Imagine you could freeze the time in one of the parables and try to wake people up — like the parable of the wedding feast….or Lazarus and the rich man….or the parable of the prodigal son. You were able to tell the wedding guests to go the feast. Hey, I don’t think you understand. This is not just one more wedding! In this wedding feast, the bridegroom is God Himself!! If you miss this one, you will be wailing and gnashing your teeth. Trust me. Or yeah, Rich Man – Lazarus may seem like he’s not worth much, but give him some food. Trust me. Get him some medical treatment. You’re not going to regret it. Alright, older brother, yeah, your younger brother has done wrong in the past and it seems that your dad is playing favorites, but trust me that your father still loves you and you lose nothing but a bad reputation if you simply go into the feast.
The parables were Jesus’ way of relating to us how personal God is, and without talking directly about Himself….He is talking about Himself! We might get that without a lot of difficulty. But how easy it is to relegate them to the past. Jesus was speaking to His contemporaries. Yes, just like He is speaking to us. He is real and He is personal today.
Before we heard about Christ showing up in His hometown today we heard from Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a man on fire. He once slept on a brick that represented the City of Jerusalem for over a year to warn of its coming siege and downfall. He was intense. Anyway, one of the telltale signs you are reading Ezekiel is his use of two terms, “Son of man” and “Lord God.” Son of man was to keep people aware that while he spoke and related the mighty word of God, that he himself was a mere mortal – infinitely below God. Another way to reinforce the supreme nature of God was He would not just say, “God” or “Lord,” but rather “Lord God.” When you combine these together and use them frequently enough, it might be the difference between always referring to your neighbor as “Phil” or instead always introducing him in discussion as “That esteemed and generous man of whom I am a humble neighbor, the benevolent Mister Phil.” You get the point. Ezekiel knew that God was mighty and he was tiny…and over the centuries his audience picked up on this distinction in their own lives.
We have to remind ourselves that Jesus lived this small unassuming life of a common man for thirty years. How did He prepare Himself to be nailed like wood to a bunch of wood to ultimately fix the universe? By Himself day in and day out hammering nails into wood to finish or fix much smaller projects. He said Himself that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. But He also demonstrates that if you live by hammer and nails, you die by hammer and nails. In other words, the kind of person you are as you live is the kind of person you will be as you die. But all of His great goodness was undercover. The people of Nazareth likely saw Him and compared Jesus and His family to their own and their importance to their own status and reputation. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were so quiet that no one probably took any offense. They were safely on the sidelines of most public thought. Perhaps they were the kind of people you might go out of your way to invite to an event so that they wouldn’t be forgotten.
But as our Gospel today begins, if we could freeze time and go personally to the individuals of Nazareth and shake them up a little: look, people of Nazareth: He’s coming! You wonder at how He could get all of His teaching and take offense at Him. Is it just because He challenges you? You know He is one of your own. You know He is another Son of man just like you. You wonder how He has suddenly become the talk of the surrounding towns and you might be jealous of this attention from one whom you seem to have underestimated. You claim to want a miracle to showcase His power, but it really seems possible that you just want to have Him get so far out in front of you that you can’t be blamed for not having assessed Him correctly – for if His miracles are flashy – He becomes someone who is so different from you that you have no need to try and imitate Him. He would be a great mascot and warrior, but we couldn’t expect you to follow His way of Love. Listen, people of Nazareth: wake up. He is both God and man and He hides His glory only that You might have the chance to be hospitable, to show Him love and devotion to Him and so become His humble and closest friends. You have a great opportunity if you just treasure Him and cling to Him with love without demanding anything. Trusting in His love for you with faith.
You know it’s easy for us to disregard Jesus in the same kind of way that Nazareth does. Now that He has conquered the world, we are every bit as much His hometown. We are the New Nazareth and in many cases, He has already come and we’ve not noticed. He is coming. Every word of His has either come true or will come true, and He says that He will return. While we don’t have to power to go back into history and freeze time, this reading today should give us pause to consider. Jesus is real and He is personal. He wants to be in your life. That sounds as amazing as it is. But Christ is demanding as well. We must repent to be really begin to see Him more consistently and we must keep turning towards Him and away from our various impulses. He is only demanding, because He has so much to give us and yet we allow ourselves to get so distracted. And He is coming. We will either see Him when we die or we will see Him as the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven at the close of history. As the son of Man, He reminds us that we are called to strive and reach out for the same perfection of love that He gives us. “Love one another as I have loved you.”