Acting for Justice
The practice of reading the scroll in the synagogue, as Jesus does in this passage, is a normal part of Jewish worship. Any Jewish make past the age of accountability (13) is eligible to read. It would not be uncommon for a visitor, especially an adult returning to his community to be given the honor of reading the scroll, and news of what Jesus had accomplished elsewhere had clearly reached the community (vs 23) heightening the expectations of the listeners. The reaction of the listeners clearly indicates that this was no ordinary event.
The core conflict in this text – should God’s favor and blessings be confined to those like us and near us or should they be extended to those unlike us – the foreigner or even the enemy – has strong echoes in the current political discourse regarding immigration, citizenship and even reception of refugees. The anger provoked by Jesus’ response is not unlike that we see splashed across the news today. The widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17) and Naaman, the Syrian general cleansed of leprosy by Elisha (2 Kings 5) were not only foreigners, but historic ethnic enemies of Israel.