Frustrated Punishment

Readings in Luke Continued – No.10

Lk 4:28-30 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

We noted in the previous meditation the fickleness of sinful mankind. One moment these people were hanging on Jesus’ every word. The next they were questioning who he was and then the next they are trying to kill him. This little episode portrays humanity exactly as it is. Later on, three years on, Peter, as one of the leaders of the discipleship group, would strongly affirm his commitment to Jesus but then hours later deny him. It is a wise person who realises their frailty and weakness and realises their need for the Lord to be the stabilising influence in their life.

So Jesus has just challenged them to be more faithful than their forefathers had been. He had cited instances of where two of God’s leading prophets had brought healing to Gentiles and not to Israel. It was possibly that which riled this group of apparently pious Jews in this particular synagogue. We don’t like to face our history, especially when it has not been very glorious. The mother’s rebuke of a child, “You’re just like your father!” isn’t meant as a compliment but as a condemnation. We so easily get cast in the mould of our parents and we need to realise that we can be free to be ourselves, not following in their mistakes. These proud Jews could have said, “Yes, you’re right. We should learn from the unbelief of previous generations, so that we don’t be like them,” but they didn’t! Instead they acted just the same.

Now what this particular incident shows is that unrestrained anger can lead to terrible things. They were ‘furious’ Luke tells us, and it was their fury that led them to seek to do harm to Jesus. In their anger they no doubt justify themselves: this is a false prophet and the Law says that such men should be put to death (Deut 13:1-5), so they grab him and force him out of the synagogue, and bundle him out of town to a nearby cliff where they intend to thrown him down on to the rocks below. Anger drives these men (because it almost certainly was the men) to attempt murder. Pause up a moment: is anger a problem to you? Does it just spring up and leave you out of control of yourself? You need to assess the cause of that anger, what is behind it, and take that to the Lord and ask for help, before it causes you to do something you may later regret.

You may remember, that a while back we pondered on the expression, “until an opportune moment” in respect of Satan’s attack on Jesus. Was this such an opportune moment? Was Satan behind this? Was he stirring up the religious crowd to act in this way? The chilling thought is that he can take religious people and provoke them to awful unChristlike behaviour. The atheist crusaders of our day are only too quick to point out the misdeeds of apparent believers – but they are right! Such things should not happen! Christians should not be resorting to force, should not be resorting to worldly methods to combat ungodly unrighteousness.

Anger is very often spurred on by fear and fear is often a defence mechanism. These religious Jews feared the thought that they might be wrong, that they might be rejecting God’s will and, thus, that they might receive God’s judgement. They did not know God’s love and they did not have assurance of the reality of a living relationship with the Lord, and then in their fear, their anger boils up and they lash out. It all stems back to a weak relationship with God, and it is because of this that they eventually act like they do. They have murder in their hearts, no doubt spurred on by Satan who would like to see Jesus destroyed, but they are responsible for their own behaviour and they cannot just blame Satan. It is down to them – and to you and me if we behave like this!

So here is this incredibly volatile and emotional crowd. You see them in Middle Eastern cities on the news, a rabble that has been whipped up to do violence, emotions running amok. But then comes something quite incredible, and we are not told how it happened. Jesus simply walked right through the crowd and went on his way. As we just said, we aren’t told how it happened. Somehow the authority of the Son of God was exerted, the power of God for deliverance, and Jesus just walks away from the milling mass of angry humanity. Somehow those around him must have been neutralised and so they just let him go. Somehow, those in his path must have just been anesthetised to his presence and they just let him pass through. The crowd, that is one moment full of anger, is next minute standing and wondering where he had gone and what it was all about. This was one of the very rare occasions where Jesus’ very life was under threat and somehow he used his power to save himself. It is a salutary reminder than God does not need defending!

However, the crucial lessons in this passage are about unrestrained anger, and we would do well to take note of them!