Greetings to you! The theme for our morning’s meditation is, “God has no favourites, his love is for all.”
Many a time, when we think about ourselves as Christians, we live under a false idea that God’s love is primarily for us and not for anyone else. We are not alone in this because the people of Israel also thought likewise. They too believed that they were the chosen people of God and therefore God would only bless them no matter how they behave.
They always believed that God would punish the surrounding nations but bless their own nation because they were chosen by God. Many a time we too live under this false idea. We do not lead ethical lives but we think that God is with us and he will bless us and punish our enemies.
In the Gospel reading for this morning we see that Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up; and he went to the Synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. Jesus stood up to read from the scriptures and read from the book of Isaiah chapter 61;
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind’ to set the oppressed free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Isaiah 61:1,2)
This text is usually called the Nazareth Manifesto. Jesus plainly sets over what he had come to do. In the original context, the prophesy may refer to the self-consciousness of the prophet that he is called to make known the good news of God’s intervention to help his people expressed in a variety of metaphors. However, the passage reminds us of the servant songs indicating the role of the servants.
Jesus takes on this role of the Lord’s Servant and fulfils all that he had set out to do. The text begins by saying that the “Spirit of God is upon him because God had anointed him.” The anointed one is sent to proclaim good news to the poor. These are the people who desperately need divine help and are waiting for God to intervene.
Secondly, he is to proclaim release to prisoners. The point here is that those who were in bondage were to be set free. And Jesus releases us from all kinds of spiritual bondages, specially, the bondage to sin. Thirdly, there is the recovery of sight for the blind. Here the reference is both physical and metaphorical. Jesus heals the blind but also leads them from darkness to light.
Finally, he talks about proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord. This means the year of the time which God has graciously appointed in order to show his salvation. The allusion is to the ‘Year of Jubilee’ - ‘The year of liberation’ for the people of Israel and now symbolic of his own saving acts.
After reading the scripture, he rolls up the scroll and hands it back to Synagogue attendant and he sat down. Infact, Jesus began to teach at this point. He told them that ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
The people were amazed at his teaching and they were wondering how such gracious words came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
Jesus told them that “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” He gives them the example of Elijah when the rain was stopped and there was a severe drought and famine for three and a half years. He was not sent to any widow in Israel but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. Another example that Jesus gives is of Elisha. Jesus says that “there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
By saying this Jesus was showing that he had come not just for the people of Israel but for the sake of the whole world. Jesus draws the example of Yahweh in the Old Testament to show that God has no favourites and his love is for all. It was the widow in Zarephath in Sidon and the Commander in the Syrian army, Namaan who were touched by God.
Both of them responded in faith. The widow of Zarephath knew that she had come to the last morsel of food but yet in faith she offered it to the prophet Elijah and was blessed by unlimited food till the end of famine. In the same manner, Namaan, the Syrian commander believed in what Elisha had to tell him and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan and was completely healed of his leprosy. His testimony was, “Now I know that there is no God except in Israel.”
What we see here is that people of other faiths were ready to believe in Jesus and in Yahweh but the very same people whom God had chosen refused to believe in Jesus and rejected him. We note that Luke records for us that the people in the Synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up and drove him out of the town and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built in order to throw him off the cliff. But Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
People of Nazareth reacted violently when Jesus told them that God has shown his favour to other people as well as the Jews. We too may react in a similar manner when we begin to think that Jesus came only for the Christians. Scriptures tell us God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son Jesus, that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have the eternal life.
We too have to be cautious that we do not take God for granted. God’s love is for all and he has no favourites. If you and I claim to be the followers of Christ then there must be an ethical difference in the way we live our lives. Otherwise we too will be subject to God’s judgement.