Even after 27 years of marriage my wife still has a way of surprising me. It’s just little things that I would not expect her to say or do. It certainly keeps things fresh and fun. I look forward to the next surprising moment. But also after 27 years there is a great level of familiarity, a way of life that is consistent and comfortable. The challenge for us, and for any relationship, is not to get so comfortable that we stop being surprised or surprising, that we fall into dullness and a tedious expectation of sameness. Or worse yet, we get to the point in the relationship where we reject those moments of discovery, where we would rather stay stuck in the known than embrace wonder.
This is true of all our relationships – including our relationship with Christ. Jesus experienced this in his hometown of Nazareth. This is how Luke describes the event in the fourth chapter of his gospel.
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. (ESV)
The folks in his hometown were intimately familiar with Jesus. They watched him grow up. They travelled back and forth to Jerusalem for Passover. They went to school together. They thought they knew him and thought they knew what to expect. “This is just Joe’s kid. How did he get so smart? Why is he doing miracles in Capernaum but not here at home?” they would say.
But then he did something unexpected. He challenged their assumptions about him. He stepped outside the box they had put him in. It was one thing to speak well at the synagogue and quite another to claim prophet status. It was not ok with them that he did miracles in Capernaum but not in Nazareth. They could not or would not believe that Jesus was more than what they knew. They could not or would not accept him on his terms, based on who he really was, instead of what they wanted him to be. So they reacted rather…well, strongly – they tried to throw him off a cliff. They tried to expunge from their lives this person who would not conform to their concept of him. They did not like surprises and would have none of it.
We all have ideas of who Jesus is. Is he just a good teacher and role model or is he more? Have we so “domesticated” him that he holds no real power in our lives? Do we take him down off the shelf when we need something, but just dust around him when things are going well? What happens when Jesus surprises us with his self-revelation? When he says or does something that doesn’t fit in the box we’ve built for him? Are we willing to embrace him? Worship him? Accept him? Or will we react like the folks of his hometown? All I can say is…surprises are good.