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Stories of Jesus
||Part One: Jesus before Easter
A Jesus story: The failure, part 1, not many friends
The fact is Jesus was a
failure. He intended to prepare his own people for the coming reign of God. His
focus was almost exclusively on the Jews. He even instructed his emissaries not
to go to
Jesus focused almost exclusively on his own home territory, and he failed to attract many followers there. Even where he seemed to succeed—among his few loyal followers, he still failed to give them a proper understanding of who it was they were following. This story is about the first of the failures—the small number of followers. The next failure story is about the quality of this small bunch.
It’s not clear how well off Jesus’ family was or how much schooling Jesus had. Jesus may have given up a meager but at least decent living when he left carpentry for the life of an itinerant preacher. Jesus’ native language was Aramaic, but he probably knew enough Hebrew to read the scriptures. That needn’t have been very much. Jesus would have heard and learned stories of scripture from his youth so he could probably “read” pretty accurately even if he could only make out a few words here and there. Personally I agree with the scholars who say he could do quite a bit better than that. Still, Jesus was not schooled to the extent of a rabbi or a scribe, who would be familiar not only with scripture but also with the interpretations of other rabbis and scribes.
As a traveling lay preacher Jesus would have been invited to take a leading role in Sabbath meetings at synagogue in the towns he visited. That would have involved a reading from scripture plus commentary. If Jesus had been a scribe, his commentary would have been filled with references to what other interpreters had said about the passage that was read. Typically you had to back up whatever you were saying with voices from the past. Jesus’ commentary was different. People would say he speaks like one who has authority, not like the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus’ commentaries could surprise and also disturb people.
This is a story near the beginning of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 4:16-30):
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Well, those are the words of Jesus that most impressed Luke or Luke’s source, but I think Jesus must have said more than that.
What follows in Luke’s account makes