Last week we read the words from Isaiah that Jesus is talking about coming to fulfillment in the synagogue today. It says that the the poor will hear good news, the captives are to be released, the blind made to see. Jesus is to fulfill all of this. The people from his hometown are proud and happy, so what happens to make them so angry?
Jesus tells them these benefits are not for them alone. They are ready to see some of the benefits of this passage for themselves. After years of Roman rule and not being in charge of themselves, after paying extra in taxes cause everyone wants to pad their own accounts, shouldn't this fulfillment be for us?
This is when Jesus tells the other stories about Elijah and Elisha, great prophets of Israel, who lived at a time when things weren't going so well for Israel, they were on the cusp of being held captive by a foreign power and these two men do something of benefit to people other than a Jew. For Elijah it is a widow who lives outside Israel, it is a time of famine and he had traveled far. He stops at her house and asks her to give him her last bread. She objects but is reassured something wonderful will happen if she does. Her last bit never runs out in her jar. There is never a last meal for her and her son. Then the son dies working in the field and she is angry with Elijah for having saved her son only to let him die later. She says it would have been better if he had never shown up and he brings her son back to life. With Elisha it's an Assurian army captain named Naaman who is healed of leprosy.
Divisiveness, walls the people don't want to hear that this good news is for the enemy, for people they don't like, for those they don't want to see treated with generosity. This is why they are angry. It would be like saying, well put your own person you don't want to see being told there is a place of refuge, you will be made whole. We are at another time where we have others that we think should not receive the benefit of safety, freedom, healing. Walls and ways to keep others out are what we hear instead and Jesud is saying God's generous love goes to them too.
David Lose used the example of Frost's poem The Wall. About two neighbors fixing the stone wall between them and wondering why it is necessary. After all your apples won't come and steal my potatoes. See neither neighbor owns cattle. Frost ends the poem by saying better neighbors are made with a wall between them.
Karoline Lewis the writer of Dear Working Preacher is in the holy land this week. On one of her last days there they go to a support group for Israeli and Palestinian people who have lost loved ones due to the ongoing conflict there. She heard two fathers tell about losing their daughters. One father says that no wall can keep out one determined bomber or peacekeeper. So instead of choosing revenge they meet here to heal together.
That is the work of good news Jesus is asking us to do. Instead of building the walls we need to be meeting those people exactly where they are at. We need to open ourselves to the other around us and invite them to healing and wholeness. Jesus didn't come just for the Jew. Jesus didn't come just for the Christian. Jesus came for a whole hurting world. As his disciples we should be reaching out beyond with all the love God has to give us, to give to another who needs to see it.