? Who does he think he is? He’s just the son of a common carpenter!” We have all had people use words to hurt us – intentionally or not. Allow yourself the vulnerability to recall a time in which someone used words to hurt you. Imagine them saying them to you again. But this time, imagine Jesus standing beside you as they speak those hurtful words. What does Jesus say in response to you? How does Jesus counteract those words with words of life and healing. Now watch as the hurtful person and their words fade away from view. Only Jesus and his words remain. How do you feel? Whose words will you trust?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- What is God doing in the world around you?
- How is God calling you to join in the work he is doing?
- Where has God’s work surprised you or differed from your expectations?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Read about the history of the United Methodist Church and observe the many different and new ways God has worked through the Methodist movement over the past three centuries. God has used our Church to address the need for personal and social holiness throughout the world in powerful ways. As you read, consider what new frontiers of ministry God is calling us toward.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, open us to your will.