Here is a brief recap of the sermon from yesterday on the scripture of Luke 4:21-30.
We have a habit of defining ourselves by who or what we are not. It is easy to do. For instance, we might not want to be the one who chooses what you want to eat for lunch but we are much more comfortable being the one who says what we don't want for lunch. The same is true for defining our own selves. We would rather define who we are not rather than who we are.
Defining who you are by who you are not sounds something like: "I would not ever take a home loan I could not pay back." or "I would never do what those soldiers did in Abu Ghraib" or "I would never protest a funeral." We define who we are by who we are not all the time.
The thing about defining who we are by who we are not is that we always have someone to blame for the tension or problems in the world. It is always the "other" person who is the cause of the problem, and as we all know, "I would never do what they did."
Luke tells us a story in which Jesus gets himself into trouble.
Jesus reads a scroll and everyone is very proud that Jesus is their "homegrown boy". If they had water towers in Jesus' day the town of Nazareth might have been one step away from inscribing "Home of Jesus" on their water tower. Jesus is "their guy" and the group is unified in it's understanding of who they are - they are not the fools who will not be a part of the year of the Lord's favor.
Jesus sees they are united as a group, believing they will ask him to do what he did in other areas, Jesus reminds the crowds of two other prophets who were also were "on their side" but these two prophets went to the gentiles. That is to say, the Jesus tells them that Elijah, Elisha and even Jesus are defining the people of God not as different from other groups but as all equal in the sight of God.
As soon as Jesus tells his hometown that even the gentiles (the other) will be a part of the "Lord's favor", the group (mob) is filled with rage.
Prior to Jesus talking, this mob knew who to blame for their problems and the tension in the world - "those people". But Jesus is saying that "those people" are also beloved by God... just like them. Jesus is saying that those people are like you and you are like them. Jesus is saying that there is no "us" and "them" there is only a "we".
In the absence of a "them" the "us" do not know who to blame for the tension in the culture. This is true today. Part of the fear to give citizenship to "illegals" is because we then would be without a "them" to blame any number of problems on. The words of Jesus removed the "them" for the Jews in his hometown and they were filled with rage. But they do not know how to resolve tension in the culture without a "them" to blame it on. So, right there in the temple, without a "them" to blame the mob blames him - Jesus.
Jesus is the problem for the tension now. All was well, everyone knew who was the "them" was but Jesus just said the "them" is just like us. Without a "them" to blame for tension the mob turns on Jesus and blame him. They then treat him as they have always treated the "them" - they treat Jesus as their new scapegoat.
What happens next is they lead Jesus to the edge of town to kill him, just as one would with a traditional scapegoat found in Leviticus 16.
Jesus walks through the mob, I imagine, with the prayer "Forgive them for they know not what they are doing."
God in Jesus exposes the fact that humanity is caught up in cycles of violence and always looking for the next scapegoat to resolve tension. And this cycle is so powerful that we would even kill a home town boy. We would even kill God.