The Day Jesus Came Home
A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
I’ve never seen my Father so enraged as the day that Jesus came home. I vaguely remembered him. His dad, Joseph was a tekton, a tradesman who worked with stone and timber. He did some repairs on our house. I never knew the details, but Mother was always a bit standoffish around his mother Mary. There was a scandal lurking somewhere in the past and I could always tell when Mother thought someone wasn’t quite pure. Jesus was nice enough, I guess. He was a few years older than me, but harmless enough. He wandered off for a bit, did some travelling, spent some time in the desert – I heard he got mixed up with that wild preacher, John, who was baptising everyone. But then he was back. Father went to the synagogue. He didn’t always, but it wasn’t harvest time and he quite liked arguing with the other men. I tagged along because I was bored, and it was always amusing to watch the old men argue. Occasionally I would say something just to provoke them. Now and then I heard something really profound.The day Jesus came home, we knew he was coming. Traders had been sharing gossip that he was causing trouble in Capernaum. So when he wandered into the synagogue in Nazareth, I braced for impact. It’s one thing to have a poke, try to get a rise out of someone who takes the rules a bit too seriously. But Jesus was next level. We didn’t have many scrolls. The big five of course, the Torah, plus Jeremiah and all the Psalms, and the big scroll for Isaiah. Jesus chose Isaiah. Of course he did. Plenty of fodder there. I figured he’d read something out then start an argument. He wasn’t the first. We’ve had radicals come through before – every flavour. The ones who think we’re not kosher enough, the ones who obsess about the length of the tzitzit, the ones who think the Temple is corrupt, the ones who think the Temple is beyond reproach, the ones who want to stab every Roman they see, the ones who just shout a lot. I have to say, Jesus had a different vibe. Don’t get me wrong, he was still super weird. But different weird, you know?So he reads from Isaiah. Good news for the poor, let the oppressed go free. I mean, we all know it. It’s hardly obscure. But then he stops. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God. Everyone knows it. It’s a complete sentence. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God. But he stops in the middle of the sentence. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour… and then… and then… has he lost his place? Has he lost interest? No, he’s finished. ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ he says. And it begins. Father is shouting. Everyone is shouting. Heck, even I’m shouting and I didn’t even know I cared. He’s sliced out a piece of the prophet’s words and chucked them out. He’s edited the scroll. I mean, that’s bad enough, but then to say that this was the fulfilment of the scripture – as if he had fixed it, completed it, improved on the prophet Isaiah. He’s taken away our vengeance. Just dispensed with it. But all we have left is vengeance! Those vile Romans and that sly fox Herod, one day they’ll get their comeuppance from God, that’s what we’ve always believed – and he just erases our only hope for the future. The audacity! The arrogance required is breathtaking. Father was having none of it. He put Jesus in his place.Don’t forget whose son you are, boy, he said. You’re Joseph’s lad. You’re nothing special. The room went quiet. Really quiet. Like, there was a big gaping hole of silence as the unspoken scandal of Jesus’ birth was ever so subtly named. I realised then. I didn’t know who Jesus’ father was, but it sure as heck wasn’t Joseph.It went quickly after that. Jesus quoted a proverb ‘physician heal yourself’ and he tried to put himself on par with Elijah and Elisha. Then it was on for young and old. Father led the charge, they grabbed him, all the men grabbed him, I grabbed him, and we dragged him out of the synagogue. Of course every child within striking distance heard the commotion and joined the mob. So did every woman who wasn’t working, even some Romans from the garrison and passing traders. I’ll confess, I loved it. We would talk about this for weeks, years even. The old gossip about Mary would be rehashed and the story would grow in the telling. We’d never forget the day that a local boy was hurled off a cliff.Then, as suddenly as it began, Jesus just, I dunno, he just stared us down. All those men, those angry men, he just stared us down. We got out of the way and he carried on. He didn’t die that day but he was killed in the end, of course. Like all the others. Word trickled back after Passover one year. No one much was surprised or sad – he was not the first to die and he wouldn’t be the last. But I still think about him sometimes. Bold enough to delete vengeance from the prophecy. He decided it had no place, and it was no longer needed. Then he stared down an angry mob, who wanted their revenge on him, and his shameful Mother, and even on dear old Joseph. He erased the vengeance in the scripture, and he defeated the vengeance of the mob. And I heard, and who knows if it is true, but I heard that when the big wigs finally got their revenge and killed him, he thwarted them too. Wouldn’t stay dead, by all accounts. I met a man who swears he walked with Jesus from Jerusalem to Emmaus one night after he was supposed to be dead for three days. In my synagogue now, in this place so far from home, there’s a few who claim that Jesus still lives. Jews like me, mostly, but some gentiles too. We have different arguments here. Different provocations.I don’t know if he achieved what he wanted. But I’ve seen enough revenge to know I want no part of it. I’m an old man now, the Temple is destroyed and countless thousands of my people have died in battle or from starvation or slaughter. Our Temple, our home is no more. But I can’t seem to get that Jesus out of my mind, and even as I lay here dying, I wonder if he was right.