There is a remarkable emotional reversal that happens in Luke 4.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s boy, had been out making a name for Himself, but now He was coming back home.
Nazareth was abuzz. The excitement was palpable. The people were whispering to each other and the synagogue was packed to the brim. Standing room only. Everyone had piled in to hear from Jesus. The service began with the traditional reading from the Torah, the law, what we know as the first five books of the Old Testament today. This was a prescribed reading; the reader did not choose the text they wanted but instead read from the assigned portion. The reading happened and people listened politely and nodded their assent respectfully to the law of their God. And that’s when a hush fell over the crowd because then it was time for the reading from the law and the prophets.
This reading was different; it was not prescribed, but instead was chosen by the reader. He would find his text in the scroll and then read, following it with some of their own comments and teaching. This was what they all came for because Jesus was the rabbi in town. And he started walking toward the scroll.
Jesus opens the scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah. It’s a messianic prophecy, one the people would have been familiar with. It was one of the promises they had clung to about God’s coming chosen one, through all the years of oppression, through the destruction of the temple, through the occupation by the Romans. It’s a passage of hope, one that talked about giving sight to the blind, freedom to the captives, and bringing in the year of the Lord’s favor.
And then, best of all, in a true “drop the mic” kind of moment, Jesus says, “Today this passage has been fulfilled in your presence” (Luke 4:21).
And the crowd LOVES it. They look at each other in pride. They nod approvingly. This is Him, the Messiah we want, and he came from our town. Then it all changed.
One minute everyone is nodding in pride at Mary and Joseph’s boy, the One who is going to put Nazareth on the map and the One who has come to do, think, and say everything they expected Him to. But at the moment of their highest pride of assumption, Jesus flips over the tables in their minds and hearts.
As He goes on to speak, He references instances from the Old Testament where God worked not in Israel but outside of it; He talked about people of faith not of their bloodline but outside of it. This, it seems, is not exactly what the people had in mind for their Savior. And when they come to that realization, slowly at first, but then all together as a mob, they are absolutely livid. Angry enough to kill. The same crowd that was only moments ago filled with pride and approval are bent on death and destruction:
When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way (Luke 4:28-30).
Remarkable, right? But that’s what disappointment does – it makes us think and do things we might not ordinarily do. And this crowd was severely disappointed with Jesus. But let’s not stop with that observation – let’s instead try and trace it backward to the root of that disappointment that turned to violence. Here’s the chain:
Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Whether from Jesus or someone else, we have a certain outcome that we think should happen, and when it doesn’t, we are disappointed. But let’s go a step further down the chain.
Unmet expectations come from different agendas. True enough, sometimes our expectations aren’t met because someone else dropped the ball, but more often, we don’t have our expectations met because we have a different set of goals and agenda than someone else. But let’s go even further down the chain:
Different agendas come from a different assessment of need. That’s really what’s at the bottom of disappointment, especially if we are disappointed with Jesus. We have a different assessment of our need than Jesus does. Because we don’t see our needs as the same, we operate on different agendas. Those different agendas lead to unmet expectations which in turn leads to disappointment.
It happens with us, just as it was happening in this passage. The people thought they needed a political ruler. A national savior. A Messiah to keep to themselves. But Jesus knew they needed something different. Someone different. He wasn’t the Messiah they wanted, but he was the Messiah they needed whether they knew it or not.
Friends, if you’re in a place in which you feel disappointed with your circumstances, your situation, or your station, then perhaps the reality is not that Jesus has come up short. Perhaps it’s deeper than that, and the solution to that disappointment is to go back to the beginning and understand what it is that we really need. And what we really need is Jesus. Just as he is.