One minute he was on the stage, the next minute he was being shoved to the edge of a cliff. They didn’t like what he said and they weren’t willing to listen.
What if they would have listened? What if they would have waited to hear just one more sentence? To them he was just some local kid – nobody of importance. To us, he was Jesus and we would never think of cutting his sermon short no matter where we had lunch reservations.
Most of us may find it hard to relate to an angry mob ready to commit murder. But, even though we may consider ourselves more civilized, we still display a propensity for throwing others off cliffs to never be heard from again. What would we do if someone stood on our stage and said something that offended our heritage and our theology? We know what we would do.
Some of us can’t even read a book that doesn’t sing the song we have been humming1.
“But, we have the Bible. We have whole truth and can know it. On this side of Jesus there isn’t anything left to figure out.” They had the Bible too. Jesus just read from Isaiah moments before this and the Old Testament doesn’t get anymore New Testament than it does in Isaiah. As for the truth? Well, let’s just say it was right in front of their face. Yet, they were wrong. They were wrong about God, wrong about the scripture and wrong about themselves. It’s easy to look into history and respond with laughter and mortification at the things people used to do. It’s hard to accept that in a few decades or so, we will be them. So, while we could never imagine throwing Jesus off a cliff, we’ve silenced plenty of other people by pushing them over. Let’s just hope we are better at recognizing Jesus then they were.
This isn’t anti-conviction. Conviction is necessary and good. Conviction can provide stability and direction. But, while we hold our convictions in one hand, we must hold humility in the other.
Without humility, the stability of conviction gives way to the quick sand of arrogance.
Living in this tension between conviction and admitting our own human limitations is something we need to be comfortable with, but it’s messy. Unfortunately, so many of us are OCD and we can’t tolerate the clutter of questions lying around. We want to pick up all of our theology and put it neatly in its place. We never invite anyone over who isn’t OCD too because we are afraid they will leave their shoes on and track in something that will make a mess.
One of my favorite parts of this story in Luke 4 is what happens when they get to the cliff. He walks through the crowd and goes on his way. I’m not sure how this happened. I like to imagine him with an unimpressed facial expression as he let’s them push him along. Then, when they get to the edge, I see him pulling his arms aggressively away from their clutches and they suddenly feel his force causing them to stop where they are. With a stern look on his face, he calmly walks right through the mob looking them each in the face as he leaves them silenced.
No matter how it went down, one thing is true: because of their attempt to silence him, the Truth literally escaped them.
1 paraphrase from NT Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus