The Narrow Roads Dec. 2014

Bob_Anton_Narrow_Road

Have you ever been invited to go to church by a Christian friend?  Did you beg out?  Did you think to yourself; ‘those church services are too long, incredibly boring and nothing ever happens so what’s the point?  Well, what if the sermon was only about three minutes long?  And what if the Preacher really laid into the congregation about their lack of faith?  And what if the congregation formed a lynch party and tried to kill the Preacher?  Do you think you might be interested in going to a church service like that?  If so, then have I got the ultimate church service for you.  It’s found in the fourth chapter of the gospel of Luke.  There we read:  “Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures, He was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read, “The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because He has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor.  The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers, and to say, ‘This is the year the Lord has chosen.”

Jesus closed the book, then handed it back to the man in charge and sat down. Everyone in the meeting place looked straight at Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “What you have just heard me read has come true today.”

So far, so good.  What Jesus did was read a passage which speaks about the coming of the Messiah.  It’s a beautiful and gracious passage and apparently Jesus spoke eloquently and with authority.  However, His commentary regarding the scripture being fulfilled in their hearing was clearly His declaration that He is the Messiah, something that the people of Nazareth were unwilling to accept.

”All the people started talking about Jesus and were amazed at the wonderful things he said. They kept on asking, “Isn’t he Joseph’s son?””

You see, Nazareth was His home town.  It’s where Jesus grew up.  As far as the people from Nazareth knew, Jesus was just a carpenter.  He was not a religious leader nor a holy man.  Granted, they were impressed with His speech but they had already determined that He was simply the son of Joseph the carpenter.  As far as they were concerned any claim of being the Messiah was preposterous and would have to be proven.

“Jesus answered: “You will certainly want to tell me this saying, “Doctor, first make yourself well.” You will tell me to do the same things here in my own hometown that you heard I did in Capernaum. But you can be sure that no prophets are liked by the people of their own hometown.””

Jesus knew that the townspeople had heard the reports of His miracles and the rumors that He was the Messiah.  He also knew that despite the reports, they had already decided against Him because they thought they knew Him.  What they were interested in was seeing a miracle.  Like many people they wanted a demonstration of His power.  Then, maybe, they would consider His claims.  But that’s not the way God works.  They had more than enough testimony regarding Jesus to make a decision.  But their hearts were already hardened against him.  Because they refused to see, they would not see.

“Jesus replied: “Once during the time of Elijah there was no rain for three and a half years, and people everywhere were starving. There were many widows in Israel, but Elijah was sent only to a widow in the town of Zarephath near the city of Sidon.  During the time of the prophet Elisha, many men in Israel had leprosy.  But no one was healed, except Naaman who lived in Syria.””

Here, Jesus spoke of two well-known bible stories.  In each of these stories, people who were not Jews were graciously healed and provided for by God, even though there were many of God’s own people who were equally in need. The stories indicate that these gentiles were people who were willing to trust God simply at His word.  The implication is twofold: 1) that God is never under obligation to perform for anyone, even His own people.  2) that it is faith that moves the hand of God.

“When the people in the meeting place heard Jesus say this, they became so angry that they got up and threw him out of town. They dragged him to the edge of the cliff on which the town was built, because they wanted to throw him down from there.  But Jesus slipped through the crowd and got away.”

No one enjoys being chastised but the reaction of these people was startling.  While a person of good character will accept and learn from correction, even if reluctantly, a hardened heart will rebel against the truth, even to the point of violence.  Such was the case with these people.  Had Jesus performed a miracle or two at their request, perhaps they would have been willing to give Him a further hearing.  But God is not interested in placating the desires of fickle and unbelieving people and neither was Jesus.  God looks for humility and faith and so is pleased to nurture and honor these attributes in men.  But the skeptics and unbelieving, they are forever left unsatisfied.

Perhaps this Christmas if you are invited to go to church by a friend, you will think of this story and consider saying yes.  I can’t promise that your experience will be anywhere near as exciting as this service was, but I can assure you that if you go with the right attitude, that is an open mind and a humble heart, you won’t have to look for a miracle, one will meet you just where you are.  You think about that.  God bless you and…..

See you on the road.

Bob Anton, Christian Motorcyclists Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or baftmny@aol.com