We Don’t Need Permission (First Encounters with Jesus)

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You’re not listening to me.

I’m joining Suzie Eller today for #LiveFreeThursday to talk about momentum. You know–just keeping keeping on. Sometimes, we feel like we need permission to keep going, or to venture out into something new. Maybe we can take a page from Jesus, though, and see–there’s a difference between being heard and making sure you speak up. Don’t hold back on the latter, even if the former is’t happening. You see, Jesus knows.

 

Maybe you understand this scenario all too well. You have an idea for solving a problem. You voice it. You’re ignored. A few weeks later, someone else “happens” to have the same idea. It’s hailed as genius. At which point, you briefly contemplate some extremely passive aggressive move to make that person’s life miserable. In Christian love.

Or you’re sitting with your dear family and you say something, something somewhere on the importance scale between, “I’m on fire, call an ambulance” and, “Dinner is ready.” Those people you live with are sitting within six feet of you. Their (non) response signals that they have all been hijacked by alien beings who removed their brains and replaced them with red jello. You briefly contemplate actually setting something on fire to see if it garners any attention at all.

Not that this has happened to me. Except–All. The. Time.

It’s hard. It’s frustrating. It does not feel good not to be heard.

Being Heard

So I can relate a bit to Jesus in his next public appearance, at the synagogue. “No prophet is accepted in his own hometown,” he says. That’s about right. At least if no one is going to listen to me, I’m in good company.

Everyone has heard of this young up-and-coming teacher, Jesus. Most likely, many of them already doubt the chances that a carpenter’s son could teach them anything. A pauper from Nazareth? Not really rabbi material. And yet, there are those persistent stories about his wise words…

So it’s SRO in the synagogue the morning he shows up.

Part of the audience is waiting for the next big thing—some spectacular show like the water and wine gig.

Part of the audience is waiting to trip him up and dismiss him.

How many of them are there really to hear him? I wonder.

I think I have some idea of how Jesus felt. It hurts not to be heard.

When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.” (Luke 4)

Those hearing Jesus for the first time here see some important things in this first encounter.

First, they see a man who is unafraid to assert his identity and authority.

IMG_0767He knows they expect little. He is fully aware of their skepticism. He confidently takes hold of the Scriptures, reads, sit down, and then unleashes a giant bomb on the little meeting.

“These holy verses? They’re talking about me. I am the product of the prophecy. I’m the One. That’s all for today.”

Mic drop.

I love how Jesus just drops these little gems into conversation and then goes back to eating his Cheerios or whatever like it is a common, everyday occurrence to go around telling people you’re God.

Only God could pull this off successfully.

Second, they see a man who is unafraid to say some unpopular things.

As long as his listeners could smugly put themselves in the position of oppressed martyr, they were fine with his words about releasing captives and helping the poor. But Jesus had no plans to let them color themselves the victims in this picture. He insisted they join him in being the agents of change for the real poor and marginalized. They did not like it. Most of us prefer to feel like martyrs rather than oppressors. It’s decidedly more comfortable.

Jesus wasn’t too concerned about comfort. He knew who he was, he knew why he came, and he knew he had the authority to carry it out. And he wasn’t afraid to say so.

I love this sighting of Jesus.

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Yes, I’m the King. G’night.

I know that many people are rightly turned off by the presentation of Jesus as an angry, judging, vindictive God.

But I wonder if many others aren’t equally turned off by the presentation of a Jesus who can’t or won’t take charge and tell the truth like it is. A wimpy Jesus who hangs around going, “Hey, whatever, it’s all cool in the end.” A Jesus who is just OK with whatever we want to say his mission was and whoever we want to believe he was.

That’s not a Jesus I would want to stake my life’s purpose on. I would find no comfort in trusting a Jesus who couldn’t make up his mind to be who he was and stick with it. So I am comforted and empowered by this Luke 4 Jesus. He is bold. He is purposeful. He is unafraid. That’s a Jesus I can follow with confidence.

And in the times when I feel unheard and unheeded, it’s a Jesus I can appreciate.

I wrote an article recently on women in leadership and how we often downplay our own abilities. We put on a Christian costume of humility and allow ourselves to remain unheeded and unheard. In the name of being good Christian women.

Only it’s not good at all. Jesus demonstrates a better way here. Now, I am not Jesus. You are not Jesus. So, we don’t have the authority to go around asserting our opinions like they are infallible. We desperately need to err on the side of love and grace. But there is something important to see here.

When you know who you are, you know why you’re here, and you know Who has the authority to help you, there is nothing wrong in asserting that reality. We don’t have to coat it in sugar or wait for someone else to bring it up. We do not have to be given permission to carry out the mission God has given us. He’s already done that.

We do not have to be given permission to carry out the mission God has given us.

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I get that fear. For a long time, I listened to it, afraid to write about what really mattered to me and, I was pretty certain, to God. Look what they did to Jesus here. They chased him out of town for reading a passage that challenged their complacency and then claiming he had the authority to make it real.

I was not interested in being chased out of the virtual town.

Now, I’m OK with it, because being heard is more important than being liked.

That’s why I love the Jesus I find in Luke 4. He doesn’t care.

  • Isn’t this is a Jesus we can love? He isn’t afraid to tell the truth.
  • Isn’t this is a Jesus we can love? He knows what matters.
  • Isn’t this is a Jesus we can love? He knows who He is and why He came.

I want to be more like this Jesus.

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